You really need to grow a thick skin once you’re a parent. All of a sudden, everyone has an opinion and becomes and expert on how best to raise your child. Helicopter parenting, free-range parenting and everything in between is put forward as the only way to do it. As a national family safety expert, I’m asked for my advice frequently. Nervous moms and dads will e-mail me asking how best to deal with some problem or concern.
The reality is, every child is different and every parent is different. My first daughter, from the age of two, already developed a taste for fruits and vegetables and actually turned down Dunkin Donuts. My little one, on the other hand, has been known to hide vegetables under couch cushions to avoid eating them. Did I have anything to do with that? Nope, they’ve been as different as night and day since the day they were born. My oldest has always been the cautious and conservative type. My little one – well let’s just say she will always be the more “adventurous” of the two.
Not only is there no one way to parent, but each child within the family requires different parenting styles. My greatest piece of advice is to trust your instincts as a parent and the person who loves your child more than anyone. Of course, there are some non-negotiable rules such as using a car seat, eliminating choking and strangulation hazards, preventing your toddle r from tumbling head first down a flight of stairs or out a window and, in general making sure your home isn’t a death trap. BUT, when it comes to those more subjective things such as bedtime routines, the use of a pacifier, potty training techniques and even working outside the home versus being a stay-at-home mom, politely tell everyone to BACK OFF!
I’ve literally seen moms get into a heated argument about whether exposing a child to germs (read “dirt on the kitchen floor) would be beneficial or lead to serious illness in later years. Then there are the moms who insist that they’ll never give their child a juice box that didn’t come from Trader Joe’s or, God forbid, a burger from a fast food place. I wonder sometimes if they’re doing this in their child’s best interests or just trying to impress other moms. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a healthy diet, but there are realities. Junior will one day go to a birthday party where the mom is serving Juicy Juice and giant cupcakes.
In other words, be the best parent you can be with the style that works for your kids. Trust your instincts but don’t judge another parent for his or her choices – they’re not your shoes to walk in.