Dr. Spock: How You Learn to Be a Parent

Parenting advice from one of America's favorite experts.

Dr. Benjamin Spock has been giving parents advice about raising their children for decades. In this excerpt from his landmark work, Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care, he shares one of the 19 points he believes are most important for parents to keep in mind about their role in their child's life.

How you learn to be a parent

Fathers and mothers don't really find out how to care for and manage children from books and lectures, though these may have value in answering specific questions and doubts. They learned the basics from the way they themselves were brought up while they were children. That's what they were always practicing when they "played house" and cared for their dolls. If a child is raised in an easygoing way, then he is likely to be the same kind of parent. Likewise, a child who is raised by strict parents is likely to become a relatively strict parent himself. We all end up at least somewhat like our parents, especially in the way we deal with our children, though most of us will want to change some aspects of how we were brought up. To some of you this is a happy prospect; others may find it an alarming thought. In any event, every parent has had the experience -- and you will too, if you haven't yet -- of, when talking to their child, hearing the voice coming from their lips to be that of their mother or father, with exactly the same tone and exactly the same words!

As you embark upon parenthood, you might think about just how your parents raised you and, with the perspective of an adult, what you now see as positive and constructive. You might also consider the ways they raised you that you absolutely don't want to repeat with your child. Having a child offers you the wonderful opportunity to think about what made you the kind of person you are today and what kind of parent you would like to be. It is just that kind of insight that will help you to understand and trust your own instincts and become a more confident parent.

You'll find that you will learn about how to be a parent gradually, through the experience of caring for your children. It's taking care of your baby, finding out that you can feed, change, bathe, and burp successfully, and that your baby responds contentedly to your ministrations that will give you confidence and feelings of familiarity and love. These are then the foundation of a solid, trusting relationship with your child. But don't expect to feel that way right off the bat.

All parents expect to influence their children, but many are surprised to find that it's a two-way street and that they learn an enormous amount about themselves and about the world from their parenting and from their children. You may find, as many others have, that being a parent becomes the most important step in your own growth and maturation as a person.

Excerpted with permission from Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care, Revised Seventh Edition, Pocket Books, 1998.

Copyright 1945, 1946, © 1957, 1968, 1976, 1985, 1992 by Benjamin Spock, MD. Copyright renewed © 1973, 1974, 1985, 1996 by Benjamin Spock, MD. Revised and updated material copyright © by The Benjamin Spock Trust

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.

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