Close your eyes and imagine this: you are sitting at a table with cold glass of iced tea in your hand as you watch your laughing children dart in and out of sunbeams that are dancing across the patio. You feel quiet, fulfilled, and proud of the beautiful childhood years you are providing; which will undoubtedly lead those same children to become loving, caring, and successful adults.
Now open your eyes. Is this how your day-to-day parenting feels? My guess is- probably not. The most common quote I hear from my clients who are parents is “It’s not what I anticipated; I’m completely lost” or some variation of that. More than likely you sit on the patio and watch your children. In the midst of running and laughing, they are hitting, throwing, or constantly needing your help. You find yourself seeking answers, from the internet or one of the countless parenting books currently on the market. How can I help my baby sleep, limit the toddler temper tantrums, or circumvent sibling squabbles. There is a book or blog to answer every problem. And each of those utilizes a different technique to raise the perfect child. Some tell us to pay close attention and create educational stimulation. While others tell us to back off, allow children to make mistakes, be bored, and tap into their own resources. Some teach that time out and discipline is of the utmost importance: children need boundaries! While still others preach that positive reinforcement is the only form of boundary setting you need: notice their good and the bad will melt away. What they all have in common is that if you follow the steps so nicely outlined in their books, your parenting life will be filled with moments in the sun, like we imagined in the beginning of this post.
So whose answer is correct? This is the dilemma: all are right, and none are right. What these sources all fail to account for is you: your individuality, your partner’s individuality and your children’s independent minds and attitudes. This is the problem with mass advice for raising children; parents are all different, and children are all different. Just as in education, one approach won’t work for everyone. You were an individual prior to having children; you knew your likes and your dislikes, your talents and your deficits. Tap into this, use this knowledge of yourself to help guide you through the ever-shifting landscape of parenting. Now this doesn’t mean stop reading and gaining knowledge about your children and their development, but you can stop searching for perfection. Seek the advice of family, friends, teachers, and professionals, but also realize your own expertise as a parent. Tap into what you know works for you and extend that to your family.
Ok, so will this give you your life filled with moments in the sun? No, parenting is hard and there are no easy fixes. But in accepting your expertise as a parent you will begin to appreciate those moments that do come. And when you do notice one, you can take a breath, feel the sun on your face and enjoy your children’s laughter, rather than worrying about their next tears.