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.
You know more than you think you do. Soon you're going to have a baby. Maybe you have one already. You're happy and excited, but if you haven't had much experience, you wonder whether you are going to know how to do a good job. Lately you have been listening more carefully to your friends and relatives when they talk about bringing up a child. You've begun to read articles by "experts" in the magazines and newspapers. After the baby is born, the doctors and nurses will begin to give you instructions too. Sometimes it sounds like a very complicated business. You find out all the vitamins a baby needs and all the immunizations. One mother tells you she couldn't live without disposable diapers; another swears by cloth diapers. You hear that a baby is easily spoiled by being picked up too much, but also that a baby should be held as much as possible. Some say that fairy tales make children nervous, others that fairy tales are a wholesome outlet for children's fears.
Don't take too seriously all that the neighbors say. Don't be overawed by what the experts say. Don't be afraid to trust your own common sense. Bringing up your child won't be a complicated job if you take it easy, trust your own instincts, and share concerns with your friends, family, and doctor or nurse practitioner. We know for a fact that the natural loving care that kindly parents give their children is a hundred times more important than their knowing how to make a diaper fit tight or just when to introduce solid foods. Every time you pick your baby up--even if you do it a little awkwardly at first -- every time you change her, bathe her, feed her, smile at her, she's getting the feeling that she belongs to you and that you belong to her. Nobody else in the world, no matter how skillful, can give that to her.
It may surprise you to hear that the more people have studied different methods of bringing up children, the more they have come to the conclusion that what good mothers and fathers instinctively feel like doing for their babies is usually best after all. All parents do their best job when they have a natural, easy confidence in themselves. Better to make a few mistakes from being natural than to try to do everything letter-perfect out of a feeling of worry.
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
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