5 Questions That Get to the Most Important Issues in Parenting

Dr. Robert Bucknam, the pediatrics expert behind Babywise.life, talks about the most important issues in raising kids today

What are today’s parents most concerned about? Which new parenting trends are proving helpful and which trends are proving harmful?

These and other questions are on the minds of many of today’s parents. So, to get some sage advice on these top questions, we connected with Dr. Robert Bucknam. One of the most respected names in pediatrics and a vital source for each revision of On Becoming Baby Wise over the past two decades, Bucknam has been helping parents raise strong and healthy children for 25 years.

As his primary practice, Bucknam founded and directs Cornerstone Pediatrics in Louisville, Colorado. But beyond Cornerstone, he has extended his practice into numerous hospitals, where he works closely with 37 other pediatricians. This expertise, combined with raising four sons of his own with his wife Gayle, have led to the authoring of nine parenting books which have been used by millions of parents around the world, having been translated into 16 languages.

So, here are some highlights from our interaction with Bucknam over questions that are on many of our readers’ minds.

Babywise.life: What is the main concern you have heard from young parents over the years? And what direction might you offer them?

Bucknam: I think young parents are very interested in doing a good job of raising their kids. The problem is, they have so little guidance. Many of them have no — or poor — role models. Most young parents recognize the faults in our current generation of young people: entitled attitudes, selfishness, a lack of personal responsibility, and a lack of virtues. They don't want this outcome for their kids, but they don't understand what is needed to get the desired result. They quickly become overwhelmed trying to balance work, activities and life with children.

Too many, are focused primarily on jobs and activities/hobbies and family takes a "back seat.”

I encourage young parents to seek counsel from other families who've got children they respect. For example, when Gayle and I were raising our four boys, we had two or three other families with boys slightly older than ours. When we were having difficulties, we would sit down for a cup of coffee with them and pick their brains. The bottom line is most parents need to realign their priorities toward their family. They need to become "intentional" about teaching their kids self control, proper values such as obedience, self-control and being “other-oriented,” and biblical virtues. Too many, are focused primarily on jobs and activities/hobbies and family takes a "back seat.”

Babywise.life: What drew you to pediatrics in the first place?

Bucknam: I love kids. It's an incredible privilege to "be invited" to be a part of a child's growing up. Undoubtedly, one of my favorite parts of my job is the relationships developed with kids and their parents over the years. As I've gotten older, I've come to realize that one of the most meaningful parts of my job is the work I do helping parents love each other, parent properly, and turning their hearts toward God and the truths of the Bible.

Babywise.life: What changes in parenting styles have you observed over the years, especially among today’s millennial generation? What aspects of these changes do you find to be positive and what aspects do you find to be troubling?

Bucknam: The idea of "democratic parenting" — allowing the child equal say in the family and catering to the emotions of the child — has been very common throughout my 25 years in pediatrics. Probably the biggest change I've seen is the tendency for parents to become frustrated and just give up on their parenting. It's heartbreaking to see parents of middle school and high school kids give up on trying to direct their kids in positive ways. Many of these kids show up in the counselor's office years later and wonder "Why didn't my parents give me direction in this area, or that area.” As a counselor, Gayle, my wife, has seen many such young people. Parents don't understand that when they "back off" and just let their child be, it's an indication to the kids that they no longer care for or love them.

Babywise.life: If you could tell a couple expecting their first child one “do this” and one “don’t do this,” what would you tell them?

Bucknam: The one thing I tell every young couple to do is: Love your spouse! Don't stop focusing on each other — be intentional every day in spending time together and keep going on dates. A great husband-wife relationship has many positive effects on kids — more stability/security, better sleep, better behavior, more confidence. Ultimately, a great marriage is a gift you give to your children. One thing not to do is to become “child-centered." I spend a good deal of time with young couples in the early months of the child's life giving them this message in a variety of ways.

Babywise.life: Technology is more pervasive than ever. Can you speak to how it affects the way we parent our kids?

Bucknam: Technology is both a blessing and a curse. Too much technology impacts developing children socially, physically and morally. I recommend significantly limiting screen time, and I give several practical applications: a phone basket, where family members — including mom and dad — deposit their phones when they are at home. No technology at the dinner table. No technology — TV, computer, iPad, phones — in bedrooms. No more than 1 hour of screen time daily. Very limited video gaming.

I have found that kids who don't spend a lot of time looking at a screen will be more active physically and develop more creativity. They also have better social skills, because they spend their time talking to people as opposed to texting them.

I believe that increased screen time has played a major role in the increase in emotional disorders such as depression and anxiety, particularly because of social media, and in the increase in ADD.

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