By Shira Boss
Zero Cost Kids
As a parent, would you like to make all the right decisions? Wouldn’t that be great, always to know the right thing to do or say at the right time.
Like all parents, I have read a good number of books and articles with parenting tips and various theories about best practices. All of us are scrambling to learn more and try to do the right things for our families.
I also attend a weekly parenting support group with the founder of the toddler center where our 3-year old goes to play twice a week for 2 hours.
There, we parents ask the leader – who has worked with toddlers for decades – what do we do, what do we say, how do we handle these little tyrants? In essence, we beg for a script.
Telling and showing parents what to do has even become big business, with not only books and magazines and websites but pricey consultants and courses and even nurses and nannies who from day 1 will just step in and do it for you.
Expert parenting advice
Even when advice goes against what we feel is right, it can be hard not to follow an expert’s instructions. Often we just want someone to have the answers. There’s a little bit of sheep in all of us – sometimes we just want to be led. Plus it’s very hard to have confidence as a new parent, with no experience.
Sure, tips and tricks can be useful. It’s helpful to learn a thing or two about what to expect, what’s considered “normal” child development and usual behavior, and some helpful hints about how to tackle various issues. I like the Dr. Sears books. And the Gesell Institute books on child development – there’s a slim volume for each age.
I picked up a great burping technique from a grandmother’s video on YouTube, forum advice has really helped me with toddler tooth brushing, Dr. Sears books gave me the confidence to co-sleep, and the toddler center group leader changed how horrible I feel about losing my temper…we could all use a little help with parenting, as needed.
The best parenting advice ever
However, we don’t need all of the expert advice.
When it comes to the biggest, most meaningful decisions, the best and most reliable source of advice is free, always available, and almost always right: our own intuition.
The very best parenting advice I’ve ever gotten was from La Leche League meetings, where we were given pointers on breastfeeding and sleeping and starting solids… but we were always told to do what we felt was right.
Our La Leche League leader repeatedly – at every single meeting – told us that as the mothers, we knew what was right (fathers too of course…this was a group of breastfeeding women). To tune into our heart, our gut feelings, and we would always know what was best for us and our children.
Even New Parents Know What to Do
Especially as brand new parent, being told that was a real confidence builder. I feel like I couldn’t have gotten more out of a parenting course had I spent months in training and paid a million dollars for it. (La Leche League meetings are free!)
Even as new parents, we are not total amateurs. We carry within us the innate, mammalian know-how of centuries of child-rearing.
Whatever feels right most likely is right.
Too Much Parenting Advice
There’s so much advice out there – most of it conflicting. It quickly becomes overwhelming and confusing.
Sometimes reading or listening to advice can be helpful not because we learn what to do, but because when we read or hear the advice, we feel whether or not it’s something that seems right.
We can feel the spark inside that says “Yes! That’s exactly what I thought!” or “Hmm, I don’t think so.”
I felt this about co-sleeping. The doctors (except Dr. Sears!), the books, the public service announcements, most “experts” say that sleeping with our children is dangerous.
La Leche League, however, pointed out that families have been sleeping together for most of human history – and still do around the world. We had our babies in our bed from day 1 and it has been amazing. Nothing feels better (to me) than curling around them all night and always being within arm’s reach.
Therefore, I am completely unswayed by all of the “expert” advice on this issue, because sleeping together as a family feels completely right for us.
However, would I have had the confidence do to so without reading Dr. Sears and hearing support in La Leche League meetings, and our midwife saying yes, of course, it’s fine, and that “most of the world is grateful to have one bed for the family”? Maybe not.
That’s why I say that advice is useful and helpful to give the green light to our natural inclinations and intuitive know-how. But we need to value our own opinions above everyone else’s.
You can do this!