Parents may spend hours and hours discussing and often criticizing each other’s parenting practices. And who could judge them? Everyone wants what’s best for their child, which often gets confused with thinking that they know what’s best for their child.
But Dr. Kristyn Sommer, a social media influencer and mom to “a tiny adventurer,” has somewhat of a different take on raising her child. With a PhD in child development and many scientific studies made on the subject, Kristyn is an advocate of “evidence-based parenting,” according to her TikTok bio.
Speaking of which, she has a solid fan base of 104.6K followers tuning in for her useful advice, daily adventures, and informative resources. Recently, she has been posting a series of videos about all “the crazy things she does as a mom with a PhD in child development.”
From sharing how she talks to her child to never pushing her to eat, these are some of the ideas that Kristyn really swears by! So check out her videos right below, and make sure to tell us what parenting tips and tricks you use in the comment section!
More info: Linktr.ee/DrKristynSommer
I Don't Speak To My Daughter Like A Baby
I don't speak to my daughter like a baby. I don't say goo goo gaga, or whatever baby talk it is you want to do. That doesn't mean I don't do child-directed speech. I slow down my speech and highlight things. I point to objects, but I absolutely don't repeat the errors that she makes. If she calls something "bot bot," like a bottle, I don't say "bot bot" back. I repeat the correct word. I literally just say bottle in response to her after she says bot bot. Because she's attempting to say the word I'm saying, but if I say the wrong word back to her, the one that she was attempting to say, she's going to be reaffirmed and think that's the right word, whereas if I say bottle back to her, she gets another chance to hear how that sounds and potentially try it out as a word in her mouth.
Bored Panda reached out to Kristyn Sommer, the author of these viral TikTok videos who gained a huge following on her social media, both TikTok and Instagram. The mum of an almost-2-year-old, Kristyn lives in Australia, where she teaches development psychology at a university.
“I actually started on TikTok posting videos about my experience with postnatal anxiety and my first-ever viral video was one of how my husband supported me during that time (he’s a pretty amazing human),” she recounted on starting out. “After that video went viral, I posted another one about crazy things I do as a mum in child development that I thought might surprise people because they surprised me when I decided to do them. And that went viral too and created a community of parents who parented like me!”
I'm Super Super Lazy
I'm super super lazy. Now everyone's lazy is different. So this is my lazy. I subscribe to the term "lazy parenting" which @scienceminded has a great post on, so go look at that. Basically I sit back and observe my child while she's playing. I might set up an invitation or two, but that's it. I try not to get involved. And there's a Montessori philosophy that is "help as little as possible, but as much as necessary" and that really kind of works well with lazy parenting ideology. I don't want to have to constantly be entertaining my child. I'd like to observe her and help her when she needs it, but not all the time. I also don't interrupt her. And this is a really hard thing to do as a parent. You might be like "no, that isn't how you play with it, let me show you" but interrupting them stops their workflow. They're learning when they're failing. That's why I don't interrupt her, unless she asks for help and really needs it.
I Don't Worry About How Much She Is Eating
I don't worry about how much she is eating. I don't panic that she's hasn't eaten enough today, therefore she's starving. And she's going to wake up a million times tonight. Science has proven that kids don't really do that. They don't wake up if they're hungry unless they're starving. Obviously. And if they do wake up in the middle of the night hungry? Is that so weird? Do you sometimes wake up in the middle of the night hungry? Probably. What I prefer to do is make sure that she listens to her body. If in that moment when I'm serving her food, she's not hungry, that's ok. Maybe 20 minutes later she's hungry, then that's ok too, I'll feed her food then. Think about how you feel when you're hungry, and when you want food. Your child is exactly the same but without the same kind of self-control mechanisms. And without the ability to actually go and get themselves a snack. So if you want my advice, stop stressing about what your child's eating and when, and just let them tell you.
Finding that community of parents not only made Kristyn feel less alone, but it also “inspired me to do the same for them." "So I started posting content busting parenting myths that I know make parents feel guilty/insecure/uncomfortable with the goal of empowering them into taking charge of raising their own kids their own way (which was something I wished I had someone do for me in the early days of parenting). And now we’re here!”
Kristyn added that she serves up her opinions and things she does as a mum, and she also chucks in a bunch of fun facts about kids from the science of child development.
I Trust Her Independence Of Little Bit More Than Most Would
I trust her independence a little bit more than most would. And I still did it safely. We don't have a baby gate on the stairs, but we used to. But there's still a baby gate at the top of the stairs because she sleeps in her own bed and can get out whenever she likes.
