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It all started with avocado. When I began feeding my 6-month-old solid foods, I cheerfully called my mom to report that the baby had loved the green goop I’d whipped up for him. Pureeing fresh food was my new mommy mission! Her reaction felt like a slap in the face. “You can’t feed a baby avocado!” she freaked. “That’s not safe. Give him a jar of peas or something and promise me you won’t do that again.” When I managed to stammer, “Why?” her response said it all. “I never fed you avocado,” she blasted. “I don’t know anything about that and don’t think you should give it to him. I mean, do you even know if avocado is a fruit or a vegetable?!” The battle over my child’s eating was on.
Compared to the ways in which our parents raised us, it’s a brave new world. Thirty years ago, car seats weren’t required (heck, few even used seatbelts), bike helmets were unheard of and nobody lathered on sunscreen kabuki-style like we do now. I got meat from a baby food jar and I liked it, my mom swears. And today’s myriad new, and in many ways scientifically improved, methods of feeding, keeping kids healthy and teaching discipline don’t always sit so well with the old guard.
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So when grandma just won’t quit telling you what you should do her way — or when she goes ahead and handles things her way every chance she gets, no-sweets-rule be damned! — which issues are actually worth battling over? Dr. T.J. Gold, a Brooklyn, New York pediatrician with the renowned Tribeca Pediatrics practice, lays down the law and tells Yahoo Parenting the three most-important pieces of “helpful” advice you shouldn’t just go along with to keep the peace.
“Promise them a sweet treat for good behavior.”
A brownie sundae on occasion isn’t worth the fight. But if the price of full-time grandma daycare is compromising the healthy-eating habits you’re trying to promote on a daily basis, then tuition is too high. Bribing kids with dessert to finish all the food on their plate is the worst, declares Gold. “You want to teach children to eat nutritious food and listen to their bodies,” she explains. “By making mealtime a challenge to get over the finish line, you’re instructing them to ignore their satiety cues and developing poor eating habits, not to mention opening up the potential for obesity.”
“If the kids are sick, give them medicine.”
Since 2008, cough medicine has been banned for children under 2 and is not recommended for children under age 8, but many grandparents didn’t get the memo. “I get lots of parents in my office saying that their parents are telling them to give their kids cough suppressants,” says Gold, who explains that the elixir doesn’t work for young children and is also unfortunately easy to overdose. “Who wouldn’t want to help a kid when he’s sick? But intervening isn’t always the best approach.”
This is especially true when it comes to antibiotics. “Grandparents tend to think that antibiotics can fix everything,” adds Gold, who calls the topic a “big gap to bridge” between today’s parents and their elders who she sees bringing in coughing grandkids without fevers and demanding drugs. “But there isn’t a medicine that’s going to fix the common cold because they don’t work on viruses. Protocol in last ten years is much stricter about letting the human body acquire immunity, and that’s a good thing.”
“Just say, ‘That’s the rule because I said so.’”
The old adage that children should be seen and not heard thankfully went the way of the horse and buggy. But if your parents still aren’t up to speed with the positive-parenting techniques all the rage these days and don’t count among the 3 million people who’ve bought Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish’s parenting bible currently in its 30th anniversary edition, “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk,” insist on agreeing to disagree. “Communication style between parents and older children has definitely changed in recent years,” says Gold. “And the approach now to share what the boundaries are and talk with kids about them is a positive thing. We’re seeing children grow more confident because they’re being heard.”
So go ahead and listen when your mom spazzes out about avocado puree, empathize for a moment, and then explain how you’re going to feed your 6-month-old whatever you feel is best!