How do you know what you’re, like, DOING?

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I know I’ve written here a million and forty times about how parenting is like a new fuller-than-full-time job, only one you’re not prepared for at ALL, and how collaborating with your partner or spouse on everything from sleep to potty training to WHERE WILL MY KID GO TO SCHOOL is like working with a co-founder you may or may not have ever actively wanted to start a company with. But, again, because I love being a broken record, I will bring up this question of: HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING?

I’ve met a whole bunch of parents over these past two years who seem to just BAM!, out of the gate, have some very strong opinions about discipline and like, raising their kid, whereas I find myself constantly wondering whether, in any given moment, I should be more strict or less (the answer is never that I should be less, just FYI. I am definitely one of those parents who’s kind of like, well, he ate ENOUGH avocado, let the poor kid go play! which I am pretty sure is a parenting fail).

But seriously. How does everyone else come up with all the rules they follow (whether it’s dinner before playtime, or pick up your toys twice a day, or don’t bite people, though that one admittedly seems obvious)? When it’s your first kid, how do you KNOW whether a 2-year-old can be expected to sit through an entire opera? Or even whether YOUR KID can sit through an entire opera? Because I am pretty sure Ethan has trouble sitting through an entire opera, which means Leo doesn’t stand a chance. (For the record, I wouldn’t even attempt to make Leo sit through ANY opera. We are still working on sitting through dinner. Which, to be fair, is also hard to do, I mean, BUTTONS! But I digress).

If you didn’t babysit or have a boatload of younger siblings, and you don’t have nieces or nephews, and you haven’t read every parenting book ever written (is that the secret? Books? Have all those other parents read ALL THE BOOKS?), then HOW DO YOU KNOW? Because I never imagined picking up a piece of food off the floor and declaring the five-second-rule alive and well in our house, BUT LET ME TELL YOU, I’VE DONE THAT. Pre-kid, I had no idea what raising a toddler would actually be like, which means I couldn’t have prepared for it. Which means I am highly doubtful that anyone else is that much more prepared unless they were a nanny or a lion tamer before becoming a mom or dad. Which must mean they have all developed extremely specific parenting philosophies in a very short time… or they are totally and completely faking it. Either way, I want to learn how! So leave me tips below, please. Thanks in advance.

Would you say that you have a specific parenting philosophy, when it comes to discipline and behavior and routine? If so, how did you develop it? Do you feel like, by kid #2 or 3 or 4, that philosophy became much more crystalized  — or did you just get more confused with each subsequent kiddo? What do you do when your 2yo wants to sit on his new potty over and over again and pretend to wipe, which is simultaneously the cutest thing you’ve ever seen and also IT’S TIME TO GET THE HELL OUT OF THIS BATHROOM?

16 thoughts on “How do you know what you’re, like, DOING?

  1. I honestly believe that no parent ever really “knows” what they’re doing. It should be rephrased as “trust what you’re doing.” My parenting philosophy has always been very clear to me: trust your instincts. I’m basically an attachment style mom who can hardly bear to be away from my minions. I have been told numerous times that I’m doing it wrong, and even had “certain people” deliberately put me and my critters in situations that I find to be totally inappropriate or just plain evil. Over the years, I’ve learned to not care who disagrees with what I’m doing. If Granny gets pissed because I make us leave early, so what! She can suck it because she’s not the one who will be forced to deal with the Exorcist reenactments in the morning. If she gets mad enough, maybe she’ll stop planning stuff at stupid times (like school nights and times we had something better planned). I have basic rules that apply to everyone – not just kids. Some rules can be modified with age or situation. For example, no food is allowed in the playroom. When I see my hubster chowing down in there, even Satan’s like “Oh, no he di’int!” before cowering in a corner. The 5 second rule – fine in the dining room, not so much in the kitchen (we have a dog, it sits all over the kitchen floor, it has a butt hole, you see what I’m getting at, right?). Books can help with developmentally appropriate strategies and prepare you for general behaviors to anticipate. I like them because if I don’t like the advice, I can just close the book. There’s none of that awkward pretending to not be offended and imagining someone’s family as a real-life Hunger Games. As long as you believe you are doing the best you can do at any given moment, you’re doing it right 😉

  2. We don’t read books; we rarely listen to opinionated family or friends; we don’t really parent; we leave that up to daycare providers and we blindly follow their lead (I’m only sort of kidding). We also don’t fret over the small stuff – babies and kids are going to eat shit off the floor, whether you’re OK with it or not; I don’t recall any headlines about plagues breaking out from eating dirt, dog hair, or week old crumbs; nor do I recall any headlines about cases of infant sickness or death related to unknown causes, but where the child’s last act was eating off the floor; our slacker state of mind holds for home, restaurants, campgrounds, the store and the sidewalk. We talk to our kid, a lot; I believe it fosters an open relationship with your child; it encourages vocabulary development; it leads them to ask a million and one questions (mostly starting and ending with why); in fact, just this morning, Gavin asked me why I talk; I’m not sure he understands the deep philosophical level to which that question digs; he got a smart-ass answer in response.

