Everything You Need to Know to Be a Perfect Parent  Bookmark and Share

Catchy title, huh? C'mon, you've bought books with titles like this. They're next to your bed along with a stack of pregnancy books that said that if you looked the wrong way at a fish that your kid would have 3 arms.


I find that most of the phone calls I get from tearful, overwhelmed families are almost always because there is a book they they are reading telling them that their child isn't doing something that they should be doing and that because the child isn't following that book, that something terrible must be happening and they suck as parents.


They are the books that tell you that kids can be potty trained in a day, that 4 month- olds can "soothe" themselves, that you can train a baby to conform to your schedule...the books I hope all of you will close, put on a shelf, or throw away because of the stress and sense of failure that they induce.


Perfect parenting means making mistakes.


OK. Maybe "making mistakes" is too harsh. How about "learning by trial and error." My husband is a psychiatrist and between the two of us, you'd think we'd have enough training to get the parenting of our 3 boys just about right. But even we have learned that you need to change a little boy's diaper with your mouth closed, that disciplining without laughing is key, and that our boys are people, with personalities, who have schedules and need that sometimes are not the same as ours. We're better parents because we have learned from our errors. Or maybe, it's not an error, it's an experience: we have tried something, it didn't work and we've moved on despite what a book, theory, or adamantly stated alternative opinion suggested.


It takes an empowered parent to ignore a barrage of advice. We need to work on empowerment, and reclaim our parenting instincts. We give too many of them away.  I am confused and saddened by how strongly some parents feel that what they are doing is right and that all people need to follow what they did because it worked for them.   We have many experts in our lives, all with different qualifications and powers of persuasion.  Here's the thing about those expert opinions, health recommendations and studies:  they are meant for a population and can be individualized.  The reverse is not true: what may be true for an individual or a family cannot and should not be extrapolated to a general health recommendation. We do that all too often.   Just like the books that promise everything, we have to realize that all of us will have different parenting experiences. While it's wonderful to share what has worked and not worked for us, we hopefully don't send our advice out as a public health recommendation.


Realistically, there are very few absolutes in parenting and I'm a passionate believer in parental intuition and instinct.  With few exceptions, whatever works best for your family is the way to become a perfect parent. 



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