When you have a child, every one tries to give you parenting advice.
You’re told to always hold your child to increase your bond. And you’re told to limit how much you hold him so that they don’t need you every minute. You’re told to let your sweet child fall asleep in your arms. And you’re told to put her in a crib or bassinet, even when crying, to teach her to self-soothe. You’re told to sleep when the baby sleeps… as you stare at the mountain of laundry and pile of dishes collecting (along with all the dust bunnies!).
The truth is that everyone means well when giving you advice. Each parent is different, and each child is different too (even among siblings). So it is in your best interest to look at the heart of the advice-giver, treasure the good, and throw out the bad.
Oh, and there will be bad. Like the time someone said I shouldn’t use cocoa butter on my stomach while pregnant, because that would be giving caffeine to my son.
But there will also be good! Let me share the best parenting advice I ever heard.
It started when I observed a friend’s teenage daughter react calmly to her broken nose courtesy of a softball. She voiced her pain and need for treatment, but it wasn’t the end of the world. I talked with my friend about how it wasn’t a big deal to her and she replied, “She’s always been like that. We raised her that way.”
Take a stroll near a playground and observe what happens when children fall. (Just not in a creepy, stalker way, okay? Thanks.) What’s the first thing that happens when a kid takes a tumble? They look to the reaction of their parents or caregiver.
My friend pointed this out to us and gave us the following best parenting advice:
Let children learn to pick themselves up. Don’t always rush over and make a big deal about a little fall.
What you might not realize is that after a tumble, your kid looks to you so they can follow your cue. They learn reactions from what you model. If you run over, and make a big deal, then you’re teaching your child that it is a big deal. That will teach them to make their cry bigger and take more time to calm down.
If you do a quick assessment (keeping facial cues in check) and see that it’s nothing serious, smile at them, and encourage them to pick themselves back up, then you’re teaching them it’s okay to fall sometimes. They learn that it’s normal even, and that resiliency is important.
Once our son was born, we started putting this advice into practice. Our son comes to us (or us to him) if he’s really hurt, but for all those little bumps or scrapes he just keeps going. We taught him to brush off his hands or knees after a fall. We even taught him to laugh about some spills. But most importantly, we taught him to pick himself up.
I feel that this is vital for him as he grows and contributes to society. Life is going to throw him an abundance of curveballs. How he reacts to them will determine his ability to keep moving forward. I don’t want him to be afraid to
fall fail. I want him to know that failing is actually a big part of life. And that failing is also a tool to help us learn and grow. I mean it took Edison how many fails before discovering what would work for the light bulb? 1,000!
In a Forbes article titled “7 Crippling Parenting Behaviors that Keep Children from Growing into Leaders,” Kathy Caprino wrote that “We don’t let our children experience risk” and “We rescue too quickly.” These two go hand-in-hand. It seems counter-productive, but if we want our children to succeed, we have to let them fail. And they start learning that when they are young.
Oh, but there’s a catch. Be prepared for your child to think this is normal for every family. I’ll never forget the look on the face of our church nursery worker when we picked our son up one day. She was stifling a laugh but said that she thought she should talk with us about what was happening each week.
Because of all the times we laughed off silly spills, my son was pointing and laughing at all the kids who fell. He didn’t understand why they would scream and wail and need so much comfort when they were really okay. To him it was comical.
(I guess the 2nd best parenting advice I could share is to teach compassion.)
What’s the best (or worst) parenting advice you’ve been given? Leave me a comment with your answer.