Be Brave When Navigating in the Ocean of Child-Rearing Advice
‘Mother’s milk is the best food for the newborn, there’s nothing that even comes close to all the benefits it brings’. ‘Toxins and other bad stuff that the mother takes in with her food and the air she breathes goes into breast milk and can make it poisonous. You have to be on a strict diet if you breastfeed to avoid risks for the baby. Formula’s safer and easier.’ And this, ladies, as many of you probably know, is just the beginning. You have just had a baby and you have left the shores of normal life to pass with your little boat across the great and frightening ocean that is Advice On How To Raise Your Kid. That is, of course, if you are not one of those rare individuals who can totally ignore such advice and focus on thinking with their own head only. Those lucky few, how can we become like them? Here are some suggestions.
A good starting point is to keep in mind that every child is unique and what works for one, won’t work for another. You, as parent, are the person who knows her child the best and it is your job to filter through the advice and only use what you find relevant, rather than just embracing some piece of wisdom that another mother swears by. In that you should also consider what works best for you as a mother. After all, raising a child is a process of constant exchange, emotional and intellectual. Draw on your own childhood memories but, again, be selective — you are a unique person, too, and this means you are different from your child, so what has worked for you (and your parents who are a main source of child advice) may not necessarily work for him or her. You may have been a thoughtful, quiet child who learned to read early and wasn’t very outgoing. Your child, on the other hand, may be more extrovert, preferring to run around rather than sit down with a book or a quiet game. Let these unique features guide you — don’t impose things that sound good to you (and have been tried successfully by your mother) on the child, but encourage the constructive tendencies he or she displays. It’s no use to try and force a child that loves running, jumping and playing with building blocks to learn to read early on just because the neighbor’s daughter could read at the age of three. It’s equally no use to project your own preferences on your child — if you loved your building blocks when you were four, that doesn’t automatically mean that your child will love them, too.
Perhaps the biggest problem of our times is that we have access to too much information; ‘too much’ is not a good thing. A specific case of this problem is the area of child-rearing advice which has been going through something of a revolution in the past couple of decades. Both child psychologists and parent have come to more fully recognize the fact that children are born with their personalities, they are not some sort of live clay that we can shape as we like. This otherwise good thing has given rise to so many theories and practices so much so that one could get very confused trying to make sense of all of them. But this is unnecessary — no matter how sensible and convincing these theories sound, they often clash and leave you exhausted and even more unsure about how to raise your kid than before discovering them.
So, start by looking into yourself, considering the things that you would be most comfortable with and then watch how your child responds to these things. If s/he has a problem with early potty training, say, leave her/him be, even if it makes you unhappy and even if all your friends swear that their children were fully trained by age two and offer you a number of ways to manage the situation. Remember, these are ways that have worked for them and that does not mean any of them will work for you. Don’t be afraid to strike out on your own, guided only by how you feel and, more importantly, how your child feels. If s/he’s happy, you are doing the right thing. If both of you are happy, then you are one of the lucky few who have achieved full independence of thought. Congratulations!