Looking back I was, in my view, quite lucky when I had my children, though I didn’t realise it at the time. Why? I was living in Dubai, there were few – if any – bookshops (this was 28 years ago), there was no such thing as Google and no social media – actually, the internet had only been invented six years before the birth of my first baby. I had one book, which I’d bought from the UK, by Dr Miriam Stoppard, which gave me information to take me through parenting my child from the ages 0 – 3 years. I had one set of rules/advice to follow, adapt and improvise with. There was very little outside pressure or conflict of ideas to deal with around my parenting. It was relaxed, I wasn’t particularly anxious about making the wrong choice or doing the wrong thing. Call it ignorance if you will – but don’t they say that ignorance is bliss?!
Compare that to now, when parents have so much information at their fingertips. Thousands of parenting books, magazines, blogs, social media sites, media articles, podcasts, TV programmes. .. It could be quite overwhelming. Furthermore, a lot of it is so conflicting; give them options/don’t give them a choice, let them cry/pick them up, introduce one food at a time for three days/give them everything and don’t let them become picky… What’s right and what’s wrong? How do you decide?
I belong to many parenting sites across social media and I hear parents discuss with great animation, determination, conviction and huge passion topics such as attachment parenting, helicopter parents, modelling behaviour, the CIO (Crying It Out) approach, gentle discipline, positive parenting, sleep training and the list goes on and on and on.
To avoid that information overload I think it’s important to bear these important points in mind;
• Each family is different and unique
• Each child is an individual
• There is no magic formula that will work for everyone.
Some children will sleep through the night and some will want to party though the night and have you share it with them. Some children need to know what’s coming next; some go with the flow. Some children are hugely independent from the start, some children need a bit more nurturing and support.
YOU know your child better than anyone else, you know your own values and aspirations – believe in that, believe in yourself.
So, go ahead and read the books, join the group, Google the questions and listen to the advice – but only take from them what works for your family, for you and for your child.
This is also important to keep in mind when being given well meaning advice from family or friends – I remember hearing phrases like “It’s what we’ve always done – and it never did you any harm” things like family ‘traditions’ or old-wives tales that have no base in research and could be potentially harmful. I still remember a great friend of mine telling me that her extremely dominating mother-in-law had advised her that her (perfectly healthy) four month old was “Too skinny”, and that she should put a RAW EGG in his feeding bottle with his milk!!!!!!!!! OK – that’s an extreme example. But sometimes people can be very well intentioned, but just plain wrong. Just say “Thank you for your advice”, smile, don’t feel pressured to do it, question it “Is a raw egg REALLY a good idea for a four month old child?” – and if you really need help and advice, seek it from a professional.
Don’t feel bad for picking and choosing advice that resonates with you, speaks to you, appeals to you, you are comfortable with, you feel equipped to do but isn’t what your mum suggests, your friend does or isn’t on trend.
Most importantly, understand that you’re the parent and that you love your child and want to do the right thing – so chances are, whatever direction you gravitate towards will be what is right for that situation, right for your family, right for you and right for your child.