Baby brain: celebs and their clueless parenting tips
Alicia Silverstone reckons parents should ditch nappies and chew their children's food.
'Their approach is much easier to adopt if you've got a host of staff to call on'
Celebrity mums and dads really are a law onto themselves. Almost as soon as they become proud parents, many of them become self-appointed parenting experts too. It's laughable, really, given that the offspring of A-listers have little in common with 'normal' kids, yet celebs seem desperate to teach us a thing or two about parenthood. It's just a shame so many insights fall into the 'wacky' end of the parenting advice continuum. Here are five of the 'best' pearls of wisdom ...
Where to even start? The title of her new book The Kind Mama: A Simple Guide to Supercharged Fertility, a Radiant Pregnancy, a Sweeter Birth and a Healthier, More Beautiful Beginning should be enough to warn you that the advice within won't be easy to swallow. Apparently we should ditch nappies in favour of Elimination Training – that's dangling babies over the toilet whenever they wish to answer the call of nature. Yes, really. This, from the woman who freely admits to chewing her baby's food before feeding it to him.
Parenting author Liat Hughes Joshi cautions against heeding the Clueless star's advice. "Celebrities' lives are far from normal, so the parenting approaches they favour are probably much easier to adopt if you've got a host of staff to help including a nanny and housekeeper, but they don't transfer easily to everyday life for normal people," she says. "It worries me, too, that some of Alicia's ideas go against sensible 'official' parenting advice [such as to avoid vaccinating against childhood diseases], and that because celebrities have such influence people might actually listen to celebrities' views on parenting and follow their advice."
Over the years Gwyneth has unleashed all manner of mama bear wisdom on the unsuspecting public, including that she sometimes limits her children's intake of carbohydrates and certain sugars. Bread, rice and pasta are reportedly a no-no, so I imagine they don't mainline Frosties of a morning or get force-fed cereal bars to avert the after-school grumps either, as my kids do.
But personal trainer and founder of Fit Perfect Hilary Burbidge thinks we would do well to relax the rules and break out the occasional sugary treat for the kids.
"It is very important to provide children with the energy their growing bodies require, much of which should be derived from complex carbohydrates including fresh fruit, pulses, vegetables and whole grains," she explains. "I understand and support Gwyneth's views, but complex carbohydrates aren't the enemy. It's sugar in its simplest form that causes health risks. Simple carbohydrates from processed food sources like white bread, pasta, pastry, sweets and sugary drinks can spike children's blood sugar levels, leading to energy lows and highs, interfering with the bodies' natural blood sugar balancing mechanism and fuelling sugar cravings, which can lead to weight control problems, diabetes and other health issues.
"I wouldn't advise a total ban on children eating sweets, however, because that can set up a craving habit or, worse, an eating disorder. Thinking of treats as exactly that – a treat – and allowing the occasional unhealthy snack combined with plenty of physical activity is a healthier balance."
Pammy, once famously posted a list on her website of her hopes for her sons (aged 15 and 13 at the time) which included: "We want them to practise safe sex, drink and experiment with drugs in moderation, find true love."
However, kids' life coach and author Naomi Richards cautions against taking our lead from celebrities when it comes to parenting. "Celebrity mums and dads don't usually have a background in child development. They do not know what is the best way of bringing up a child; they are using their own methods which may not necessarily be safe or advisable. I hope my children find true love too. I also hope they will practise safe sex – when the time is right. But my real hopes for them are that they are happy, responsible individuals who have good self-esteem."
It's a good job Gisele doesn't run the world because if she did we might all be bound by law to breastfeed for six months. As a breastfeeding mother of three, I understand the supermodel's fervour, but having also abruptly weaned my middle child due to urgent surgery to remove my gall bladder, I think Gisele may have neglected to recognise that not everything in life comes as easily as breastfeeding seemingly did for her.
Kitty Hagenbach, child psychologist and founder of the parenting programme Babies Know (www.babiesknow.com) cautions that advice from celebrities is often extreme, ill-founded and out of reach of most parents.
"My gravest concern is the undermining affect this can have on parents' self-confidence and self-esteem," she explains. "And those two qualities are of very great benefit to our children."
But not all celebrity advice is questionable, as evidenced by this pearl of supreme parental wisdom from Ewan McGregor: "Pay attention: I recognise it can be boring to play with young children – to tell a story over and over again, let's say – but the secret is being there.
"If you've made a decision to play with your children, then play with them. Don't be looking through papers on your desk or sneaking off to the computer. Turn off your BlackBerry. Lose yourself in their world. Even if you do it for a short time, it will mean a lot to you and to them."
"Ultimately, the very best thing you can give your children is your time," agrees Kitty Hagenbach.
Thankfully, you don't need to be rich or famous to follow that advice.
Five fail-safe tips every parent should follow
* Trust your instincts. We've all got them; it just might take a while to find yours. Unless they're wildly out of step with the law or conventional parenting wisdom, listen to them.
* Put your needs as a parent first. You've heard the cliche about how airlines advise you to apply your own oxygen mask before attending to those of young children. It's true; meeting your own needs isn't selfish; it's part of equipping yourself with the energy and resources required to parent to the very best of your ability.
* Retain a sense of humour at all times. There is no parenting challenge that cannot be made a little less overwhelming by the ability to see the funny side. If you can make your kids laugh at the same time; even better.
* Ask for help. It really does take a village to raise a child, so don't waste time trying to do it all alone. Seek out help from supportive people around you, and accept it readily whenever it's offered.
* If in doubt, pray. I'm not even joking; it's a fact that you'll make mistakes as a parent and you cannot protect your kids from everything life will throw at them, but the power of a heartfelt prayer for help from a desperate parent should never be underestimated.