I know—click bait is super annoying, isn’t it? But if we’re being honest, we’ve all probably clicked on articles promising us if not the perfect child, at least a healthy, well-adjusted one that will care for us in our old age.
But have more than one child, and you will learn something teachers could have told us a long time ago: all kids are different and therefore respond to “parenting techniques” differently; hence, there’s no formula that can ever guarantee perfect progeny.
So what to do? Do we ignore all parenting experts—including our mother-in-law (mine happens to be awesome, for the record)—or do we play a round of eenie-meenie-miney-mo and go all in with the winning technique?
I remember reading all the books and articles when I was pregnant with my firstborn. I’m sure my mom was surprised I didn’t ask more questions, but honestly, I kind of thought I had it figured out, thanks to the Internet. I mean, what else does one need to know other than which fruit their baby rivals that week?
Then we had her. And they sent her home with us, which felt a little premature and presumptuous on their part—how did they know we were ready to keep this little human alive? Sure enough, we weren’t. I’ll never forget that first night. Apparently babies can get their days and nights switched, which none of the articles had warned me. She didn’t sleep one minute. Nor did we. I stared at the clock, waiting until I saw a ‘6.’
“Mom . . . Mommy? Help?”
“I’ll be right over.”
We made it through that next night, and all the ones after it. We learned to ask all the questions, and from various sources. We tried different sleeping techniques until eventually she slept through the night. A few weeks later, we’d find ourselves trying all the different formulas and bottles until we finally found the one that didn’t make her cry in pain. We figured out how to swaddle her just right, which gave her comfort. We finally got up the courage to trim her little nails. Some of this we learned from the Internet and books, some from friends and family, and some we figured out on our own. We learned to be brave—to not be afraid to try something and see if it worked.
Fast forward a decade, and we are still doing the same thing. Except now our Google searches are about things like dealing with bullies and how to encourage honesty in a child, not to mention the dreaded onset of puberty (how did we get HERE?).
More than ever, I lean into my mom friends, finding out how they handled various situations and what brand of deodorant they bought for their fledgling tween. And I’m thankful I have my mom around to remind me of how I did the same things my girls are doing (and I turned out pretty okay).
What are my takeaways after a decade of hands-on parenting trail and error?
1) There is no one formula that fits EVERY child.
Sure, try what your neighbor did, but if your kid doesn’t respond the same ways theirs did, don’t beat yourself up. Just move on to the next “sure thing.”
2) Trust your own instincts.
God made YOU your child’s parent, and He’s given you all that you need to be the best possible parent for YOUR child.
3) Pray. Pray for wisdom.
Pray for your child’s wisdom. Pray for your child’s friends. Pray for your child’s friends’ wisdom. Just pray.
Yes, there are some tried and true parenting methods. There are over-arching parenting principles that can guide you through many situations. And there is even research to back up certain aspects of raising a child. I believe it’s important to learn from both the academic experts and the hands-on experts. But honestly, it seems to me that much of parenting can be summed up as “throw a bunch of things at your kid and see what sticks.” With that in mind, my final advice is to make sure your bedroom has some nice, thick carpet, because you’re going to wear two knee-sized patches quite thin.