Why Parenting Isn’t Exactly Common Sense… And Why It’s Set-Up to Say It Is.

Lately I’ve been hearing a lot of parents talk about how they just follow “common sense” or their “intuition” when they are dealing with their kids. I’ve read bloggers  who insist that we don’t need parenting books and how all of these parenting experts are robbing us of our confidence.

Guys, I’m going to be real with you. I think that’s all total BS. Actually, I think it’s a total set-up for failure.

What on earth makes us think that we can inherently understand the complex molding of the human mind?

Is it because we’ve been around humans our whole lives so we think we know everything about raising them? That’s like expecting yourself to know how to write English correctly just because you’ve heard it your whole life. Now think of how many hours you spent in school learning how to write English. Many hours, I’m guessing. And you still have typos every now and then, right??

Now, I’m not saying that everyone should read all the parenting books known to man and just toss out their intuition. I think a lot of parenting books are totally bogus and I think that our intuition is a valuable resource.

What I am saying, however, is that it would be extremely helpful to grab a User’s Manual for your kid. Child development books are the best resource for us as parents because they give us an understanding of the inner-workings of the developing mind. Kids literally do not have the brain functioning for many of the demands we put upon them. Like telling your 2-year-old to “share” or say “please.” Sure, they can mimic you or follow your command, but they haven’t instantly grasped the concept of empathy or compassion. They’re not nice, they’re just doing what they’re told.

When we understand where a child is at developmentally, we can adjust our expectations. Why be frustrated when your one-year-old “isn’t listening?” It’s a total waste of energy to get angry. When I’ve realized that my toddler has little to no impulse control, my expectations adjust and I don’t get as frustrated. (Note: I don’t get AS frustrated. Of course it’s still frustrating when my kid hits our dog in the face for the ONE MILLIONTH TIME)

I also don’t feel a lot of pressure to make him control his impulses. I know that with time, that part of his brain will develop and he will have more impulse control. It’s my job to remove temptations from him…like the broom with which he was hitting the dog. Sure, it doesn’t hurt for me to work on that with him by explaining why I’m removing the broom. I’m just not going to waste my time worrying about and punishing a behavior that is normal and temporary. The most important thing is that I’m a model of impulse control myself by calmly responding to his behavior.

The thing with our “intuition, is that there are so many ways in which it can lead us astray. For one, if we’ve ever had any kind of trauma, it can skew our perception of reality and increase our anxiety. Also, other issues that we haven’t fully healed from can greatly distort the way we interpret our child’s behavior. For example, if you felt that your opinion was never really heard in your family, it’s quite likely that you get especially irritated when you feel ignored. You may interpret your child’s normal teenage behavior as “disrespectful.”  In reality, your teen is just absorbed in the normal egocentrism of their neuro-development. However, if you just get angry with their self-absorption, you’re actually displaying egocentrism yourself because you’re not using your empathy skills to recognize their developmental stage. Talk about ironic. 

This is why it’s so important for us as parents to be open to working through our own issues. Our past hurts cause us to see a twisted reality. With the combination of knowing our own baggage and having a firm grasp on child development, we can help our children to grow into successful human beings. (My definition of “successful” is compassionate, interdependent, free-thinking. In other words, people with high Emotional Intelligence.)

So, I think we need to cut ourselves some slack. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to know it all intuitively. Get the facts straight about your child’s capabilities and clear your mind of distortions. Once we’ve done that, we can act more freely on our intuition but those road blocks need to be removed first.

If you’re interested in reading any books that integrate the subjects of Child Development and Self-Introspection, check these out:

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Here’s the best place to start in my opinion! This book will change your life!
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Great for parents of teens. I haven’t read this yet, but obviously I’m a huge fan of Daniel Siegel. If you’ve read it, let me know what you think!
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I’m reading this in my Book Club right now and it’s a great book that does also give parenting ideas.
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Again, Daniel Siegel is my hero! He breaks-down neuroscience in a way that we can all understand and integrate into our lives.

So what do you think? Is parenting all intuition or intentionally acquired knowledge or both?

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