Since my daughter was born 10 years ago, I have become a passionate advocate for children, and for parents who wish to tread off the beaten path. In this post, I’d like to share with you 20 truths to debunk old myths about parenting children.
When I became a mom, I was overwhelmed by the high-needs of my newborn girl.
She cried at times for hours. Wished to breastfeed every 30 minutes. Refused to drink milk from a bottle. She rarely slept longer than 60 minutes straight, and would only fall asleep on my chest. I was a tired, sleep-deprived new mom, desperate to try anything others sweared by.
That’s when the second wave of overwhelm hit me: a tsunami of divergent opinions about my baby and how I should parent.
Some of these resonated with me. Others felt so wrong that I physically hurt every time I practiced them. Things like the cry-it-out method, or forcing my newborn into a crib she clearly didn’t want to be in, were just two of the many things I was told were good for me and my child, and yet felt so terribly wrong. One day, I gazed down at my baby, as she quietly slept on my chest, her milky breath gently warming my face; and I thought to myself:
There’s got to be another way!
So I went on a research frenzy during those precious minutes my daughter was asleep, or out and about with her dad. I took HandInHand parenting courses at night, which connected me to like-minded parents. And I learned from the greatest teacher of all: my daughter.
This is a first post of many, highlighting 20 truths I’ve come to discover and appreciate about my child and parenting. These truths have worked for my family, and have allowed us to build a strong relationship and bond to our child. In future posts, I intend to shed some light on each one of these truths in more depth.
I still learn every day. I get challenged every day. But, I have never regretted taking the parenting path I have taken. Not yet, at least :).
First things first
Before we get started, I invite you to take a moment and write down your assumptions and beliefs about: 1) your child’s behaviours and 2) what you think good parenting looks like.
It’s important to unearth those beliefs, because the things we hold true about our child, and the things we hold true about what we, parents, should or should not do, will directly influence the way we relate and interact with our loved ones.
Once you’re done with your list, keep reading.
Children and parents are inherently good.
Both need a genuine connection to thrive.
20 truths to debunk old myths about parenting children
For ease of reference, I’ve divided these truths into ten truths I learned about gentle parenting and ten truths about the nature of our children.
Ten truths about gentle parenting,
- You don’t need to teach your baby or toddler how to become independent. They will learn that on their own, in their own time, ironically, by being close to you first.
- You don’t need to stop your child from crying at all cost (assuming basic needs – fed, clean and healthy – are met). Sometimes, all they need is your warm loving presence while they let off steam, so they can let go of their frustrations and hurt, and think more clearly.
- You don’t need to be consistent all the time. Children understand exceptions and learn to make sense of them, provided you explain them.
You don’t have to yell or blame or threaten to get your child’s attention. A gentle touch, an empathic ear, an authentic limit set with love and respect is enough.
- You don’t have to reward your child to get them to cooperate. When a child feels connected, cooperation follows naturally.
- You don’t have to punish your child or spank them to correct misguided behaviour. Empathic listening and compassion are much more powerful and effective.
- You don’t have to act strong or be always right. Seeing your vulnerabilities helps children understand their own.
- You don’t have to know-it-all or provide all the answers. Asking children questions like “what do you think?” and offering them choice are an important part of their growing-up journey.
- You don’t have to meet your child’s emotional needs all the time and at the exact moment they demand it. Sometimes we, parents, need a “time-out” so that we can find the energy and empathy within us for a “time-in”.
- To be a gentle empathic parent, we need to be gentle and kind to ourself. We need a buddy who can listen with compassion to our hurts, hopes and fears.
Your child is neither manipulative, nor lazy, nor unreasonable.
“Misbehaviour” is but a cry for help – an attempt to connect.
Ten truths about our children’s behaviour
- Children are inherently good, and are constantly looking to connect.
- Your child’s clinginess is their way to learn how to one day feel safe enough to explore the world without you.
- Your child is not manipulative. They are sincere about how they feel in that moment.
- Your child is not unreasonable. They have their own unique reasoning.
- Your child’s “misbehaviour” may be due to a lack of information or an unrealistic expectation on your part.
- Your child’s “misbehaviour” may be in fact a cry for help, a plea to connect.
- Your child is a unique individual and has clear preferences, even as a newborn. By giving them choice, you allow them to explore their boundaries.
- Your child longs to be part of your world. Invite them into your world, as they invite you into theirs.
- When angry or upset, your child is literally not able to hear your rational reasoning. What they need in that moment is your empathic listening.
- When your child cries, screams, tantrums, or otherwise “loses it”, they are gifting you with their most vulnerable self in that moment, in the best way they can.
Shifting the relationship from “Outcome” to “Connection”
Photo courtesy of Pixabay
Parenting is hard work and the most undervalued job.
I want you to know that you are a good parent and a good caregiver. Few of us wake up in the morning thinking: Today is the day I’m gonna yell, punish, blame or spank.
You are doing the best you can in that very moment!
Sometimes our own exhaustion, hurts and bottled-up pain get the best of us…
Popular media and misguided, all be it well-intended, advice has also sometimes led us astray and created a chasm between us and our children. But also, our past experiences and hurts impact how we interact with our children and which buttons get pushed.
It’s not our fault. It’s not our children’s fault. It just is.
You and your child are doing the best you can in that moment to meet your needs… and that will have to be good enough at times. The good news:
Every broken relationship can be healed. Every connection can be (re)nurtured to complete health… as long as we keep our key focus as a parent not on the “outcome” we are trying to achieve but on the relationship itself – the quality of the connection between us and our child.
As I said, I hope to write a few more posts about some of these truths soon. But in the meantime, I’d love to hear from you:
Did any of the above listed truths surprise you or confirm what you always believed? Which truth would you like me to write in more depth about next? Let me know in the comments below.
- Website: HandInHand, Parenting by Connection. If you only check one blog, that’s the one! They offer helpful blog posts, as well as excellent courses and material for a reasonable fee.
- Website: Aware Parenting, Aletha Solter: The website may not look very inviting, but it is full of gems!
- Book: Listen by Patty Wipfler (founder of HandInHand) and Tosha Schore
- Book: Between Parent and Child by Dr. Haim G. Ginott
- Article: Doctors debunk 16 myths about raising kids by Michelle Yan and Bob Hunt
- See also my other recommended resources on my Resources page “On Parenting”.
Love this that you don’t always have to be right! So helpful
Thank you Rebecca! Sounds simple, and yet is so hard to implement at times as a parent. I know I still struggle with it almost every day. The balance between wanting to advise/protect and giving our children the freedom to choose and experiment, is such a hard one to find at times.