    In all seriousness, I don’t think there’s a clear-cut answer to parenting (despite what all those damn books and opinionated friends/family want you to believe). Every child is different. Every parent is different. Every relationship between child and parent(s) is different. My only firm belief about parenting is stop, think and then trust what your gut tells you; instinctual parenting is everything (well, until it’s not).

    1. I know you’re right, I just often question myself in the moment! But… just now, for example: Leo REALLY wanted to sit up on our bed. So I brought him up there with one of his favorite books (we never do this at bed time. If he goes on our bed, it’s only during the day. He never sleeps in our bed with us b/c we’re sleep training dictators, but you already know that about us, ha ha!) Anyway, after we read the one book, he REALLY wanted to keep reading books up there. I said no, Leo, that was a special treat, and now we go back in your room to read the rest of your books before night night time like we always do.

      He was raging mad, so I pretended to start putting him in his crib and told him he’d go straight to bed without books, or we’d read in his room. (This is an example of me feeling totally strict and mean. I hate doing this stuff! It just doesn’t come naturally to me to give ultimatums…) But then… he realized what his choice was and calmed down and sat down to read in his room. So… I suppose I handled that okay 🙂 I mean I only had my gut to follow, which is all you really have anyway… but I’m not sure I felt totally confident, like, “This is definitely what I should do.”

  3. Too funny. I don’t have any answers. I wish I knew what I was doing…often our rules are some kind of compromise between what my husband can tolerate and what I will allow, as I am the more lenient one and let the children do a lot of things provided they don’t hurt themselves or each other, disturb me, or damage something irreparably. I guess I love freedom, but my husband loves order! 🙂

  4. I knew nothing about my first and still don’t! So . . . I’ve sort of nailed 2 year olds now that #4 is almost 2. But nine year olds? I don’t know anything. I make it up like everyone else. 😉

  5. Here’s the thing about rules: I realized, while trying to enforce ridiculous rules with my child, that I’m a miserable rule-follower myself. Now I embrace my own anarchistic tendencies more, and lead a far more sympathetic life with the little boy. Until I’m tired. Then all bets are off and it’s Fascism in my house. Unfettered Fascism.

  6. I am laughing out loud. I have a 10 year old and an 8 year old and I am still waiting for the real parents to come home, so I most certainly don’t have answers for you. One thing I personally am sure of it’s not found in books – at least for me, I have rejected almost ALL THE BOOKS. It was one of those make-your-baby sleep books that sent me over the edge, when I was exhausted and colicky (both my daughter and I had colic, I think) and I was reading at 9:15 breastfeed 20 minutes on the left, at 9:35 20 minutes on the right, 9:55 put the 2 week old to bed awake but drowsy, 10:00 wash the pump parts blah blah blah GAH. No. But really, I don’t have any good answers!!

    1. I KNOW, those breastfeeding/sleep books (like Babywise) must actually be designed to make parents go crazy. I think they should be banned. Like, they are the only books in the world that should be censored. Ha 😉

  7. I learned a lot of parenting from Js first daycare teachers when he was a little older than 2. They taught me to be persistent. Naturally, I’m a strict bc I was raised by a strict parent. So my philosophy is no means no tho I do give J reasonable choices. I’m also a 1-2-3 counter. You’ll find your natural parenting style. It shouldn’t be too far removed from who you are naturally as a person.

    1. I am ABOUT to read the 1-2-3 Magic Book. Curious to see what it’s all about 🙂

      AND… you’re totally right that we can’t be people we aren’t, as parents. I know I won’t be super strict b/c it’s not in my nature. But hopefully I can find that good middle ground place. AND if not I’ll just get that Super Nanny woman to come show us what’s what (kidding. Really.)

  8. Faking it, aka winging it, aka trusting your gut. There are certain things that just feel right to me (and my husband is happily on the same page a lot of the time, or if he’s not, he calls me crazy and reels me back in). I am a rule-follower by nature, so I think I’m also naturally pretty strict. When I was a day camp counselor at SMS, the kids all thought I was mean 🙂 As for specifics, I really want my kids to grow up without eating disorders, so I’ve done some reading on how to help that (of course, since I have a sample size of 2, and my kids are not yet even two years old, I am far from an expert on whether what I’m doing will actually work). Also, manners matter to us. So, when I’m picking battles, that’s one I don’t budge on. I don’t give in to whining / fits, even if it means my kid is the one screaming on the ground at Wal Mart. Other than those, though, pretty much if the kid isn’t hurting himself or others, I let it go. You can only do so much. I did like Love & Logic, which our Montessori school recommended (not all of it, but most of it). I have yet to find a way to actually prevent or stop one of my kids’ tantrums, though, so don’t take this to mean I have all the answers! Ask Vivian, she seems to have it down 🙂

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