Parenting Experts: How to Decide Who to Trust

Published : Jul 01, 2024
By Dr. Ana Aznar

There is a lot of noise in the parenting space. A lot of experts, a lot of trends, a lot of influencers, a lot of scripts, a lot of tips, and a lot of advice. There are psychologists, coaches, experts, counsellors, and influencers… All these make it very difficult to know who to trust and what advice to follow.

Here are six useful tips you may find useful when deciding who to trust:

1. Check experts’ credentials:

When looking for parenting advice, trust developmental psychologists, child psychologists, clinical psychologists, educational psychologists, counsellors, and qualified coaches. If you or your child are having any kind of therapy, make sure the professional you are seeing is accredited by a regulatory body. This depends on their specific field. If you live in the UK, it is always a good idea to check that professionals are accredited by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), the UK Council of Psychotherapy (UKCP) or the Health and Care Professions Council (hcpc). 

Be mindful that some areas within the parenting field are not regulated at all. For example, anyone can call themselves a sleep expert. Doulas are also unregulated. 

It is also a good idea to examine experts’ work experience, awards they may receive, and accolades. It is also important that the ‘experts’ stays up to date with the latest research. Many professional organizations require refreshers courses to make sure that their members stay on top of the latest research and give you up to date advice. For example, when I had my first son 20 years ago the recommendation was for babies to sleep on their side. By the time, I had my youngest son, the recommendation had changed to babies sleeping on their backs to reduce the risk of infant sudden death syndrome. Had my paediatrician not been up to date with the latest research, I wouldn’t have known. 

Make sure that the expert’s experience is relevant for the topic at hand. For example, I am a developmental psychologist, but I couldn’t advice you on issues relating to breastfeeding or weaning. Those topics are outside my scope of practice. To deal with those issues, I would refer you to a lactation consultant. Beware of people who act like they are experts on everything. The parenting field is vast, and no one knows about absolutely everything. 

2. Do not trust experts who talk in absolutes:

Absolutes are great for clickable headlines. Absolutes make us feel safe. But it isn’t how science works. Science is complex and full of nuances. Beware of ‘experts’ who make statements such as: “Doing x will run your child’s live”, “This is what you need to make sure your child sails through school”, or “Daycare is bad”.  

Now, there are a few things about parenting that we can say with 100% certainty. We can say with certainty that it is never good to hit a child, that it is very important to have a warm relationship with your child, or that all children need limits and boundaries. But more often than not, the parenting field is complex, and difficult to study. This means that for the most part we cannot talk in absolutes. Look for experts who address nuance, admit uncertainty, and use qualifiers. How does this look like? Doing this will make their claims less ‘clickable’ and ‘marketable’ but it is a sign that you can trust them. 

3. Do not trust experts who base their advice on their own experience: 

This may not be a popular opinion but being a mother does not qualify anyone to give parenting advice. The same way that knowing how to drive does not qualify me to be a driving instructor. Being a mother qualifies you to say what worked for you. But it does not qualify anyone to give advice. 

4. Do not get all your parenting advice from social media:

There are very good social media accounts providing great parenting advice and information, but there are also accounts providing really bad, and sometimes even dangerous, advice. A lot of advice given by influencers and content creators is not based on science, and sometimes even when it’s science-based it is not reported correctly. Make sure you are following reputable professionals and news outlets. Check their credentials, their sources, and always verify their claims. 

5. Do not trust ‘fear-mongering’ experts: 

There are many parenting experts out there doing fantastic work and with a true passion to help parents. However, others use parents’ worries and fears to their advantage to sell them products that parents don’t really need. Beware of experts creating fear and worry. As parents we feel enough pressure, worry, guilt and judgement, we do not need experts to make us feel worse. 

6. Do not lose sight about how much parents influence their children: 

We have been made to believe that as parents every single decision we make could ruin our children. This is not true. It is safe to say that our children’s long-term development will not be meaningfully affected by the educational apps they play with, the timing of potty training, and whether they are swaddled as babies or not. What matters most for our children’s development is to have a warm, loving, safe, stable, consistent relationship with their parents. So, tune out parenting advice that does not really matter and focus on advice that helps you develop a strong bond with your child. If for example, you struggle to control your anger, or to set limits and boundaries with your children, or have trouble setting a clear routine for your children, it is definitely worth seeking advice and support. Because those things matter for your child. Agonizing over methods of weaning, or whether you should co-sleep or not, does not really make much sense because it will not make a big difference to your kids. 

I hope you find this information useful. At REC Parenting we focus on giving you advice and information that matters for you and your child. We ignore advice that is simply not important because our aim is to make your life easier and not more complicated. If you are struggling with mum guilt, your mental health, setting limits, feelings of burn out… We are here for you. Get in touch here and we will set up a 1-2-1 session to discuss your needs. 

Love,

Ana

Dr Ana Aznar

Photo credit: Kat van der Linen via Unsplash

Photo credit: Adem AY via Unsplash

Photo credit: Nubelson Fernandes via Unsplash

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Dr. Ana Aznar
2024-05-17 09:55:58
Hi Donna,
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2024-05-08 07:24:31
We are glad you found the content useful! Many thanks for being here.
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