Stop Listening to What Parenting 'Experts' Say

parent and childI'm sure there are parents out there who feel completely sure of themselves – certain that everything they do for their children, every decision they make, every boundary they set, every boundary they break is the perfect one because they read it in a book or heard it from an expert. I am not one of them.

Neither, apparently is Patty Onderko, whose essay "Relativist Parenting," ran on the Huffington Post this week. "I could be the worst parent in the history of the world. Or I could be the best," Onderko writes. "It's all relative. And that's my problem. Being a relativist and being a parent are hard ways of life to reconcile."


Onderko captures perfectly what it feels like to parent in the middle, to parent by instinct, to go with our gut and make the decisions that seem most right when we make them – rather than adhering to one childrearing philosophy or another. And she makes a compelling case for doing so even in the face of outside judgment.

She's right – does anyone really know how to parent your child better than you do? There are lots of experts out there, offering all sorts of conflicting advice, much of it backed up by research. But do they really know better than you whether, at any given time, your child needs a hug or a time out?

There are also lots of what a friend of mine calls "judge-y mommies" out there, ready to deem you a bad mom for making parenting decisions for your kid that are different from the ones they have made for their own. There are family members who wonder why your parenting style differs from theirs. Strangers who yell at you on the street for letting your kid go out without a hat – or really, who knows what they object to half the time?

We just need to tune those people out and remind ourselves that we're making the decisions we can and that, at the very least, we're making them, as Onderko notes, out of love.

All kids are not the same
– they have different needs and require different things from their parents. So why should all parents be the same? The best we can do is to parent the child we have, as the people we are -- to parent honestly, with the best intentions, motivated by love and respect. We can always learn and correct course as we go. And if we do, chances are pretty good that our middle-ground path will make us much better than middling parents.

Do you follow a specific parenting philosophy, or do you parent by instinct?


Image via Yogendra174/Flickr

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