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5 Things You Need to Know Before You Share That New Parenting Study

The words “parenting study” provoke nothing but the most extreme of reactions. There are some parents who, when they see an article with the words “new study” in the title, get giddy and accept that here, at last, is the gospel truth that only someone without a brain would ignore.


Then there are other parents, who, when they see the word “study,” feel like – as one mother so eloquently put it – they “want to punch someone in the throat.” “Parenting experts” to them are condescending know-it-alls telling them how to raise kids they haven’t even met.

Everybody seems to be in one of those two camps, and there aren’t many people in the middle. But perhaps that’s where we should be.

Parenting studies aren’t the gospel truth, but they aren’t worthless, either. They’re like good advice from a reliable friend: they’re worth listening to, but they’re not necessarily more valuable than your own experience.

A lot of reasons people have these reactions are the way we hear about the studies. We read a lot of crazy articles that leave out a lot of the details. But there are a few tips that can make you a bit savvier in understanding what a parenting study is really saying, and when it might be worth asking a few questions.

1 | The article you’re reading is probably sensationalized

Scientific studies are boring. They’re written to be as accurate as possible, which often means as boring as possible. The studies are carefully worded, admit limitations, and make pretty modest claims.

Writers have to punch these things up a bit when they turn them into popular articles or else nobody would ever read them. Often this means completely changing what the article says.

Usually, writers will find the most exciting idea in the whole thing and flesh it out. They’ll take ideas and conjecture, stating that they’ve been proven. But the actual studies themselves usually don’t pretend to have discovered half as much as the article says they have.

The result is a headline like this one: “Too Many Extracurricular Activities Can Harm Children’s Prospects.” This article makes it sound like putting your kids on a Little League team is going to ruin their futures, but the actual study doesn’t say that at all. Instead, it says that extracurriculars are beneficial as long as you don’t go over 17 hours a week – which, for the record, is a crazy amount of time to spent of extracurriculars.

2 | “It’s just a generalization”

It’s pretty easy to criticize something by saying, “Well, that’s just a generalization.” That’s often the reaction we have to a lot of articles. When we see something that says first-born children are smarter, girls do better in school, or boys do better on standardized tests, we tend to scoff and say, “Well! That’s just a generalization.”

And you’re not wrong – it is just a generalization. In fact, pretty much every study you’ve ever read is “just a generalization.”

The purpose of most social studies is to make a generalization. Researchers realize that there isn’t a single thing you can say that’s true about every single child because all children are different. Researchers are just trying to figure out what’s “generally” true.

When you see an article that says its new parenting technique is “proven effective,” what it really means is that it’s effective for most children. It means that the researchers tried something out on a group of kids and, for most of them, it worked.

That means that it’ll probably work for your family too – but it’s not guaranteed. Odds are there are a few kids that it didn’t work on, and your kid might be one of those.

A “proven” study is like having 30 of your friends all try the same and having 25 of them say, “Well, it worked for me.” It’s worth listening to those 25 friends, but there’s still a chance your child isn’t like theirs. If their idea isn’t working for you, your child might just be a little different, and you might need to try something else.

3 | If it’s shocking, there’s a good chance it isn’t true

Like we said, most studies just show that something works “most of the time,” but sometimes it doesn’t even really prove that.

You’ve probably seen more than a few studies that – as the headlines promises – will “blow your mind.” You may have seen, for example, a “new study” that says that music lessons are pointless or that extracurricular are useless or that spanking is effective.

We internet writers love stuff like that. If something goes completely against all reason and common sense, people tend to share it on Facebook, which is why websites are full of that stuff. But that doesn’t mean any of those things are actually true.

Somewhere out there, there’s a study that’ll back up anything you want to believe. Just like there are studies that say global warming doesn’t exist, there are parenting scientists who will claim anything that’ll get your attention.

But half of these studies can’t be reproduced. It’s pretty easy to do a study and come to the wrong conclusion – and that happens a lot. If you see an article that goes completely against everything you’ve heard, you might want to take it with a grain of salt.

Most studies on these subjects find the same results: extracurriculars are good for kids, music lessons help, and spanking isn’t worth it. Just like climate change, there’s a “scientific consensus” on a lot of these things, so if you see one that goes against everything else you’ve ever heard, there’s a good chance it was just a fluke.

