A parent may build his or her child-rearing philosophy from tradition or from the trendiest published method. But whether he/she has chosen to investigate new techniques or is relying upon his own perceptions and experiences, he or she is exposed to overwhelming amounts of information coming from all directions.
And some ideas about parenting have grown into lore and are now taken as unequivocal truths when, in fact, they are not.
As a "manny," I not only spend time with kids all day, but am exposed to all different parenting styles. Through my experiences, I've realized, and identified, many of the precarious myths around parenting.
Here are five myths that are likely making you unnecessarily anxious or otherwise preoccupied by your parenting style. These myths need to be debunked, so let's start here ...
1. Once you have kids, you'll never sleep soundly again.
Every daily parenting struggle will be exacerbated by physical exhaustion. Nonetheless, many parents fear, and yet still accept, that losing sleep is a foregone conclusion.
TriBeCa Pediatrics' Dr. Michel Cohen teaches parents the French concept: Le Pause. What he means is that if you feel or see your child shift or make a sound during sleep, make sure not to jump up immediately to come to the "rescue." Take a minute to pause. If you give your child a chance to link between her sleep cycles and learn to sleep through the night — you can too!
This practice can be begin as early as two months, once the baby has had a chance to synchronize to circadian rhythms. If you do get up to address the situation, understand that less is better: the more stimuli you resort to, the more you may interrupt the process and inhibit sleeping through the night.
After building self-soothing habits in infancy, teach your older child self-sufficiency. My parents taught me how to get myself breakfast, so I'd munch and build Legos until the rest of my family woke up on their own.
2. Parenting intuition is a special power.
I'm bracing myself for hate-tweets, but, please, let me explain:
Carrying a child and giving birth both require almost superhuman abilities; there's no doubt about that. But I've seen some parents believe that their love for their child automatically translates to the deepest, clearest understanding of who their child is.
A parent absolutely has the opportunity to build that connection with her child because of her time and emotional investment. The caveat is that you have to use these advantages to study. Realize that children are dynamic creatures who are constantly growing and experimenting (sometimes by pushing your buttons). Also, they interact differently in different situations. I've worked with kids who morph into completely new creatures as soon as their parents walk in the door … and it ain't always pretty.
Ask yourself: "Why is my child behaving this way?" rather than "Why is my child this way?" Then you will start to understand how your actions may be cuing behaviors as well as, and most importantly, your child's impulses to choose that behavior. When this is accomplished, you will have developed the skill of intuition rather than just assuming it's there.
3. Getting your child to complete a task is a sign of effective parenting.
I've been in the room for the drama: Mom requests. Daughter ignores. Mom demands. Daughter refuses. Mom yells. Daughter screams. Back and forth, back and forth. Daughter slams her book down on the coffee table with an exasperated "FINE!" And scene.
The mother here eventually forced compliance, but I certainly don't chalk this up as a win. Submission brings frustration or fear, not respect and understanding. And engaging in power struggles only sets us up to go through the same battles in the future.
Our goal should be to inform expectations and inspire cooperation. If a structure is in place to accomplish this, then the child won't need to be told … or even asked.
4. The more you give up for your child, the more you love your child.
Consider this: If you were a grandparent, would you expect your child to wear himself out for the sake of the grandchild? I wouldn't! I'd say, "I'll take the kid for the evening, go have a date night."
Yes, being selfless sounds virtuous and some sacrifices are necessary, but the martyrdom has gotten out of hand. You don't love your child any less just because you love (and care for) yourself. Some families face constraints that make a daily trip to gym or a lunch with friends difficult, but it is important to observe your own needs and wants as much as it is to fulfill your child's.
I'm a big proponent of self-love and I believe that it inspires happier parents and healthier kids. Embracing self-love doesn't just satisfy us, but it puts us in a clearer frame of mind when we are dealing with parenting issues. Additionally, it models the practice for the child so he can learn to live a self-loving life as well.
5. Happiness is the best indicator of your child's state of being.
It's very easy to make a child happy. Give him or her a new toy or candy or let him watch TV for hours on end. These indulgences may make your child happy in the moment, but they aren't necessarily the best things for overall well-being. Not to mention that constant gratification is infinitely unsustainable.
I think it's more important to infuse your child's life with passion, to encourage your child to be a lover of doing things rather than having things. When I am taking care of a child, I try to find things that we both enjoy: throwing a ball around, drawing, building with Legos, or playing games. He/she may not always have a smile on his face, but I know a child's content when he/she asks me to play another round.