When Mayim Bialik was pregnant with her first child six years ago, she read all the usual books devoted to motherhood – but then she decided to take a different route when it came to raising her children, Miles and Fred.
The Blossom star is a staunch advocate of attachment parenting, a phrase popularized by well-known Drs. William Sears and Jay Gordon, which is characterized as, “an umbrella term describing a style of parenting that includes things like natural birth, breastfeeding, sleeping with your baby and gentle discipline.” She even penned a book about it called, Beyond the Sling. And while some of her parenting advice may seem controversial, she said it is science-based. The 36-year-old actress earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA, where she specialized in the study of hormones of attachment and their role in obsessive compulsive behavior.
“Children are born giving signals; they are subtle, but if you spend enough time looking at them you will be able to reinforce those signals. Our children could sign for potty by 10 months, before they could walk or talk."
- Mayim Bialik
Now playing Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory, Bialik and her husband follow attachment parenting avidly, which means the whole family shares one bedroom.
“I don’t advocate bed sharing for you, but if it works for a family – there’s nothing wrong with it,” Bialik told FoxNews.com.
Bialik said the room has two beds, low to the ground. She sleeps in one with one son, and her husband, Michael Stone, sleeps in another with their second son.
“It’s often musical beds, but it works for us,” she said.
The couple does not have sex in either bed, she added.
“We choose to have intimate moments not in the place where our children are,” she explained. “I understand it’s a concern, but I also talk a lot about shifting the expectation of how often you have sex and the kind of sex you have. Once you have a kid that shifts anyway. It is true that my husband and I have made a commitment to not put our children’s needs first, but to understand our children’s needs as extremely critical especially in the first years and to lower our expectations to trying to get back to the life we had before in many ways, not just in the intimate ways.”
Bialik is also an advocate of a toilet training method known as the ‘elimination technique,’ which describes toilet training by reading signals. Bialik said elimination technique doesn't fall under the umbrella of attachment parenting, but many who follow the principles do practice it - and both of her sons were potty-trained by 1 year old.
“Children are born giving signals; they are subtle, but if you spend enough time looking at them you will be able to reinforce those signals,” she said. “Our children could sign for potty by 10 months, before they could walk or talk. By 12 months they did not want to pee in a diaper. It’s not reward and punishment, good or bad. It’s simply learning the cues.”
She admitted there was one aspect of attachment parenting that was hard for her and her husband to employ – that children should not be forced to share.
“We were very nervous to not force sharing,” she confessed. “It’s such an ingrained Western value. But children will intuitively learn, if shown appropriate modeling, how to read other children’s emotions. We were amazed that our children became the kind of people who understood the concept of sharing. It’s about teaching a relationship – it’s not teaching obedience.”
Bialik does not subscribe to theory of prompting kids to say ‘please’ or ‘thank you,’ adding she feels it’s obnoxious. She said she understands parents want children who are polite and courteous, but she doesn’t see any proof that ‘hovering’ makes it any better – in fact, she thinks it produces a sense of shame in the child.
“Now that our son is 6, I can be much more playful and say to him, ‘Sometimes people like to hear a thank you!,'" Bialik said. "That’s a very different conversation than making an 18-month-old spit out the words, ‘thank you.’”
Bialik said she knows some people will think she’s ‘nutty’ because she doesn’t give her children Tylenol, or would rather consult another mother before the pediatrician, but that’s OK with her.
For her, the main message of the book is to watch your children’s cues and develop your own style of parenting skills – and that’s hardly controversial parenting.