Confessions of a Pediatrician Mom

When we first have our babies we want everything to be perfect.  We research the best way to do everything.  We read books, ask our friends and family, and even search online (even though we all know not everything you read online is true, right?!) Hopefully, new parents are also getting advice from their pediatrician.  Well as a pediatrician and mom to an 11 and 14 year old, I’m here to announce that I don’t always practice what I preach.  There.  I said it.  I don’t obsess over every little detail.  Anymore.

I once heard Dr. Ruth Westheimer speak and to summarize, she stated that when people used to ask her if she had a lot of sex, her reply was always that the cobbler’s kids don’t always wear new shoes.  I feel the same way as a pediatrician.

Now that’s not to say that I do the exact opposite or don’t ever take my own advice.  In fact, a lot of my advice comes from personal experience, as well as years of professional experience.  Below are some examples of what I mean, again keeping in mind that my children are now 11 and 14.

1.  Diet

I admit it, my kids don’t always eat fruits and vegetables.  Partly this is due to lack of time to buy fresh produce and partly because I am not always home during meals to force the issue.  However, they have learned the importance of healthy eating and will frequently get the salad bar at lunch or order fruit as a side when we are out.  We also have a strict no dessert policy during the week and regularly have discussions about sugar. We never have juice or soda and if they are allowed to order either, it rarely gets consumed. But I can honestly say that they likely get more sugar than they should as I am not as strict as a lot of my parents are.  I believe in educating kids on good nutrition but not denying them either.  Everything in moderation!

2.  Screen time

So I know that I recommend no more than 2 hours of media (TV, iPad, computer, video games combined) per day, but I can honestly sat that I have no idea how much my own kids are actually getting.  For toddlers who are not speaking well but are watching a lot of TV or overweight teens who are spending hours in front of the X-box, I definitely make strong suggestions to put limits on the screen time.  However, in my house the rule is if homework is done, chores are done and it’s not an appropriate time to go out and get exercise, TV or Minecraft or online math games or just chatting with friends is ok.  Frequently my daughter will actually go online to the school recommended websites like Compass Learning or Dreambox and do extra school work.  However, everything goes off 30-60 minutes before bedtime.  The important thing with managing media is making sure the amount and the content of your child’s media exposure is age appropriate.  Monitor what your child is exposed to and make sure that there is a balance with real world learning and experiences.  Young kids need to be read and talked to and require visual spatial play to develop important skills. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends NO screen time for those under 2 except for video chatting.  Even background TV can interfere with young infants and toddlers learning language as they tend to be spoken to less.   Finally, all kids need at least an hour of exercise per day.  For more information on the latest screen time recommendations, click the link above.

3. Bad Words

I admit that I have a potty mouth.  I can’t help it.  Especially during football.  Unfortunately, my kids have learned all of these words.  (Yes, they would have learned them anyway!)  They know not to say these words at school or in public, but at home they sometimes come out.  I’ve slacked on correcting the behavior because it isn’t frequent and because I recognize that the ability to express yourself is important.  In general I counsel parents of young kids to validate how the child is feeling and make suggestions on more appropriate words to use to express themselves.

Don’t get me wrong, there are things that I absolutely don’t bend on.  My children must wear their seatbelts in the car and they must wear their helmets when riding bikes or skateboards.  They have to wear sunscreen when necessary and they have a consistent bedtime, even in the summer.  I also expect them to be polite and gracious.  Overall, I try to take a safe and healthy, yet realistic approach to parenting.

Leave a comment and let us know some areas you fudge a little with parenting.