There are many parenting experts. Doctors, nurses, midwives, doulas, lactation consultants, teachers, ministers, your mother, and your mother-in-law all fire information at you. Go to the park one morning and listen to how many moms offer free advice and play expert when it comes to other people’s parenting!
So much information is available. It is easy to be paralyzed by overwhelm or jump into the latest fad without understanding it first. This is especially true when your child doesn’t fit textbook expectations.
While understandable, being paralyzed or jumping to a new fad is not beneficial to you or your child. Slowing down, reevaluating, and returning to the beginning are often the best options.
Parenting Lessons From Kindergarten
Several years ago Robert Fulghum wrote a heartwarming poem called, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. The poem struck a chord because of its return to the simple and the good. Here is part of it…
Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life –
Learn some and think some
And draw and paint and sing and dance
And play and work everyday some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
In the world of education now dominated by Common Core Standards, which will soon be replaced by new standards, which will then be replaced by newer standards, lessons like those taught by Robert Fulghum are timeless and too valuable to be overlooked.
Often top education executives dictate what they feel needs to be done in local classrooms. They offer a one-size fits all solution that pushes children and teachers to meet their demands. Some have not set foot in a classroom in years. Others went from sitting in desks to dictating what others should do while sitting in desks. They have not stood at the front of the room loving the students in those desks.
Even experts with genuine teaching experience struggle to put into words what they do and expect each day. They know their classrooms are different from a teacher down the hall’s never mind a teacher across the country’s. This attempt to write universal curriculum for all, while needed in many ways, risks overshadowing the most important part of education. It leaves out important messages like, “Warm cookies and milk are good for you.”
Parenting Experts Often Do the Same
Parenting experts have valuable information. They know about child health and development. They know the benefits of healthy Marriages, strong families, and intact homes. They can (and do!) write volumes about how to raise happy, successful children. Much of that information is important and valuable.
There is a problem though.
These experts don’t know what is happening in your home. They don’t know what works best for you, what you’ve tried, or how their plan works (or doesn’t work) for your family. Like those who wrote much of the Common Core Standards, the attempts of parenting experts to do good can make you feel bad! They try to show parents all that is possible but make you question what you are capable of. Too much questioning leads to fear of failure and shame over not doing everything experts say you should for your children.
Universal Rules for Parenting
What made All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten particularly powerful has little to do with public education’s new “rigorous” curriculum. The poem is particularly powerful because its rules were never intended for just kindergarten. They apply to all aspects of life.
Perhaps parenting most of all.
Just as educators often clutter, confuse, and complicate learning, so do parenting “experts” clutter, confuse, and complicate parenting. There is no one-size fits all program that works because your child is precious, your family is unique, and you are special.
What works for one family does not work for all, but, just like lessons learned in kindergarten, what works best is often the simple things. What works has nothing to do with choosing the right nursery school to get your little Einstein into Harvard. Nor does it have anything to do with the nationally recognized “right” sleeping arrangements, correct time to introduce solids, best toilet training programs, pro soccer camps, or SAT scores.
Parenting Lessons from the Delivery Room
To be the best parent for your child go back to that moment in the delivery room when your little one was placed on your chest. The pain was still there, but it had already faded somehow. The memories of crippling contractions and intense pushing already overshadowed by love. Your mind did not dwell on physical and mental exhaustion. Your little one was laid on your chest. His eyes open wide in wonder, probably reflecting your expression of awe. You probably laughed and cried. You loved.
All else was blocked from the world. In that moment nothing else was important. Your focus, your energy, your hope was in your family. The trinity of mother-father-child was powerful, even divine. You drew close physically. This physical closeness made a boundary keeping out unwanted intrusions and strengthening family bonds.
In those first moments, nothing else was important. You didn’t compare your child to a neighbor’s or some textbook expectation. You didn’t criticize your husband for how he held the baby or his laughing promise to sneak your little one sugary snacks. You weren’t pulled away to work more to pay for violin lessons or a family vacation.
In those moments, it didn’t matter what parenting experts said. You were too busy exploring your little one, being thankful for your spouse’s part in the gift of life, and being awed by God’s Love for His children that you were just beginning to understand.
Marriage, parenting, and family will be hard and confusing at times. Experts will give you opinions. Much of their advice will be valuable and applicable, but only you are the expert in your home, your family, and your life. Knowing this, perhaps the best parenting advice is something you knew when you first held your little one. It comes from my favorite line of Robert Fulghum’s poem and is something no one needed to teach you.
(And it is still true,) no matter how old you are
when you go out into the world,
it is best to hold hands and stick together.
Today, as the struggle to provide the same standards everyone else has, as expectations of what life “should” be collides with reality of what life is, as dreams from your past haunt you and dreams for your future seems distant and uncertain, as parenting and Marriage and you (never mind your spouse!) don’t quite meet the expectations you had in the delivery room, remember what you knew in the delivery room.
Life is precious.
Time is a gift.
Be good to one another.
Block out others sometimes.
Life is messy and good.
Let God clean your soul.
Look into each others’ eyes.
Commit and mean it.
Hold each other close.
Live a balanced life.
Enjoy the simple things.
Value being together.
And most of all, when you go out into the world,
it is best to hold hands and stick together.
Parenting isn’t easy. Even experts don’t get it right all the time, but what you learned in the delivery room may be all you need to be successful.
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