First step to being more scientific in your parenting: Recognise the limitations of your own experience

How do you make a decision about parenting? Most people when deciding on something to do will either look at their own experiences or the experiences of those of their friends and then act according to the outcome with them. Sometimes this will work out well for them and sometimes it won't. But the chances of it going either way is about 50/50.
That's because this method of decision making is fundamentally flawed.

Your sample size is tiny: How many children do you know really? Unless you work with children, my guess is not that many. On top of that, you probably base most of your decisions on the families or children who you are closest to. That means that you are basing most of your decisions on the outcomes of a couple of children.
You may be choosing because they are remarkable: Do you base all your parenting decisions on your neice who is an angel or do you just look at what your friend with the out of control does and do the opposite. These are the worst possible children to base your decisions on because they have shown that their is an unmeasured third factor (likely temperament) and this is probably the largest predictor of their behavior.
Your sample likely has many similar features: If you base your decisions on what your friends are doing, you need to consider the fact that because their your friends they probably have many similar features. So if multiple friends did something and got the same outcome you may think that that means that that will definitely work when instead it is likely due to another shared feature (see correlation does not mean causation)
'Correlation does not mean causation': That you know someone who babywore and now their kids won't even talk to anyone, does not mean that the babywearing caused this behaviour. Even large studies have made this mistake, the link between breastfeeding and intelligence for example, is now considered likely to be due to the fact that mothers who intend to breastfed are more likely to be sensitive responsive parents rather than anything about the actual breastmilk. Large scientific studies however usually measure and try to control for the influence of these variables via complicated statistical measurements, you do not have the means to do this.
You don't know what else is going on: People are protective of their children generally so that child you see with the out of control behaviour may be diagnosed with autism or ADHD or any sort of other issue that their parents have not told you about. Alternately, you don't know what goes on behind closed doors, their may be abuse or harsh discipline or just a stressed unhappy family that is influencing everything beyond what you can see.
Parenting is a long game: All kids behaviour gets better and it gets worse depending on their age and their developmental stage. For this reason you should never make a parenting decision based on the behaviour of a toddler or a teenager.
Psychology is not an absolute: Psychology and health sciences do not deal in absolutes, they deal in increased risk. So there is every possibility that the person you are basing your decision on is an exception to something not the rule.
You are only looking at one aspect: The best of example of this is 'I was spanked and I turned out fine'. What's fine? Psychologically healthy is every aspect. Never had trouble navigating a difficult relationship. Never had problems with lashing out inappropriately or shrinking back in a difficult situation. No of course not. No person is completely 'fine' furthermore....
You don't know how things would have turned out otherwise: You don't get do overs in parenting. That someone turned out 'fine' or 'intelligent' does not mean that things could have been better had something gone differently. Or maybe it would have been worst. Or maybe it wouldn't have made a difference. The point is parenting is not a controlled experiment so you can't make a balanced assessment based on your own experiences.

You are of course, going to base most of your everyday decisions on your own experiences anyway. That's fine because most of the time these things won't make a big difference. You should always remain aware however of their limitations. This can help you make better decisions in parenting if you know that the experiences of yourself or your friends are not the same thing as scientific fact. You know to look in other places for the information and you know which decisions to stick with and which to abandon.
Secondly, it allows you to be open to the evidence. Too often you will see people reject well established research findings because its not the same as their experiences. Examples are 'I didn't breastfeed and my kid is never sick', 'Cry it out doesn't affect intelligence because I did it and my kids in the gifted and talented program' or 'I spanked all my kids and their fine'. This is not okay. First of all, its anti-science to reject the findings of large well conducted research studies based on anecdotes. Secondly, it means you and anyone you tell it too misses the benefit of the information that you are disregarding. If you just want to parent by instinct then that is your right but you should be aware that there is some really useful information you might be missing.


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