A funny thing happens when you become a parent.
Over time, your ambitions for yourself become less important than your ambitions for your kids. You want to be happy, healthy and successful, sure. But their happiness, health and success becomes paramount.
So, you spend a lot of time figuring out whether you're leading them on the right path. And, you become eager to adapt your behavior as necessary to make it happen--especially when the new habits are based on science and research.
And that can turn into a giant problem. Why? Because so much "good parenting" advice is just plain wrong. Often, it's solipsistic or self-serving. Worst of all, it can be based on faulty research, and even pseudoscience.
Trying to figure out this question led me to compile my free e-book, How to Raise Successful Kids (you can get it here, if you haven't already). But I also decided to compile some of the worst examples of pseudoscience and just-plain-bad-advice when it comes.
Warning: Some of these will seem downright silly. That's the point; the shock is how many people actually believe these things, and even make major life choices based on them.
1. Don't vaccinate your kids.
First on the list, because it's the epitome of pseudoscience. I feel for parents of children with autism who blame vaccinations, but there is no scientific evidence to support this correlation. Nevertheless, fear-mongering has led many parents to avoid inoculating their children against diseases--which has in turn led to the resurgence of medical conditions we thought we'd eradicated long ago
2. Train them to need less sleep.
Wome people puff up their chests by professing how little sleep they need. It's odd; you don't hear people bragging about how little water they drink, or how rarely they go to the bathroom. Anyway, there's a theory that says successful people train themselves to sleep less--and it's pure hokum. Granted some people are naturally born needing less sleep, but they're the exception.
3. Teach them to follow their passions, wherever they lead.
Living a life of passion? Sure that makes sense. But too many people hear really bad advice to follow their passions no matter what. Mark Cuban once called this the worst advice he'd ever received. Instead of following your passions, he said, "Instead, you should follow your effort."
4. Study their physical characteristics to identify their strengths.
I know, it seems silly--but people do this. Once upon a time, for example, reasonable people theorized that you could predict people's personalities and mental states by studying their handwriting. This theory, called graphology, has since been almost entirely discredited. It's not that far off from believing that you can predict your future--or your kids'--by reading their palms.
5. Predict their futures by studying their astrological charts.
It's tempting, of course, and I'm the first to admit that it can be kind of fun to learn what your zodiac sign says about you. However, as scientists have never been able to prove any true correlation between the movement of celestial bodies and the unfolding of actions on Earth. Thus, it's a pseudoscience; learn it for fun if you like.
6. Avoid punishing them or inhibiting their freedom.
We all need freedom to develop into our adult selves, but kids need structure more than anything else. As Julie Lythcott-Haims, a former Stanford University dean and the author of How to Raise an Adult, writes, you should be an "authoritative' parent. Oh, and make your kids do chores.
7. Skip the doctor; home remedies are best.
Besides being a good way to get yourself arrested if anything happens to your kids, home remedies or natural medicine are full of pseudoscientific and unproven techniques. While there may be some unexplained benefits to various treatments, as a whole they're full of quackery.
8. Help them remember by recovering their memories.
This one probably won't come into play until they're older, but even if you think you'd never try this, the pseudoscience of recovered memories in therapy has a long and inglorious history in the United States. Twenty years or more ago, it formed the basis for witness testimony that led to criminal convictions in some pretty heinous cases. It's among the most egregious examples of pseudoscience.