Ending Mommy Wars (article featured in The Tennessean)

In the parenting world, there has been so much discussion about “Mommy Wars” and discord among parents about how to best parent children. I see too many families who are seeking validation because, somewhere along the way, someone told them that they are doing it all wrong. Sadly, rather than collaborating and supporting each other on this difficult parenting journey, sometimes we tend to compete and criticize one another. It would be so much more helpful if we could be intentional about supporting rather judging one another. So, in the spirit of working together, here are a few tips to remember as we collaborate to raise happy, healthy children.

1. What works for you may not work for someone else. There are introverts, extroverts, working parents, stay-at-home parents, those who are highly crafty and organized, and others who value messy fun over mopped floors. Because we, as humans, are comprised of so many variable emotional factors, it is impossible for us to know exactly what should work best in every family; especially in someone else’s family. For example, a mother who tends to be more introverted may be able to stay at home for the day and practice sight words with her preschooler, while a mom who is more extroverted may literally cringe at the thought of being at home with anyone, let alone someone under the age of 5, for an entire day. Neither mother nor parenting approach is better. The introverted mother will likely end the day with a child who can recognize a few 4-letter words. And, the extroverted mother will likely end the day with a child who has improved social skills and physical health because of an active day at school or at the park. Everyone wins.

2. Different children need different types of parenting. Those of you who have more than one child know exactly how different two little humans can be. You have your first, and just when you think you might have this parenting thing under control, you are blessed with a second little person whose needs are totally different. So, if you see a parent taking an approach to discipline that would never been in your repertoire of responses, don’t assume that she’s doing it incorrectly or that your way would be better. Only she knows her child and what has or hasn’t worked in the past. And, contrary to popular belief, there’s not necessarily one “right” way of handling any given situation.

3. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that your child’s behavior is a direct reflection of your parenting. Likewise, don’t judge others’ children and think that their behavior is a result of a certain type of discipline, or lack thereof. For those of you who have two very different little humans in your household, you know what I mean. We are born with different temperaments. There are parts of our personalities that are going to be present regardless of the type of parenting that we receive. And, to look on the bright side, while little passive Pete may become a talented artist, little assertive, seemingly defiant Annie just might be running for President someday.

4. Ignore social media. It’s simply not real. When a picture of a mom baking organic bread from scratch pops up on your feed and leaves you feeling incompetent, remind yourself that no mother bakes organic bread from scratch, takes a picture of it, and then puts it out in the universe for all to see, unless she is seeking some validation. Even that mom needs people to “like” her activity so that she can feel as if she is doing it right. And, by the way, the picture doesn’t show the tantrum that the child had when he found out that he was going to have to bake bread rather than cupcakes…

5. It’s better to be imperfect. Most of us are loving, caring parents who are doing the best that we can with the resources that we have. Unfortunately, some parents are too quick to pass judgment, to think they’ve got the magic recipe for parenting. The truth is that no one is doing it perfectly. And that’s ok. Alternatively, believe it or not, most of us are doing it really well. What would we be teaching our children if we, as parents, got it right 100% of the time? We’d be teaching them that perfection is the norm, and that, in turn, we expect them to be flawless. That’s unrealistic and unfair. What would be more helpful is if we allow ourselves the room to make mistakes and, when we do, we explain to our little ones that no one, not even mom or dad, is perfect. We model for them what it looks like to disappoint someone and then to ask for forgiveness. And, oh what a valuable lesson that can be.

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