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Parenting experts - do they need to be parents themselves?


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#1 A.K.A

Posted 13 December 2012 - 06:47 PM

As the title states, do you think so called parenting experts should be parents themselves? Does the number of children they have influence how you perceive them? If someone wrote a book on the dynamics of a large family and the only had one child would you think them unqualified?

#2 Acidulous Osprey

Posted 13 December 2012 - 06:50 PM

It would take a serious lot of convincing for me to see someone as an expert if they have not lived it.  They can realistically be an expert on aspects of it but not the totality.


#3 EsmeLennox

Posted 13 December 2012 - 06:57 PM

Well it certainly helps with credibility.

#4 Frau Farbissina

Posted 13 December 2012 - 06:59 PM

good question. Not all experts in different fields have experienced first hand the topic they are an expert in. A lot of it would be based on research.

#5 scarfie

Posted 13 December 2012 - 07:00 PM

Not really.  That would be like saying that a midwife who has not given birth can not be credible, or an OB (and lets face it, most are males) likewise couldn't be a credible practitioner if they have not experienced labour and birth themselves.

Most knowledge is gained through literature and then by practicing their area of expertise.



#6 Feral_Pooks

Posted 13 December 2012 - 07:00 PM

I like to know what the person's "position" is, part of that is whether they have "lived experience" of what they are claiming expertise about. It doesn't mean I would dismiss them out of hand, if they had professional or research knowledge to share, but it would help me frame how to "digest" what they are telling me.

IME, some parenting experts WITH kids can be even more frustrating because they seem to think that what works for them and their kids has some kind of relevance to what will work for me and mine.

#7 BadCat

Posted 13 December 2012 - 07:02 PM

I don't believe there is any such thing as a parenting expert.  Even if you managed to successfully raise your children you are not an expert on mine.  If you've raised none at all I think you can have opinions and theories, and some may even be good, but you are not an expert.

#8 andyk

Posted 13 December 2012 - 07:03 PM

Absolutely!

#9 Filulah

Posted 13 December 2012 - 07:04 PM

Yep. To me, it would be like someone who had read a first year medical textbook telling a surgeon how to do his job. Actually, that's a really crappy analogy, because most (first-time) parents have no idea what they're doing (in a good way, i.e. they learn on the job). Just that parenting is something you have to have lived to have any idea what you're talking about.

#10 LittleListen

Posted 13 December 2012 - 07:04 PM

I think it depends on whether they are claiming an understanding of the personal feeling a parent would experience.

For example, as an educator I have toilet trained 100's of children and seen a huge variety of methods employed by parents over the years. I consider myself to have expertise in toilet training as a result of trial and error with many different children of different backgrounds, ages and temperaments - something that many parents can not claim. So I would believe my advice or suggestions carry a weight that most parents would not have had access to. A parent who has parented  3 or 4 children (or however many) and toilet trained a certain way with success, who then writes a book about it, does not have the same breadth and depth of variety I may have seen.

I don't claim one idea or parenting theory would work for any child/parent - you each find your own rhythm. What I can offer is ideas and suggestions or "expertise" that sits outside what you might ordinarily think of.

So yes. I think you can be a parenting expert without children, as long as you are not claiming to understand the unique emotional connection you have as a parent.

#11 FiveAus

Posted 13 December 2012 - 07:07 PM

Olympic swimming coaches are rarely champion swimmers themselves, so using that analogy, maybe not. Sometimes it's easier to coach someone than to do something yourself, and from a parenting point of view, it's sometimes easier to see what's going on by looking from the outside in. Easier to be objective, I suppose.

#12 Cranky Kitten

Posted 13 December 2012 - 07:07 PM

I think so - I've had people tell me that because they work in childcare they understand what it's like, but I don't think they do. Childcare workers go home and get to switch off. They don't pace the halls at 3am trying to soothe a sick baby whilst trying to decide whether or not it's bad enough to take them to hospital. It's hard to understand the level of fatigue that night after night of broken sleep due to teething bestows.

Similarly, I don't think those who haven't had children of their own can quite understand the excitement and pride as a child reaches a new milestone, or the amused fascination as they display some quirk that you recognise as your own.

As for whether someone writing about large families but only having one child themselves would be credible, I guess it's possible if they came from a large family themselves, but even then I don't think they'd grasp it from a parent's perspective.

