I'm a developmental scientist who studies how children grow & learn across cultures. I'm also an American mom who feels the extreme pressure put on parents in the West. I'm here to offer you some parenting ANTI-advice — here are a few things you can worry less about: 1/🧵
First: not everything has to be "educational". It's truly completely okay (& indeed, good) for kids to play for the sake of play. They don't have to be learning the alphabet or animal noises. They can just do whatever silly thing they want to do. They are ALWAYS learning! 2/
Second: you don't have to put pressure on yourself to constantly teach them things. In fact, active & direct instruction from an adult is the rarest form of teaching in human history. Kids know how to learn in other ways — like observation — & they're extremely good at it. 3/
For instance, I went to a little indoor gym class with my toddler & the teacher held up a ball & moved it around so the kids could "learn how to track objects with their eyes". I cannot stress enough how completely & utterly unnecessary that is. You do not need to teach that! 4/
Kids should be allowed to experience boredom. It's part of the human experience & it's okay if they're bored. You do not have to feel obligated to constantly entertain them or provide new activities for them. They should be allowed to generate their own activities & ideas. 5/
Relatedly, kids should be allowed to experience social conflict. They can disagree or argue with their playmates; that's completely fine & actually very good for them to practice. Let them resolve things if they can, you don't have to get involved or prevent it from happening. 6/
More generally, negative emotions are not bad & it's good for kids to experience what they feel like & learn how to process them. A childhood that's entirely carefree & completely devoid of emotional challenges is NOT the goal. It's good to experience all of life's nuances. 7/
You do not have to be your child's zany, cartoonish friend. You can just be their boring parent, if you wish. This thing we do in the West, where we pretend to be kids to play with our kids? That's super unusual, to be honest & you do not have to feel obligated to do it. 8/
Your life & schedule do not need to revolve 100% around your child's preferences. Every family member is entitled to their own preferences & all should be considered. Your kids will almost certainly be content tagging along an adult-centered activity, like grocery shopping. 9/
You don't have to buy your children 600 toys. You shouldn't feel guilty if you do, you shouldn't feel guilty if you don't. Kids can play with literally whatever. They have a particular fondness for adult-utilized objects, actually, those function as play objects just fine. 10/
You know what kids everywhere & for all time have loved doing? Mimicking adults. This is how they learn. Give 'em some actual chores to do around the house. It's the best of both worlds; you get help & they get to help. No need for a toy broom; give 'em the real thing. 11/
One thing that makes humans extra special is high levels of what we call "plasticity" or, the ability to calibrate to a million different ecological, cultural, & social environments. What this means is that there are a million different ways to be human & they're all valid. 12/
Your kid eats the same thing at dinner as you? Sure, that makes sense. Your kid gets their own special meal? Great, that's fine too. Does he have 600 toys? That's great. Does he play with kitchen utensils most of the time? Excellent!

It's all good, folks! Truly!
My favorite parenting philosophy comes from my adviser @AlisonGopnik's book "The Gardener & The Carpenter": We should tend to our children like we tend to a garden, offering support & nourishment & letting them take whatever shape they'll take. We're not building chairs. 14/
Please give yourself some patience & grace, especially if you're a first-time parent. Even with a literal PhD & over a decade of research experience on these topics, I still struggle to not let the pressure get to me. It's a LOT. So, I hope this has helped, just a tiny bit. 15/15
Postscript — if you'd like to read a bit more about these topics, check out:
- @FoodieScience's new book "Hunt, Gather, Parent"
- @AlisonGopnik's book "The Gardener & The Carpenter", focused more on dev psych
- David Lancy's book "Raising Children", focused more on ethnographies

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Good 🧵 @AlisonGopnik’s book is good, gardening is the best metaphor (for art and kids and life in general) A book I would add is @idler’s THE IDLE PARENT. We’ve had this on our fridge for years:

This is a great thread! I tend to think of myself as setting the stage — space, props, time — and then letting the kids do their thing (but I have a black thumb)