Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Seven (More) Mom Myths, Debunked

Every now and then, I like to look back over my past blog entries, particularly those from when my son was the age that my daughter is now. I think it’s interesting to see how their development is different and how it’s similar; how their thought patterns are similar and how they’re different; how their personalities have developed along parallel but distinctly differing lines. But it’s also interesting to see how my own thoughts on parenting have developed, and how they’ve changed – or not.

One of the blog entries I re-read recently was from May 26, 2012, entitled “Seven Mom Myths, Debunked”. My son was 2-1/2 and my daughter was 9 months old. Many of the realizations I wrote about came from having a second child and seeing which childrearing truths seemed to be universal (or at least, which applied to both my children) and which were unique to each individual child. Now that my children are a bit older, I’ve discovered even more “Mom Myths” which could use some public debunking. So here are seven more bits of advice that just might be wrong (or at least, wrong for you and/or your child).

1.  If it worked for kid #1, you should use it on kid #2.

Unless you’re raising clones who have never been apart from each other for one second of one day, this myth is possibly the mythiest myth that ever mythed. Every child reacts differently to every possible parenting technique, from potty training to healthy eating to learning to write his name to sleep training. If it worked for kid #1, you should probably TRY it on kid #2, but be prepared for it to not work the same way. Parenting is not a science but a creative and ever-evolving art. Always be prepared to come up with different ways to solve a problem, and just keep trying things until you find something that works.

2.  Allowing your children to use any kind of technology will instantly melt their brains.

Plopping your kid in front of a television set with an iPad in her lap while you text on your smartphone all day long is not the best idea. But the children of this generation will be living in a world of technology, and allowing them to become comfortable with it early on is not a bad thing. Certainly, use discretion in the applications they are allowed to use (there are some wonderful educational programs and apps out there!), limit the time they spend in front of a screen, and balance it with lots of socialization, exercise, and face-to-face mom and dad time. But don’t treat technology as something evil, because it will be a part of your children’s lives their whole lives long. The added bonus? If you learn along with them when they’re small, by the time they’re using technology independently, you’ve got the hang of it too and can keep a protective eye on them.

3.  You need to spend every waking hour interacting with your child.

This myth is almost a corollary to Myth #2, above. But there is a whole world full of activities between plopping a child in front of a screen and plopping him in front of YOU all day long. Neither of those extremes is healthy for you OR your child. Children need to learn to interact with adults, but they also need to learn to interact with their peers, and above and beyond that, they need to learn to keep themselves entertained without someone else directing their activities. A child who knows how to play on his or her own is a child who has learned to think creatively, independently, and confidently, and who has developed mental resources that will serve him or her well in school and in life.

4.  Picky eaters can be trained to eat anything.

This is utter and absolute bosh. Sure, there are some kids who will turn up their noses at new foods who can be taught to try (and like) new things. But there are also some children who simply dislike the taste (or smell, or texture) of certain foods, and there is nothing you can do to change that. Can you force them to eat foods they hate? Sure you can. But speaking as a former picky eater, you can believe me when I say that this particular technique will NOT encourage your child to be open-minded about food, or to magically start to like foods she didn’t like before. The best thing to do with a picky eater is to try different alternatives. If your kid refuses to eat vegetables, try to find some fruits he likes. If she turns up her nose at red meat, offer her chicken or pork. If they won’t eat anything that isn’t some shade of white or beige, give them jicama and cauliflower and pears and mushrooms and turnips and white peaches. Experimentation and creativity are key.

5.  All children need to attend pre-school to develop needed skills before kindergarten.

I know dozens of parents who work themselves into a frenzy before their children are even born, trying to enroll them in the perfect pre-school program. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting the best possible program for your child. But there’s nothing wrong with skipping pre-school, either. It’s not the only option for either socialization or readiness skills. It never ceases to amaze me how much my kids pick up from the world around them without anyone actively teaching them. Their own curiosity is often their best teacher. Read them books, take them to the playground, take them to the library, have playdates with other families, enroll them in gymnastics or T-ball or karate or dance class. Go to the grocery store and ask them to pick out a yellow fruit, or to put three potatoes into a bag, or to tell you what number is on the sign at the end of the aisle, or to pick out some cereal with the letter “P” on the box. Give them crayons and bubbles and sidewalk chalk and your attention and they’ll practically teach themselves. Is pre-school great? Absolutely. Is it necessary for every child? Absolutely not.

6.  Your kids should always come first.

Your kids’ NEEDS? Yeah, those should generally come first. If you’re in a financial bind and have to choose between milk for the kids and a new pair of shoes for you, buy the milk. But the kids’ WANTS? Nope, those don’t always get to be first in line. If you sacrifice everything you want (or need) so your kids get everything they want, you’ll be so burned out that pretty soon you won’t be able to give them what they need, never mind what they want. Plus, if you give them everything they want, they’ll come to expect it. Let your kids see that sometimes you give things up so they can have something, and teach them that sometimes they’re expected to go without something they might like so that you can get something you want. Maybe that means that sometimes YOU get to pick the movie for family movie night, maybe it means that sometimes the family goes out to dinner somewhere other than Chuck E. Cheese, maybe it means that every now and then you get Daddy’s favorite cookies instead of theirs at the grocery store. Raising a child to understand that the world does not revolve around him creates a human being who understands the worth of looking out for others and not just himself.

7.  A good, thoughtful parent rarely makes a mistake.


That bears repeating, actually: Hahahahahahahahaha.

No matter how careful, how thoughtful, how well-prepared you are as a parent, you will, on a regular basis, fail. You will fail spectacularly. You will fail EPICALLY. You will fail repeatedly.

And you know what? You and your kids will live to tell the tale. Letting your kids see you fail – and apologize, and pick yourself up, and figure out how to fix it – is one of the best lessons you can teach them. Because they’ll fail, too. Spectacularly, epically, and repeatedly. And knowing how to move on after failure is a terrific life skill to have. A child who is not afraid of failure is a child who will try anything, who will think outside the box, who will come up with innovative solutions, and who will persevere.

And that’s the kind of child I’d be proud to raise, no mistake about it. 

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