#13 noi'mnot

Posted 13 December 2012 - 07:09 PM

There are many things in life that you can be an expert on without experiencing it - there are many medical specialists who haven't experienced the illness they treat, lawyers who haven't had the legal issue of their clients, mental health workers who haven't experienced mental ill health, etc.

Having said that, though, there aren't really any qualifications that a parenting expert could earn that could make them really an expert on the many many aspects of parenting, without having done it themselves. A psychologist might be an expert on infant and child development, but they're not going to know a lot about nutrition or breastfeeding and such. I don't think. So I don't think that qualifications by themselves will always be enough.

I think we need to beware of people who have parented and become "experts" through this experience, though. Just because somebody has parented doesn't mean they didn't a*se it up, doesn't mean they did a good job (whatever a good job is), so it kind of goes both ways if you know what I mean.

Somebody could possibly write a book on the dynamics of a large family, having studied many many many of them very extensively over many many many years. This doesn't make them the only expert, it just makes them one of many alongside those who have the lived experience as children and parents and siblings and researchers in such environments. Just like in any other field, there isn't one go-to person - we read and research from a variety of sources to make the best choice according to our circumstances.

#14 Mitis angelam

Posted 13 December 2012 - 07:10 PM

Actually, I'm with BadCat on this one.  I'm deeply suspicious of the idea of a "parenting expert."  What makes one a parenting expert except having some ideas - gained through personal experience or some professional experience of children - which you've been able to sell through some medium (books or other)?  What is it in our society that drives the need to consume parenting advice in this way (and no, I'm not suggesting that we don't need advice, purely that this is a strange way to obtain it)?

The whole thing strikes me as a bit impersonal and a reflection of the fragmentation of natural communities.

#15 Feral_Pooks

Posted 13 December 2012 - 07:15 PM

Interesting Ange. Is this a natural community?

#16 EsmeLennox

Posted 13 December 2012 - 07:16 PM

I think the comparison with doctors/coaches etc doesn't quite work. Whilst they may not have first hand experience of having the illness/giving birth/being a champion they have had years of training in treating the illness/delivered many babies/been heavily involved in the sport directly for a long time.

The diffence with parenting is you don't get experience until you do it, hence the credibility issue. That said, I don't automatically dismiss someone because they don't have children if they have a great deal of experience in child behaviour or psychology, but I don't think they should sell themselves as a 'parenting expert' either, they could perhaps sell themselves as an expert in child behaviour management or something.

Edited by Jemstar, 13 December 2012 - 07:17 PM.


#17 JRA

Posted 13 December 2012 - 07:21 PM

I suppose my question is if you need to be a parent to be an expert, as many are suggesting. How many children do you need to have? Do you need to have had a child that: doesn't sleep well? Doesn't eat well? has temper tantrums? gets in to drugs as they are older? are high IQ? are low IQ? Are good at sports? Are crap at sports? Have trouble relating to others?

Just because you are a parent it doesn't mean they understand what its like
QUOTE
I think so - I've had people tell me that because they work in childcare they understand what it's like, but I don't think they do. Childcare workers go home and get to switch off. They don't pace the halls at 3am trying to soothe a sick baby whilst trying to decide whether or not it's bad enough to take them to hospital. It's hard to understand the level of fatigue that night after night of broken sleep due to teething bestows.


I have a 9yo, I have never worried at 3am if I need to take him to the hospital (touch wood), I have never had such fatigue from broken sleep due to sleep? Each person has a different parenting experience. Being a parent doesn't mean they automatically "understand" what it is like in someone elses circumstances.

#18 LittleListen

Posted 13 December 2012 - 07:22 PM

QUOTE
I think so - I've had people tell me that because they work in childcare they understand what it's like, but I don't think they do. Childcare workers go home and get to switch off. They don't pace the halls at 3am trying to soothe a sick baby whilst trying to decide whether or not it's bad enough to take them to hospital. It's hard to understand the level of fatigue that night after night of broken sleep due to teething bestows.

Similarly, I don't think those who haven't had children of their own can quite understand the excitement and pride as a child reaches a new milestone, or the amused fascination as they display some quirk that you recognise as your own.


I agree with this as an educator CrankyKitten. I have experience and wisdom in some areas of parenting but I would never claim to "understand what its like" to have the expediences you describe above.