4 | Correlation doesn’t mean causation

If you see the words “predict,” “correlated,” or “related” in an article about a study, it’s worth being a bit cautious about what you’re reading. Those are all words that show you’re looking at what’s called “correlational study,” and it might not mean very much.

A “correlational study” is something like this one, which says that kids who drink skim milk are more likely to be obese than kids who drink whole milk. The people who did this study didn’t force-feed kids skim milk for a few years or anything like that. Basically, they just got a bunch of kids who drink skim milk and a bunch of kids who drink whole milk and checked their body fat index.

Since the kids who drank skim milk had a higher body fat index, they got to release an article that makes it sound like skim milk makes you fat, but they didn’t actually prove that. What they proved is that more obese kids drink skim milk than whole milk.

That could mean that the skim milk is making kids obese, or it could mean that obese kids’ moms make them drink skim milk. They didn’t actually prove what the cause is, they just proved that these two things go together.

By the same logic, you could point out – as one person did – that deaths by drowning go up whenever Nicholas Cage releases a lot of movies.

Unless you see words like “experiment” or “control group” in the article, the study probably didn’t prove the cause. Sometimes it’s worth questioning whether these things are really connected.

5 | Studies don’t “prove” something

If you ever see the words “new study proves,” you’re definitely being lied to. Studies don’t “prove” anything, they just help us try to understand things.

You might see, for example, a study that “proves” bribery doesn’t work. In one instance, a researcher gave kids a new type of yogurt and bribed half of them into eating it. At the end, they found that the kids who were bribed still didn’t like the taste of the yogurt, but the kids who weren’t bribed had started to like it.

They didn’t prove bribery doesn’t work nor do they claim that they’ve proven that. They proved that kids who get bribed to eat yogurt don’t develop a taste for it, or, more accurately, that that didn’t happen when they tried it. Bribery, though, still might work like a charm. They haven’t proven, for example, that promising a kid ten thousand dollars if he gets straight As won’t improve his grades.

That’s why, when you see the words “parenting study,” it’s worth reading the whole article. You’re getting advice, probably good advice. But sometimes, it’s worth reading a little bit closer to know what that advice really is.

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Baby stuff comes in such cute prints these days. Gone are the days when everything was pink and blue and covered in ducks or teddy bears. Today's baby gear features stylish prints that appeal to mom.

That's why it's totally understandable how a mama could mistake a car seat cover for a cute midi skirt. It happened to Lori Farrell, and when she shared her mishap on Facebook she went viral before she was even home from work. Fellow moms can totally see the humor in Farrell's mishap, and thankfully, so can she.

As for how a car seat cover could be mistaken for a skirt—it's pretty simple, Farrell tells Motherly.

"A friend of mine had given me a huge lot of baby stuff, from clothes to baby carriers to a rocker and blankets and when I pulled it out I was not sure what it was," she explains. "I debated it but washed it anyway then decided because of the way it pulled on the side it must be a maternity skirt."

Farrell still wasn't 100% sure if she was right by the time she headed out the door to work, but she rocked the ambiguous attire anyway.

"When I got to work I googled the brand and realized not only do they not sell clothing but it was a car seat cover."

The brand, Itzy Ritzy, finds the whole thing pretty funny too, sharing Farell's viral moment to its official Instagram.

It may be a car seat cover, but that print looks really good on this mama.

And if you want to copy Farell's style, the Itzy Ritzy 4-in-1 Nursing Cover, Car Seat Cover, Shopping Cart Cover and Infinity Scarf (and skirt!) is available on Amazon for $24.94.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy.You've got this.

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Daycare for infants is expensive across the country, and California has one of the worst states for parents seeking care for a baby. Putting an infant in daycare in California costs $2,914 more than in-state tuition for four years of college, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Paying north of $1,000 for daycare each month is an incredible burden, especially on single-parent families. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines affordable childcare as costing no more than 10% of a family's income—by that definition, less than 29% of families in California can afford infant care. Some single parents spend half their income on day care. It is an incredible burden on working parents.

But that burden may soon get lighter. CBS Sacramento reports California may put between $25 and $35 million into child care programs to make day care more affordable for parents with kids under 3 years old.

