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phaedryx's avatar

What do you think about would-be parents learning parenting skills on "practice babies"?

Asked by phaedryx (6129points) January 30th, 2011

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An excerpt:
“From 1919 to 1969, college home economics programs around the country had so-called practice houses or practice apartments where young women learned the domestic arts: cooking, cleaning, running a household.

The college students learned mothering skills by caring for ‘practice babies’ — infants lent by local orphanages to live at the school.”

Weird, creepy, practical? Would it be a good way for potential parents to “test drive” parenting before making the commitment? Should we bring back this practice? Should we leave it in the past? Would you enroll in classes like this?

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12 Answers

Seelix's avatar

I don’t like the idea of babies being used as teaching tools. You ought not just give an infant to someone who might mistreat it. That being said, a lot of parents unfortunately mistreat their own kids, and we can’t do anything about it unless they’re reported.

Anyway, they have super fancy baby doll robots these days to teach parenting skills.

josie's avatar

Homo Sapiens did OK without this bullshit for tens of millenia. Who are these people, commiting hubris, who imagine that they have a greater insight than that kind of experience?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I think some sort of parenting classes are good but until any baby can be picked at random for this ‘service’, using ones from an orphanage is unethical, just because they’re expendable.

bkcunningham's avatar

I love the entire concept. I wish we could implement it somehow now with different volunteers in a similar setting interested in caring for an infant one-on-one in a setting other than foster care. If you’ve ever been to an orphanage or seen children pushed through foster care, it might make you appreciate a child having some one-on-one attention and care. Plus it was a course to teach women, who at the time, voluntarily signed up for the course on domestic experience. It reminds me of a program I worked with years ago where assisted living residents were childcare providers for young low-income mothers. It was a dream and benefitted everyone involved.

BarnacleBill's avatar

In my house, that called “give your children regular household chores and require them to babysit for spending money.”

Baddreamer27's avatar

In this day and age where you see so many stories of children being abused, abandoned, mis-treated, neglected, I think the idea is perfect. I took classes offered on base for breast-feeding, infant massage, first aid-anything and everything they offered. When I had my son, I wasn’t ready and he was a bit of a suprise. I seriously used to think that the “mothering gene” skipped over me and that I should never have children (of course this changed and I absolutely adore my son and wouldn’t trade him for the world), but the classes and counselings I attended certainly helped prepare me. I think they were well ahead of thier time. Think of the amount of teen mothers who are not prepared for a child. In school, we had to take home economics, and were given computer babies (this was a scare tactic). The babies were dolls with computers inside. They cried and did “normal” baby things and recorded your reactions and you were graded based off of the information recorded and how well you cared for the “baby”.

Baddreamer27's avatar

p.s. I do think the idea of an actual practice baby is a bit odd, but what would be the harm in simply volunteering at an orphanage?

snowberry's avatar

My mother in law told me about her “practice baby” in high school. It was a 10 bag of flour. She had to haul it everywhere, and tend to it as if it were a real baby for a week.

Now days they have electronic dolls that document everything that the student does or does not do to care for their “baby”.

But use a real human being? Not with the level of competence that so many young folks have today. In the US under the current circumstances the idea stinks.

JLeslie's avatar

I can’t see anything wrong with people who are going to have children helping at an orphanage and learning about caring for babies and children. But, I would not want the babies moved around from place to place, or having a different primary caregiver every two weeks.

Supacase's avatar

I think it is awful. Babies are not library books, available for loan.

geeky_mama's avatar

I think this is wrong on several levels.. for one, this was COLLEGE level instruction in home making? Talk about your MRS degress…

For another, as most parents can tell you—your mileage may vary per child.
So, if they ‘trained’ with a baby that was overall content, happy around the (many many) strangers s/he was being handled by and ate happily the food it was given…and then their own child was born with colic, fussy and picky about foods…well, what a rude awakening! I can just imagine a 1940s era “home economics” trained mother taking her baby to the doctor in frustration that: “This one cries WAY more than it should!”

And, I second @JLeslie‘s observation that it couldn’t be a good thing for the orphaned children to have inconsistent primary caregivers on a rotating basis. How would they ever learn to form attachments? Scary bad situation in my humble opinion.

carsonsmom1's avatar

I Think that practice makes perfect no matter what situation. In this particular situation having classes that show how to take care of a child not only benefits soon to be mothers, but also anyone who wants to work in child care. For a lot of children now days they’re growing up in places with drugs, and anger issues. Having these classes might teach them a little more than simply how to take care fo someone, but also how to love and nurture someone.

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