You Know More than You Think You Do:
5 reasons why you should stop wishing your child came with a parenting manual

You Know More than You Think You Do: 5 reasons why you should stop wishing your child came with a parenting manual

Still looking for the instruction manual that you expected to come with your child? You already have it, but don’t know it. “You know more than you think you do,” was the theme of one of the best selling books of all time The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, written by Dr. Benjamin Spock.  Millions of parents of “baby boomers” (my generation) relied on Dr. Spock’s book for advice in the late 1940’s, 1950’s and 1960’s. But with all of the “how to’s” from the good doctor himself, his main message to parents was to trust their instincts and have confidence in their own abilities.

Here’s my perspective on “the parenting manual”:

1.There is no manual that applies to all children in every situation (and there shouldn’t be) …
As pediatrician and author Dr. Stephen Cowan says, we all are raising “one of a kind” children. Think about it. Each child embodies a unique combination of qualities and abilities  which change and develop over time within the context of a family, each of whom possesses a unique combination of qualities and abilities. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some overall developmental and neurological principles that apply to all children. But your parenting decisions shouldn’t be dictated by comparing your child to “the norm.”

2. You are the author of your own parenting manual …
Rather than relying on someone else to tell you what’s best for child, you have the opportunity to be the expert on the unique individual you have been entrusted to care for. I know it can feel scary at times, but it’s an awesome responsibility — in a good way. As British psychologist Penelope Leach, who wrote about parenting from a child development perspective said, “Whatever you are doing, however you are coping, if you listen to your child and to your own feelings, there will be something you can actually do to put things right or make the best of those that are wrong.”

3. You have been writing the manual since (before) day 1 …
All parents come with certain expectations about what their children will be like and how they should behave, think, look like, etc. even before they are born. The more in touch with those expectations the better off you will be. It’s important to differentiate who you expected your child to be from who they really are. That consciousness is helpful when you set out to get to know them for who they really are. No one else would write the same book as you would.

4. It’s the kind of manual that has to be continually updated and revised …
Each time we raise a child, we are writing a living document. Getting to know your spouse or a friend is one thing, but by the time we meet them in adulthood, they are already pretty “well formed.” Children’s growth and development is monumental from birth to adolescence, and it is especially dramatic from infancy to age 7. In writing your parenting manual, you have to be on your toes daily, because the changes are so rapid. Yes, you start to see patterns, but often they change too. Ask any parent who just starts to begin to get adjusted to their baby’s sleep schedule.

5. It’s not the same as any other parent’s manual, though it has the same chapter headings …
Every parent has to make the same basic decisions to make on a daily basis — what/when to feed their children, what their daily activities will be, who will care for them when they are working, when they will sleep, etc. But every parent will need to customize these decisions based on a combination of factors that are unique to their own child and family. We all have one-of-a-kind children and each of our families is one-of-a-kind as well.

6. You’re writing different manuals for each of your own children (if you have more than one) …
Family “context” is a key factor in raising a child. The dynamics of your family shifts with the birth of each child, when parents separate or divorce, and when older children are “launched” into college and career. The family’s context has very powerful influence on how you are raising each individual child. Just ask any parent who has to deal with helping siblings cooperate and share.

So…stop wishing you have the parenting manual and enjoy writing those living, breathing documents. Continue to consult the experts for ideas, but trust your instincts, your insights and your observations. You know more than you think you do!

Yours in parenting,

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