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SHOWS FOR YOUNGSTERS AND THEIR PARENTS TOO : Listen up, parents: two experts in the field have some free advice

June 25, 1995|N.F. MENDOZA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

T. Berry Brazelton and Penelope Leach, successors to Dr. Benjamin Spock as advisers to a generation of parents, have found a ready--and growing--audience on cable.

The pressures on parents now are far greater than they were during Dr. Spock's day, say both experts and Emmy nominees.

"It isn't the babies who've changed, it's society," Leach, also a psycholgist, says from Coral Gables, Fla., where she's promoting the paperback release of her book "Children First." The London-based Leach is currently revising her popular "Your Baby and Child," first published in 1977 and revised in 1989. (She's written three other books on child rearing as well.)

Brazelton, the author of 24 books on child rearing, points out that the pressures parents and children face now are "an awful lot we didn't dream of. Parents are very preoccupied with protecting kids and giving them values," the Emmy winner says from Boston's Children's Hospital. The pediatrician is also a clinical professor emeritus of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

Now in its 11th season, Brazelton's What Every Baby Knows and Leach's Your Baby and Child With Penelope Leach, which completed its third and final season this year but continues in reruns, share similar formats: incorporating parents, problems and solutions in looking at early childhood development.

Brazelton empathizes with struggling parents. "There's simply not enough time," he says, pointing to the pressures on single and married working parents. The "isolation" parents feel without extended families also is very real, he says. Parents who are "trying to raise kids against the very powerful medium of television and societal changes and pressures" need all the help they can get, he believes.

Common concerns continually surface, say both Brazelton and Leach, especially getting a baby to sleep on its own and differentiating between discipline and punishment.

"First of all, parents need to recognize [that discipline is] terribly important," Brazelton emphasizes. "You're not deserting them. This is different than punishment." He believes that corporal punishment has no place as a disciplinary measure. "There's too much violence in the world now and spanking seems to imply it's OK.

"The goal for discipline is inner discipline," he adds. "The child knows he can stop himself. That means teaching over a period of time." Consistency is vital, he points out. Brazelton suggests holding a child while explaining why his or her behavior is dangerous. Other techniques include "timeouts," where a child sits quietly for a designated time, or isolation, where they stay in their room alone. "The whole idea is to break the cycle, sit down with them right away and say, 'Every time you do this, I have to stop you so you can stop yourself.' "

"Sleeping difficulties are very common," Leach notes. "Parents are often in that awkward time of letting their baby sleep with them and by the time they're 9 or 10 months old, regretting it."

Leach reminds parents that "babies need to learn they can sleep for themselves. They should see it as an empowering thing," she explains. "Let her see she has the ability to go to sleep herself." She suggests parents start emphasizing solo sleeping early, "like in three or four weeks of life."

Brazelton believes the common issues of sleep and discipline are related. "Both of them are tied in with too much pressure. I hear it all the time. There's just not enough time anymore."

"What Every Baby Knows" airs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 8 a.m.; "Your Baby and Child With Penelope Leach" airs Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 a.m. and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m., both on Lifetime.

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