How to Make Parenting Advice Work...

We strive to continue supporting our patients beyond their fertility journey and into parenthood. One of our resources for this support is our on-staff parenting coach Tiffany Paul. This was originally published on her website, reposted here with permission. 

A few weeks ago, I got a bee in my bonnet and posted this message on my Facebook page:

You know what I'm really tired of reading, over and over again? 'Every parent knows what's best for their kids.'  IT’S NOT (always) TRUE, people.

If you think biting your baby back is a good way to stop them from chomping down on your shoulder, you don't know what's best for your kids.

If you think it's fine for your two year old to ride in a car-seat without a properly fitted five-point car-seat, you don't know what's best for your kids.

If you think pouring hot sauce in your four year old's mouth because they sassed you is the way to teach respect, you don't know what's best for your kids.

If you think publicly humiliating your preteen for having a totally normal preteen behavior is the best way to keep them in line, you don't know what's best for your kids.

We all GET to and HAVE to make a million little choices for own families each day. How you educate your children, whether you go organic or not, how you get everyone enough hours of sleep each night, when you let them wear makeup, if you let them watch TV every day or only once a week, whether you scrub your own toilets or pay someone else to do it, WHATEVER. They will be fine. All of those things are important and do make a difference in lots of ways but they are YOUR choice. You can educate yourself and seek out other people opinions and then make an educated decision, or you can just do what you feel is the best choice for your family. Again, WHATEVER. They will be fine.

BUT let's please stop excusing other people's irresponsible, dangerous, bullying, or violent choices with their kids as 'knowing what's best'. People who do and believe these things are generally not 'bad' people. They are people who need help, solid advice, information and education they can understand, and support through the rough spots of parenting. They do NOT know what's best, and THAT'S OKAY.

So what can WE do? We can be voices for those children. We can reserve judgement of the parents and offer to help. We can be gentle, but persistent. We can open our arms to them and offer resources and research. We can lead by example.

We can say, 'Hey, I know this is what you think is best right now, but there is actually another (gentler, safer, more respectful) way. I will help you.'

My point here is that we are not professional parents. Just as our babies don’t come with an instruction manual, we don’t automatically become experts in all things related to child rearing the moment we hold our first baby. It comes more naturally to some than it does to others, and we all have our own personal strengths, but no one is perfect all the time and no one knows everything. It’s nothing to be upset or embarrassed about, that’s just the nature of being a human. I don’t know anybody who has a PhD in parenting, do you?

Sometimes a person just doesn’t know what to do. Sometimes they have inaccurate information or haven't ever had a good example. Sometimes they have tried what they thought was best, but it didn’t help, and they thought to themselves ‘Huh. Maybe there is something I don’t know about. Maybe I could use some more information or a different set of eyes on this.’ And when strangers start shouting from the rooftops ‘You know what’s best! Follow your instincts!’ it leaves them feeling confused and out of touch and not one bit closer to a solution.

Then today, a friend asked (also on Facebook) for people to share what they thought the best day and nighttime routines were for a nine month old who was still waking to nurse all night. She got 20 different responses ranging from ‘Get rid of the monitor and close the door. My kids survived it!’ to ‘We don’t do any kind of schedule at our house, we like to go with the flow’ to ‘Ignore it, eventually she’ll learn that you won’t come in!’ to ‘Don’t let her nap during the day’ to a simple, supportive ‘Hang in there!’. A couple of us chimed in with what feeding and sleeping times worked for our kids.

I read through those comments and I thought, MAN, how is she going to weed through all this advice? How do any of us weed through all the advice? If we don’t automatically know what’s ‘best’ for our families in a given situation, and we take the plunge to ask for help or opinions from others, how can we take what comes from that and turn it in to something that makes sense for our families?

The first thing is this:
never be afraid to ask for help. This is a hard gig and it is 800% okay to feel like you’re in over your head sometimes. When you make that leap-whether it’s to ask for advice about how to handle sibling squabbles, or what to do when your daughter lies-getting ideas from other people is a step towards finding a solution. But what do you do with those ideas?

Here are some things to consider as how you can see your way out of this predicament, should you find yourself in it.

Who the advice is coming from. Is this a trusted friend or professional? Do their values align with yours? Do they have experience in the area you are asking about? Does this person have the best interest of your family at heart? The answer should be yes to all of these questions. If it's not, I suggest you smile and nod, as you let their well-intentioned advice slip right on by.

How does the advice feel? When you hear it, what is your knee jerk reaction? If you hear it and immediately think, ‘Oh NO. I could never do that to my kids’ it’s probably not your answer. But if your reaction is excitement or ‘Hmmm, I hadn’t thought of that’, then it’s worth exploring more. If something makes you uncomfortable, it’s a good idea to look at that—is it because the advice is right but hard to hear? Or because you know it’s wrong for your family.

Do your research. Read up on the topic you need help with, ask a professional, or find a friend you respect and admire and get a second (or third!) opinion. The more you know, the better equipped you will be to make a decision that will move you forward. Talking to lots of people, even if they are wildly off base, can give you a new perspective and the energy to generate fresh ideas. In my experience, I find that sometimes the answer is within you, and you just need help accessing it.

Sit with it. After you’ve sought out a few different takes on it, gotten educated, and checked in with your gut reaction, give yourself a little time to just consider all the new info and feelings. Set aside a few minutes when you won’t be interrupted and just mull it all over. Let your mind wander. Be curious and willing to look at the hard stuff.

Experiment. Make a decision and try something. Know that if it doesn’t work, you can try something else. In many areas of parenting, there is not definite right or wrong answer. Be flexible, be patient, and know that you are not going to ruin your precious children. Keep trying, that’s what makes you a good parent.

Friends, did you know that I offer a free, first-time consult? Please let me know how I can help you through some of the sticky parts of parenting, I would love to support your family.

xo, Tiff

Tiffany Paul