I do understand what its like to deal with constant nagging and bickering among children, what its like to manage small and large groups of children of varying ages, what its like to have a giant smile on your face for hours over something a child told you that made you laugh to tears or to be proud of them copying an action or word you have introduced them.

Edited by eyesabove, 13 December 2012 - 07:25 PM.


#19 Swarley

Posted 13 December 2012 - 07:22 PM

QUOTE (Jemstar @ 13/12/2012, 09:16 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I think the comparison with doctors/coaches etc doesn't quite work. Whilst they may not have first hand experience of having the illness/giving birth/being a champion they have had years of training in treating the illness/delivered many babies/been heavily involved in the sport directly for a long time.

The diffence with parenting is you don't get experience until you do it, hence the credibility issue. That said, I don't automatically dismiss someone because they don't have children if they have a great deal of experience in child behaviour or psychology, but I don't think they should sell themselves as a 'parenting expert' either, they could perhaps sell themselves as an expert in child behaviour management or something.

This is what I think. The comparison doesn't make sense to me because the thing that makes parenting hard, is the emotional side of it. I don't think you can tell someone how to manage parenting if you've never experienced that side of it yourself.
Also the fact that parenting isn't something you get a break from. Unless said expert works their job 24/7, experiencing every single aspect of parenting, then I don't think they can relate enough to give advice on how something should be done.

#20 B.feral3

Posted 13 December 2012 - 07:25 PM

Childless 'parenting experts' The Super Nanny and Tizzy Hall answer this question for me.

Child Psychologists without children is another story.

Edited by Bek+3, 13 December 2012 - 07:26 PM.


#21 Mitis angelam

Posted 13 December 2012 - 07:33 PM

QUOTE (Pooks_ @ 13/12/2012, 08:15 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Interesting Ange. Is this a natural community?


Of a sort.  Take as a given for a moment that EB is a community - I know some would dispute that - it's not unnatural in the way that I was thinking of; that is, we're not here because we're being paid to be here, nor are we paying to participate.  It's not a commercial transaction for regular members.  (Yes, I understand there are bigger commercial realities underlying EB, but that would also be true of other communities irl).

Is it replacing other forms of community?  Perhaps, but then there's a chicken-and-egg question...does being on EB discourage participation elsewhere, or do we come here because other forms of community are dying or changing anyway?  I think of my grandmother's generation who got most of their "community" through church...well, for most of us that's just not going to happen, EB or no EB.  But then, if I didn't have EB I might have been less confident in declining going to mothers' group... so perhaps it's a bit of both.

Hhmm, I'm rambling.  But mostly I just meant that the idea of selling parenting advice, as opposed to just sharing it organically, was something which left me a bit cold.


#22 Guest_LeChatNinjah_*

Posted 13 December 2012 - 07:34 PM

I am also of the belief that there aren't really parenting "experts" as such out there, but I'm being quite pedantic about the term.  I think that if you are claiming to be an "expert" at anything you should have experienced it yourself, however one can have studied something in depth, read and conducted many studies that prove or disprove theories etc without having done it yourself.

I think it's a fine line.  I don't see "parenting" as a topic one can merely have academic prowess in without having done the hard yards yourself to truly appreciate what is involved.



#23 FiveAus

Posted 13 December 2012 - 07:40 PM

There are plenty of parents though, who've had years of experience and enough kids to practise on and aren't experts....in fact, aren't even good at it.

#24 Imaginary friend

Posted 13 December 2012 - 07:48 PM

I think people without children can be experts in areas but would want them to have some experience/training/knowledge in the area they are an expert in - for example someone who has been a kindy teacher for many years has knowlege/expertise in child developement/behaviour whether or not they have children of their own.


In the original question
QUOTE
If someone wrote a book on the dynamics of a large family and the only had one child would you think them unqualified?
it depends on the perspective of the author - if someone had been a child in a large family / been a social worker to large families/ done a PHD on family dynamics -  and the book was clearly from that perspective, then fine - regardless of how many chidlren they have themselves.

However if they had no such experience/research etc at all - or even if they did - and then they wrote a book purporting to understand what it is like to be a parent of a large family from personal experience - then no, not fine, and no credibilty to their writing.

#25 epl0822

Posted 13 December 2012 - 08:19 PM

You can't be an expert in swimming if you've never been in water.




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