One of the things that struck me during my many years as a preschool administrator was the willingness of parents to share their failed attempts at parenting. They were not afraid to relate stories about things they had tried and abandoned in their search for what would work best. We all have visions of our children as successful adults who attribute all they have accomplished in life to their parents and families. Yet in our worst moments, we can’t imagine them making it to the next day, much less to adulthood. Somewhere between the two is reality.
This is a very difficult time to be a parent. Not only are there books and magazines galore anxious to give you the advice you need to raise perfect children, but there is enormous pressure to give them every advantage.
(I recognize the irony in this post, advising you to be wary of the advice that “pings” you every day … )
And there is certainly a great deal to be learned from the experiences of others. What I valued in the parents of my students, though, was a respect for the differing needs of families and personalities, along with an eagerness to try to discern the advice that was best for their own families, irrespective of what was popular at the moment.
We’re tempted to think we have to do things “right,” to toilet train the “right” way, to buy the “right” toys, to drive to tutors and extra classes that will give our children the boost they’ll need to get ahead. But in the end, it’s not that simple. Your child will not be the college valedictorian simply because you did things the “right” way, nor is your child going to live in misery simply because you didn’t buy the “right” toys.
The first step in parenting is to trust your instincts and be attuned to the individual needs of your own family and children. The second step is to be consistent in applying what you have discovered to work best within your own values.
If you are in a store with a child in a full-fledged tantrum, it may be time to leave the store, accept that these things will happen if we missed the cues of a frenzied child and resolve not to get to that point again. It takes courage and trial and error, but if every attempt is rooted in personal values and in respect (for the child, for the parent and for your family), it will work.
Trust in your own loving instincts, respect the differences inherent in your individual children, be consistent and read the guarantees of parenting books with a very large grain of salt. Parenting is a lot more difficult than almost anything else we will tackle in our lives, but the rewards are certainly worth treasuring.