Here’s an interesting little “test” for you. Don’t worry there’s no failing possible. You can’t lose. In fact, regardless of whether you prove your knowledge or not, you can only win in this test. And (by the way) your kids’ll win, too.
Read this article first. Then come back here for the debriefing…
(Insert background music, while we are waiting for your return…)
So how did you do? Did you pass the test? Did you know this unarguable scientific “fact” already, or was this news to you? If we’re in the same Facebook community, then you probably already took this test, but I’m still curious how you did when you first saw the article. Were you surprised? Were you unable to believe it? Are you still utterly infuriated with righteous indignation and theorizing some sort of conspiracy?
About 6 months ago, I started writing a post in the “Things that make you go, ‘D’OH!‘” series about how sugar makes parenting our children more difficult. I found lots of information about the physiological effects of sugar intake. But in six months of searching, I can find no study that corroborates the common notion that sugar makes children feel hyper, or have an emotional crash. The closest I could come, and which I almost used in place of actual “crash” evidence was some data on a correlation between a certain amount of sugar intake and a calming sleepiness that came on after the subjects’ insulin response. I still haven’t written that article, because without the “emotional roller-coaster effect”, sugar is, frankly, less nefarious to parenting (though still not that great for our bodies: teeth, insulin system, weight, etc.).
Thus far, the only evidence anyone seems to be able to find relating sugar intake and hyperactivity in children was in one small study that was actually testing the correlation between the assumptions of mothers regarding the effects of sugar on their children and “the effects” the mothers then perceived after the test/placebo was administered. That study found that the mothers who expected to see a hyper-active response, or who considered their children more “sugar sensitive”, believed their kids were indeed showing a deleterious response to sugar intake, though their kids had only gotten a placebo. That is, the mothers thought their kids were exhibiting sugar highs even when the kids had been given no sugar at all.
So what do you think? Do you still believe as all of us have (and maybe still suspect) that sugar makes kids hyper or makes them crash? Does this mean that parenting tradition/experience is mistaken about the effects of sugar?
One thing is for sure — this subject clearly underscores the problematic nature of both “parenting mythology” and “parenting science”. On the one hand, parenting mythology, and its correlative psuedo-scientific rumor-milling, perpetuates the half-truths, fudged truths, and outright lies that diffuse and cloud our feelings about what makes sense, what feels right, and what we intuit about raising our kids. We’ve all been acting as though sugar makes our kids high, and/or makes them crash into whiney terrors. On the other hand, no matter what science says, and no matter what we want to believe about the infallibility of anything scientific, there are things that we parents experience and/or “just know” that science either can not explain or has asserted an explanation only to recant a generation later.
No scientist seems to be able to prove that our experience of our kid’s having a sugar high is anything more than our own perception. But does that actually invalidate the experience? If anything, it seems to lend sturdy evidence to the idea that what we expect, assume, believe, and act as if, about our kids is truer for us than anything science can capture in double blind experimentation. That is, I suspect we are all intimately involved in a “quantum parenting” process, such that what we think a/effects what we experience — even and perhaps especially in terms of our kid’s behavior.
We think “sugar high”, and then scientific data or no, we experience (and maybe even induce) sugar high. We think frail, at risk, incapable, then that’s what we perceive. We think impatient, crabby, needy, in the way, loud, violent, careless, mean, or messy and that’s what shows up. Or even more likely, we think about ourselves: incapable, idiot, totally-blowing-the-whole-thing, fail-ure — and we then find evidence for that every-where. We become better at recording data on how much we suck than any scientist anywhere in the world could ever dream of being…
My (other) power mama business partner at Feeleez and the Natural Parenting Center, Kris, passed on the (sweet!) article on sugar in either synchronic tandem or precise follow-up (I’m not sure which) to a post of Natalie’s that touches this same subject area. In that post, Natalie quotes a line that Harry Houdini delivers in a movie we just watched with the girls called Fairy Tale: A True Story. “Harry Houdini said to be careful when doing tricks for children. They expect nothing and therefore see everything.”
What if we parented that way? What if we were as open-minded about the experience we have with our kids as they are? What if, like them, we actually took in the present experience before us — free of pre-conceived notions about what science says or what kids do or what parents are supposed to do; free of “the way it is”, “the way they are”, and “the way to do it”; free of experts’ slanted, misappropriated data; and free of guilt and doubt about whether or not we can “do it ‘right'”?
What if we just dealt with the kid in front of us? What if we acted with no plan but empathy? What if we used our feelings to guide us? What if we only did what felt “good” and “right”? What if we expected nothing and just saw everything?
Wonder what that would look like…