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.
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
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
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.