The highchair, we trust her with it. This is what we did. We took the front of the highchair so now it's just a normal chair. She actually climbs in it on her own. It's awesome because we don't have to lift her up all the time. And yes, she's 1 year old. To keep her from screaming at my feet when I cook dinner, we got a leaning tower. She loves it. She helps me cook.
When asked what would be the main differences in how Kristyn parents her child and others, she said that “I don’t stress too much about how my kid is developing. I don’t worry whether she’s hitting milestones late or early. I don’t compare her to any other children and wonder why she isn’t doing the same thing.”
Kristyn added that her understanding of how children develop has taught her that there is huge variability between kids and there are a bunch of different ways of parenting that will all result in a happy, healthy child!“I am completely child-led and practice gentle discipline and positive parenting,” Kristyn explained.
“I think these concepts are fairly new but they’re definitely gaining a lot of traction now and spreading quickly across the social media platforms. So I think these approaches might be surprising to a lot of people but they’re becoming well-accepted and I’m stoked that I get to be a person to normalize these approaches for other parents.”
I Give My Kid Screen Time
I give my kid screen time. Now we all know the AAP recommends no screen time for children under 2. But these recommendations aren't realistic. Multiple studies have proven that this just isn't being listened to because it's not realistic for parents. Kids are getting away. Kids are getting away with more screen time than the AAP recommends That doesn't mean I think you should put your kid in front of the screen for 8 hours a day, but I do think there's a time and place for it. My kid is a car screamer. She screams her head off in the car. I pass her my phone with YouTube on it. And that's it. She watches coco melon and blippi. And she doesn't scream anymore. And I don't have a panic attack.
I Let My Kid Get Messy
I let my kid get messy, like really really messy, but I'm so into her getting messy that I make her all these special sensory materials so she can get even messier again. Why messy sensory play is really good for children's development: it's great for cognitive development and helps develop and enhance memory and encourages language development, particularly abstract concepts. It really helps calm an agitated kid down. It enhances fine and gross motor skills and hand-eye coordination, amongst a whole host of other things. On top of that, it's also inclusive. Every single child can engage in messy sensory play. So I do a lot of sensory play with my daughter. I do it almost every day. So I know how hard it can be to think about what sensory activity to do next and to find recipes that are safe for babies to eat, because we all know babies are going to eat it for all ages.
I Don't Give My Kid A Bedtime
I don't give my kid a bedtime. One: It doesn't work and it just made my mental health worse, because I was trying to put her to sleep and tearing my hair out and spending hours doing it, and two: she's clever. She knows when she needs to go to sleep. Just like you. Sometimes you're not tired at bedtime. These are just a couple of the crazy things I do and if you don't do them, that's okay too.
Kristyn’s TikTok bio mentions “evidence-based parenting,” so we asked her about that. Turns out it’s the idea that you use the current leading scientific thought to guide your parenting decisions. “This is actually really hard for normal parents to do because it involves being able to read and understand scientific literature (a lot of it) and translating it into practical parenting applications.”
She confessed that it’s honestly even difficult for her, “but I’m lucky because I’ve been teaching development psychology for many years now). There are some evidence-based parenting programs out there (like the positive parenting program) but in lieu of people doing courses like that, I thought I’d try and bring that content directly to the average parent's phone screen in 60-second clips (which is such a hard thing to do when I usually give 2 hour lectures!!)”
Kristyn concluded that she’s really enjoying doing this at the moment, and although she said “I’m not perfect and still learning, it’s been pretty amazing to hear from other parents who are feeling validated and inspired by the evidence-based parenting content I share. That’s my primary goal with TikTok!”
My Baby Doesn't Sleep In A Cot
My baby doesn't sleep in a cot and never has. We had to sell it because she wouldn't let me put her in the cot. She hated it. Instead, she has a double bed.
I Never Gave My Baby Purees Ever
I never gave my baby purees ever. I did baby-led weaning. Baby-led weaning is when you give your baby finger food from the start. You never give them mashed up food, the idea of baby-led weaning is that they learn to chew before they learn to swallow. Whereas with purees, they learn to swallow before they learn to chew. Apparently lots of people say that this teaches them food skills, good food hygiene, and makes them less picky, all of this sort of folk knowledge. You know what my subjective experience is? This is only anecdotal, not evidence-based. My kid didn't eat food properly until she was 14 months old. I did everything perfectly. I had the right gear. I had the Stokke Tripp Trapp highchair. All the right weaning tools. I prepared all the food perfectly and she still didn't start swallowing food for a really long time and then didn't take to food until she was 14 months old. So if you ask me, feed your baby how you like.