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Is Parenting an Art or a Science?

In the world of academia, there are several subjects that teeter on the line between the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Science. In my almost 4 years as a parent, I've come to realize that Parenting fits firmly on that line.

I believe strongly in the science of parenting. Science tells me that "breast is best" , so of course I chose to breastfeed my children. We know that it is safest for infants to be secured in appropriate child restraints when travelling in a car, so we purchased and installed the right seats. We know that sleeping on the stomach contributes to SIDS, so we put our babies to sleep on their backs. We know that excessive crying is dangerous for babies, so we respond lovingly to their cries day and night.

But parenting is also an art. The art is coming up with a creative response to discipline challenges. It is developing your own way of bonding with each of your children that fits their personality. It is finding new ways of sneaking vegetables into your picky toddler's favourite dishes. It is weaving your values into the way that you choose to raise your family.

My approach to parenting has been to seek out the best science and use that to guide my decisions. That is mostly black and white (except of course where scientific evidence is in dispute and then you get into the grey area of scientific bias). But the art is what takes more work. This requires me to trust my instincts, to observe and listen to my children, and to learn from other parents' experiences. But mostly it involves a lot of trial and error. I find this more difficult than anything else. I want to do things right the first time. I know that we can learn from our mistakes, but I don't want to make mistakes on my children. So when I figure something out, I want to remember it, to reflect on it, to share it......
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Reader Comments (7)

[...] other cases just poor judgement. The poor judgement part is, in my mind, just part of learning the art of parenting. It is something you learn through experience and by observing like-minded parents and hopefully [...]

[...] I don’t dwell on the past. I don’t get offended if I read somewhere about a different way of doing things that is perhaps better than what I did. I don’t feel the need to justify over and over again why I did what I did or why I just couldn’t do it differently. Instead I plan for tomorrow. I read. I read scientific articles and studies highlighting the most recent research on the science of parenting. I read blogs of like minded bloggers looking for inspiration and new ways of doing things that are in line with my parenting philosophy. I read blogs of people who parent differently than I do, to attempt to understand their point of view, although more often it strengthens my resolve to do things the way that I do. Here on my blog, I share some of the things I read. I share the things that interested me and that inspired me to be a better parent. I share my thoughts on the art and science of parenting. [...]

[...] other cases just poor judgement. The poor judgement part is, in my mind, just part of learning the art of parenting. It is something you learn through experience and by observing like-minded parents and hopefully [...]

Oh my! Somedays, when I have 30 seconds to myself I think about the philosophy of parenting. I'm a nurse and in one of my MSc courses we discussed (at length) the theoretical basis of nursing & whether it's an art or a science.
I thought parenting fit in with this perfectly too! I agree that it's an art & a science. I think I have a half written blog post written on it - you've inspired me to go finish it. I've only been on your site for about 5 min & I'm already in love with this blog. Awesome awesome awesome.

April 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMomma K

I couldn't agree with you more. Great post – very clear and concise.
This is a very helpful way to frame the complexities we face as conscious 21st century parents.
Love the site and your writing. Looking forward to exploring more.
Thanks for helping to elevate the discussion.

April 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChris White

[...] years ago, I sat at my laptop at my in-laws kitchen table and tapped out my very first blog post on PhD in Parenting. After having written my first six blog posts, I had received a grand total of [...]

I discovered your fantastic website today quite by accident. And I've been engrossed in it for awhile now! I wanted to commend you on the research, thought, and deep reflection that goes into what you write here. What you have said about the art and science of parenting is a perfect way of communicating the mix of skills, abilities, and intuition that go into raising kids. And I so agree that it is the "art" that takes the work and experimentation as no child is the same as another. Thanks for your contributions. You are clearly making a difference in the world!

Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Ph.D.
Website: http://www.mpricemitchell.com
Blog on Positive Youth Development: http://www.rootsofaction.com
Twitter: @DrPriceMitchell

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