Benjamin Spock, the beloved child-rearing guru who spawned an entire industry of how-to-parent books, died in 1998. But he, apparently, still has some advice for us.
The ninth and latest edition of his ground-breaking book “Baby and Child Care” has just been released by Pocket Books. In it, a parent can find a slew of topics not covered in the original book. And the differences may say something about how much the parenting landscape has changed in the 65 years since the book’s first edition came out.
The new book covers advice on autism, ADHD and how to handle screen time. It addresses the new academic pressures on kids and explains how beneficial nature and play can be. It also recognizes that many parents today no longer have their own parents to rely on for advice and support.
There’s also far more recognition for cultural diversity and different sorts of family units. Gay and lesbian parents have their own section.
“Even more than the last edition, the current edition embraces diversity, in cultures, in family makeup, in parenting philosophy, and of course in children themselves,” said Robert Needlman, an associate professor of pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University who is responsible for much of the update. (Here more from Needlman in the video below.)
Needlman said, however, that keeping the overall tone, the gentle and non-judgmental approach that made Dr. Spock so wildly popular, was imperative. The preface is titled “Trust Yourself And Your Child.”
“What sets B&CC apart, and has for many years, is its insistence that there is no one right way to raise children, no best answer to any of the questions parents face, from types of delivery to kinds of diaper, to the eternal breast-bottle choice, co-sleeping, even physical punishment,” Needlman said.
With each edition, I think, the advice is becoming less doctrinaire, harder to pigeon-hole.
I think this reflects the reality that parents now are more empowered to make decisions for themselves (a trend for which Ben Spock deserves much of the credit!) and more in need of solid information on which to base their decisions. It’s not that the book doesn’t give advice -- it does. But it doesn’t give orders.”
What do you think has changed most about parenting in the last few decades? What advice has endured the test of time?