It occurred to me that several babblings ago I tossed out this idea that the only rule to parenting was that there weren't any rules. I said I'd pontificate on the notion later but never did. And so, since I sit here with a pile of work I'd rather procrastinate my way out of doing for the moment, I'll spew forth my very own non-PhD approved theory on parenting.
Of course there is one rule we must all abide by - no abusing the kid. Yet what constitutes abuse is sometimes one of those "grey areas." Sure, we can all agree on the real horrid stuff, but then there are those that would consider letting your child whimper a moment too long to be abusive. I will confess that I've yet to figure out how to keep both kids whimper free (or at the very least keep them attention laden) when they coordinate their tantrums to commence at the same moment.
But back to the nitty gritty of my hypothesis. There are an awful lot of books out there by a whole lot of self-proclaimed and peer-endorsed experts. New and experienced parents alike sop up these guidelines like a dark colored shirt attracts spit-up. When it comes time to apply all these life-saving tenets, however, reality hits. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to child rearing.
Its got very little to do with you. Its got everything to do with them.
Potty training is teeming with examples of the "no rules" theory. Every one and their toilet-flushing-brother has a suggestion on what works. Not just what works, but what unequivocally is the be-all-and-end-all of potty training practices. Do this and your kid will be utilizing the commode in just one day. Get that kid out of diapers in just 12 easy steps. But its not that simple. Even the shiny-topped Dr Phil falls prey to the broad-brushed approach to diaperfree existence. "I guarantee this will work!"
But it may not.
We tried a whole lot of theories when it came to freeing Logan's bottom of Pampers. We tried Dr. Phil's ideas. We tried bribes. We tried underwear. If someone could promise success, we read it through and gave it a whirl. In the end what worked was a little of this and a little of that. What worked was understanding our son and finding the pieces of everyone else's theories that fit best with his own unique style. In short, we had to customize our own potty training plan.
Yet, I'll bet you a buck when the time comes we won't find this plan useful in teaching Megan. Nope. She's got her own ways of doing things and so we'll have to head back to that chalk board to X and O up a game plan that suits her best.
The problem with rules is that having them makes its easy to judge others. Believing, for example, that the basic tenets of [insert style] parenting are the only real, honest way to be a good parent means that all parents not abiding by every tenet can not possibly be good. The truth is that there is no truth in such a notion.
In reality, there are rules to parenting, just not a roadmap on how to abide them. The rules are simple:
- Love your child
- Respect your child
- Respect your child's mother/father
- Be the best role model you can be, which means when you do screw up (because you will) be honest with the kid. Say you messed up and apologize if appropriate.
Where we get confused is thinking the actions we undertake as parents in following those rules are locked in the concrete of right and wrong. I believe helping my child (at the appropriate age)learn to self-soothe is actually a good, loving, respectful thing to do. Others don't. I believe that disagreeing with my husband in front of our children can be a good thing if its respectful in nature (as long as its not about them - unified front and all that good stuff). We can role model the RIGHT way to handle conflict. We can illustrate that you can love and respect one another even if you don't always agree. Others don't agree with this practice.
The wars between "theories" emerge when we grow so wedded to one way of parenting that we lose sight of the real rules. We forget that our children aren't made from molds. They aren't cut from the same dough with the same cookie cutter. What works for your kid, may not work with mine. The only theory that matters is the one that best suits your kid's own individual personality quirks and meshes with your own style.
So feed your kid what you want. Dress him the way you see fit. Sling her. Use a crib. Swear by your co-sleeper. I don't care. Leave me to my theories and I'll leave you to yours. Let's just agree that the so-called rules and guidelines don't really mean a whole heck of a lot. Stick to the real rules and we'll be just fine.