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Dr. Brazelton Looks at Child Development in Cable Series

August 1, 1989

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The message of Dr. T. Berry Brazelton’s new cable series on child development is: Let the child guide the parent.

For the Lifetime Network series, called ″What Every Baby Knows: The First Three Years,″ cameras followed the development of 12 children for one year. The 39 half-hour shows will premiere on Lifetime on Saturday.

″I was very aware of how hungry parents were for answers to the issues that they expressed through worries about toilet training, thumb sucking, but underlying that are much more deep-seated need for support and understanding and a cultural commitment to what they’re doing,″ Brazelton said in a telephone interview from his summer home on Cape Cod. The pediatrician has been helping mothers with their children in a show on Lifetime for six years.

″The thing I want to achieve is to have mothers watch their babies and learn what their babies are trying to tell them. If the parents watch they can learn.″

Called this generation’s Dr. Benjamin Spock, Brazelton is a clinical professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, professor of pediatrics and child development at Boston University, and founder and chief of the Development Unit at Boston Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

″Here’s a pediatrician who’s 70 years old, with one foot in the past and one foot in the future,″ said Chuck Bangert, who produces the series with Lou Gorfain and Hank O’Karma.

″Dr. Brazelton is very practical. His contention is that a baby basically will tell you what’s wrong.″

″The basic thrust of the show is to trust your own instincts,″ said Gorfain.

″We picked 12 families and mostly tell the story of their office visits to Dr. Brazelton,″ said Gorfain, noting that the cameras also show the children at home.

Four children are featured in each age group: newborn to age 1, a time of discovery; ″the terrible twos″ when they develop a sense of self; and the third year, a time of growing autonomy and socialization.

The families selected represent various ethnic and economic groups, as well as a couple on the verge of divorce, a single-parent family, a multi- generation family, working mothers and mothers at home.

″The way people are willing to share their anxieties, their concerns, their stresses, and let down their defenses in front of a camera is incredible to me,″ said Brazelton.

Bangert said Brazelton is a hero to many mothers. ″Women in a Playboy magazine poll selected him as the man they’d most want to be shipwrecked with. Airline stewardesses always seat him in first class because they want to talk to him. ...

″He believes in setting more limits for children than Spock. In fact, the most common question he gets is about seting limits. But he doesn’t advocate spanking. He says if you spank a child, when he gets older he will strike someone who displeases him. He’s also a great advocate of grandparents. He says children should have a safe place where they can occasionally escape some of the restrictions.″

The producers passed on other advice from Brazelton: Don’t worry if the child doesn’t eat vegetables, as long as the child gets milk and multivitamins. Peer pressure will stop bed-wetting quicker than anything else.

Bangert and Gorfain, who have won six Emmys, have also produced ″The Body Human″ for CBS and ″Trackdown,″ a special about the ″Green River killer″ in Washington state. Gorfain said two viewers have led authorities to a major suspect in the serial killings.

They’re producing a show for ABC about hunting down parole violators, with Avery Brooks as the host; ″Code I,″ an ABC pilot about emergency medical services with Pernell Roberts as host; and a CBS movie giving a fictionalized account of two producers doing a special about a serial killer.


Elsewhere in television:

BATS AND CATS - Lee Meriwether, currently starring as Lily Munster in the nationally syndicated ″The Munsters Today,″ is still remembered for her role as Catwoman on the ″Batman″ TV series. ″For over 20 years I have received mail regarding my role as Catwoman, but with the resurgence of ‘Batman’ it has grown considerably,″ she said. ″I now receive several letters a day addressed to Catwoman.″ The role of Catwoman in the 1966-68 series was also played by Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt.

PHANTOM MINISERIES - Charles Dance stars in the title role of the NBC miniseries ″Phantom of the Opera″ and Burt Lancaster plays his father. Production is now under way in Paris. The miniseries is based on Gaston Leroux’s classic tale of horror and romance about the masked figure who haunts the Paris Opera House hoping to win the heart of the only woman he ever loved. It is not connected with the current stage musical.

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