Health & Family

Charlotte pediatrician offers parenting advice in book, blog

Like most pediatricians, Dr. Paul Smolen gets many repeat questions from parents about child health. And like many of his peers, Smolen doesn’t have as much time as he needs with each patient.

So five years ago, he started a blog,, using his neighborhood nickname, “Doc Smo.” In more than 350 podcasts and articles, he has offered advice to parents based on tons of research and sprinkled with homespun remedies and humor. He calls it “Portable Practical Pediatrics.”

When time is short, he often tells parents to listen to his audio recordings to learn more about topics such as proper nutrition, limiting screen time and teaching money management and responsible behavior.

This year, he published a book, partly based on his blog posts, which get 30,000 to 50,000 views each month. The book is just over 100 pages and easy to read, even though it includes many footnotes and sources. (The book sells for $12.86 in paperback on

“I think of it as essential knowledge for 21st century parents,” said Smolen, 62, who has practiced in Charlotte for 33 years, now at Providence Pediatrics in Ballantyne.

Smolen’s listeners and readers “love to talk about Grandma, and I always make sure that Grandma’s right,” he said. Among the home remedies he supports is applying Vicks VapoRub to the feet to relieve a cough. He has posted many podcasts and videos explaining such things as how to take a rectal temperature and how to get a child to swallow a pill.

He said he tries not to “scold” parents even though he admits the name of his book, “Can Doesn’t Mean Should,” is “sort of chastising.” He opens with some observations about what life was like 100 years ago – no processed foods, no television or Internet – and then makes suggestions about how parents can deal with today’s challenges.

For example, he said about one-third of today’s 3-year-olds have TVs in their rooms. “You can do this,” he says, “but should you?”

“The evidence is strong that allowing screens in a child’s bedroom is associated with poorer academic performance and sleep difficulties,” he wrote. “…Parents need to be savvy about how their children use screens, television, the Internet, social media, smart phones, and whatever is next!”

Smolen also quotes researchers who believe children should be allowed to fail instead of being praised constantly. “There’s pretty good evidence that (the self-esteem movement of the 1980s and 1990s) was harmful to kids,” he said. “The parenting style that works the best is demanding but warm.”

Garloch: 704-358-5078