Repeating Parenting Mistakes Isn't 'Fair' to Your Older Kids

Christie Haskell

Most moms I know live by the mantra: "When you know better, you do better." They put a lot of emphasis on constantly trying to improve and know that parenting is a giant learning experience -- as your child grows and changes, your parenting goals, challenges, and techniques should too. That said, subsequent children usually have the benefit of a mom who has already made rookie mistakes, learned from them, and won't repeat them.

However, that's not always the case. Believe it or not, there is a widespread attitude amongst moms of: "It wouldn't be fair to my first child to do better for my next child."

And it baffles me.

I've heard the attitude expressed in regard to breastfeeding: "I didn't breastfeed my first so I'm not going to with this one."

I've heard it with car seat safety: "I've used this [JJCole Bundle Me] car seat for all my kids in this seat. It's fine."

It's even been said with BPA: "I used plastic BPA bottles with my first child. I'm not buying new bottles."

It just baffles me. I gave my first child formula because I didn't understand how to determine breast milk supply in a newborn; fed him hot dogs at 9 months old; and turned him forward-facing in the car at 18 months and had his car seat straps all wrong.

But ... that doesn't mean that I can't change. I learned more about breastfeeding and now my daughter has never had anything other than breast milk from the tap; she was eating sweet potatoes, broccoli, and squash; and her car seat has been installed as perfectly as I know how since day one. I don't say that to brag, because trust me -- there are still things I would do differently if I had a third child. I say it as an example of how I learned to do better with experience. Thanks to my daughter's healthier diet, my son also eats better food, and so do my husband and I -- our old grocery list grosses me out now. With her proper car seat safety, my son also benefits as his straps are always right now and his seat is installed correctly. Even if I only had HIM, I would have improved things for his sake over the years.

Sure, new car seats come out all the time claiming better technology, but a little research and time spent talking to experts can show you that, really, the better quality seats that get you the most bang for your buck are some that are updated the least frequently. There are always new recommendations, so of course you don't need to start changing everything around. However, if you make an effort to learn the basics, you gain common sense about certain products, methods, and techniques, which can only help you to make educated decisions or changes as new recommendations come out.

It's okay to not to buy into all the new hype, products, or recommendations. That's intelligent. On the other hand, deciding that you just aren't going to do things better in the future for some misguided idea that it's "unfair" to your older children is just flat-out ridiculous. You need to learn to do better not only because your subsequent children deserve it, but also because your first child often benefits as well. Besides, knowingly doing less than the best you're capable of doing? That's not what parenting is about.

The best parents aren't the ones who try to make everything "fair." They're the ones who are always growing, changing, learning, and doing better as they learn better. Your children will benefit much more from seeing you make mistakes and change things around as you learn than from seeing you stubbornly plant your feet and refuse to grow.

Do you try to parent your children all the exact same way?


Image via jvh33/Flickr

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