Assembly Bill 452, introduced this week, could see $10 million dollars funneled into Early Head Start (which currently gets no money from the state but does get federal funding) and tens of millions more would be spent on childcare for kids under three.

The bill seeks to rectify a broken childcare system. Right now, only about 14% of eligible infants and toddlers are enrolled in subsidized programs in California, and in 2017, only 7% of eligible children younger than three years of age accessed Early Head Start.

An influx of between $25 to $35 million dollars could see more spaces open up for kids under three, as Bill 452, if passed, would see the creation of "grants to develop childcare facilities that serve children from birth to three years of age."

This piece of proposed legislation comes weeks after California's governor announced an ambitious plan for paid parental leave, and as another bill, AB 123, seeks to strengthen the state's pre-kindergarten program.

Right now, it is difficult for some working parents to make a life in California, but by investing in families, the state's lawmakers could change that and change California's future for the better.

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When a mama gets married, in most cases she wants her children to be part of her big day. Photographers are used to hearing bride-to-be moms request lots of pictures of their big day, but when wedding photographer Laura Schaefer of Fire and Gold Photography heard her client Dalton Mort planned to wear her 2-year-old daughter Ellora instead of a veil, she was thrilled.

A fellow mama who understands the benefits of baby-wearing, Schaefer was keen to capture the photos Mort requested. "When I asked Dalton about what some of her 'must get' shots would be for her wedding, she specifically asked for ones of her wearing Ellie, kneeling and praying in the church before the tabernacle," Schaefer tells Motherly.

She got those shots and so many more, and now Mort's toddler-wearing wedding day pics are going viral.

"Dalton wore Ellie down the aisle and nursed her to sleep during the readings," Schaefer wrote on her blog, explaining that Ellie then slept through the whole wedding mass.

"As a fellow mother of an active toddler, this is a HUGE win! Dalton told me after that she was SO grateful that Ellie slept the whole time because she was able to focus and really pray through the Mass," Schaefer explains.

Dalton was able to concentrate on her wedding day because she made her baby girl a part of it (and that obviously tired Ellie right out).

Ellie was part of the commitment and family Dalton if forging with her husband, Jimmy Joe. "There is no better behaved toddler than a sleeping toddler, and she was still involved, even though I ended up unwrapping her to nurse her. I held her in my arms while my husband and I said our vows. It was really special for us," Dalton told POPSUGAR.

This is a wedding trend we are totally here for!

Congrats to Dalton and Jimmy Joe (and to Ellie)! 🎉

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The internet is freaking out about how Peppa Pig is changing the way toddlers speak, but parents don't need to be too worried.

As Romper first reported, plenty of American parents have noticed that preschoolers are picking up a bit of a British accent thanks to Peppa. Romper's Janet Manley calls it "the Peppa effect," noting that her daughter started calling her "Mummy" after an in-flight Peppa marathon.


Plenty of other parents report sharing Manley's experience, but the British accent is not likely to stick, experts say.

Toronto-based speech and language pathologist Melissa James says this isn't a new thing—kids have always been testing out the accents they hear on TV and in the real world, long before Peppa oinked her way into our Netflix queues.

"Kids have this amazing ability to pick up language," James told Global News. "Their brains are ripe for the learning of language and it's a special window of opportunity that adults don't possess."

Global News reports that back in the day there were concerns about Dora The Explorer potentially teaching kids Spanish words before the kids had learned the English counterparts, and over in the U.K., parents have noticed British babies picking up American accents from TV, too.

But it's not a bad thing, James explains. When an American adult hears "Mummy" their brain translates it to "Mommy," but little kids don't yet make as concrete a connection. "When a child, two, three or four, is watching a show with a British accent and hears [words] for the first time, they are mapping out the speech and sound for that word in the British way."

So if your baby is oinking at you, calling you "Mummy" or testing out a new pronunciation of "toh-mah-toe," know that this is totally natural, and they're not going to end up with a life-long British pig accent.

As Dr, Susannah Levi, associate professor of communicative sciences and disorders at New York University, tells The Guardian, "it's really unlikely that they'd be acquiring an entire second dialect from just watching a TV show."

It sure is cute though.

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