The amount of spectacularly bad parenting advice out there is astonishing. When I was pregnant with my first child and then a mother of a tiny baby, I would carefully gobble up any morsel of parenting advice. A lot of the time, I would greedily devour most of what I read or was told as I was mostly floundering in bewilderment and needed all the help I could get.
Now, five years on, I am not as judicious. I readily dismiss opinion masquerading as fact, parenting articles that exude too much confidence, and advice that is, quite simply, terrible.
This is actually an essential part of the parenting journey. Rejecting the vast majority of parenting advice attunes you to what is right and essential for your family. If you don’t hone this skill you will sink in a sort of guidance quicksand, overwhelmed with conflicting and confusing advice.
Of course, some recommendations are excellent and I still love reading the odd parenting manual. Now I know when to apply it and when to laugh at it. Here are three types of advice I especially dislike…
Spectacularly bad parenting advice includes instructions that are impossible to follow, as they are too general. For instance, that you should only have a handful of rules for your kids, such as don’t hurt other people or things. Period. This is supposed to be helpful as it is less to remember but sweeping policy like this goes out the window when you find your toddler jumping on your bed with muddy shoes on. Which rule have they broken? The answer is who cares! JUST GET OFF THE BED!
Sometimes what you are told is impossible due to its impracticality. ‘Show integrity to your kids at all times’ sounds great in theory, but I don’t return the supermarket trolley to the right place if it is raining, and I certainly don’t floss every night, so that advice loses its credibility as soon as it is uttered.
Once you work out and embrace who you are as a parent, some advice, although sound, is impossible to adhere to. I am unapologetically a ‘helicopter’ parent. This is purported as bad but I don’t care. I would rather hover and jump in when needed than step away and not be there to catch them when they fall.
My Way or the Highway
Another subset of spectacularly bad parenting advice is in the form of ‘this is the ONLY method or the BEST way. I don’t know about you, but if someone tells me that what I am doing is wrong, then I will dig my heels in and firmly maintain my position.
There is almost nothing in raising children that could be considered the only, right way and thinking there is only creates a lot of guilt. I think some of this guilt stems from the fact that what may be good for our situation – using disposable diapers for instance – may not be good for the world at large.
The next time someone tells you something that starts with ‘you must’ or ‘the best way is’ ignore it straight away. Crying, sleeping, feeding, carrying, disciplining and playing all have a myriad of good options. Choose one you like. Change it as required. Try not to feel too guilty.
Good Enough Parenting
The last item of spectacularly bad parenting advice is that good enough parenting, is, well, good enough. I know that this advice is supposed to help busy, tired, stressed out parents feel better. But we are all busy, tired and stressed on a daily basis! Sure, sometimes ‘good enough’ is fine, but we need to try and live to a higher standard. My fear is that ‘good enough parenting’ will become the norm all of the time.
I want my kids to be great, strive to be the best they can be, fail and get back up and then grow some more and contribute to the world. I want them to be remarkable, courageous, resilient. And to do that, I can’t be merely ‘good enough’. I need to push myself to be great person AND parent. After all, how will my children reach their potential if they don’t see me trying to reach mine?
Good enough parenting is the bottom rung of the ladder, it is treading water, it is only getting to the half way line. It is an excuse. A story we tell ourselves that allows us to live in our comfort zone when inside all of us is a desire to be amazing.
How this looks will be different for all of us, but we all know deep down when we reside in ‘good enough’. Yes, pushing ourselves is exhausting, but it is the good type of tired where we have used our strengths reach for the stars and maybe, just maybe, touched the moon instead.
Fine Dining Parenting
Having kids has given me a huge gift of knowing myself better as a parent and a person. I can now easily discern when parenting advice resonates with me and when it is spectacularly bad. You may or may not agree with me on the above points, but that you have a strong opinion about what is right for you and your family is what is important. Now, taking parenting advice becomes more like fine dining than eating at a buffet.