Have you noticed that parenting articles and mom bloggers seem to rule the internet? As I try to break into “the industry” of making a living (and a difference) supporting parents, I’m consistently advised to write articles offering Tips and Tricks for parents. You know the articles because you love to read them and the titles always catch your eye. “Top 5 Ways to Instantly Potty Train Your Child.” “The 7 Steps to Bully Proof Your Kid.” “3 Surprising Secrets Every Mom Should Know.” “How to End Whining with 3 Simple Techniques.”
I resist and I resist. And I wonder, “Why?” Why can’t I crank out these articles like every other parenting guru…especially if that’s what it takes to catch your eye? Perhaps because I don’t know your children as well as you do. And while I know a lot about parenting and how to help you design a rocking parenting plan for your own family, I can’t do it without tapping into your infinite knowledge about your unique child, your strengths as a parent and your willingness to create and execute what it takes to make a difference in your life.
So, perhaps this will help. I’ve put together a little list to push through my own sludge of resistance and to help us all manage the sensory overload of Tip Articles once and for all.
Here, Moms and Dads, are my 8 Tips for Reading Tip Articles:
1. Take each tip with a grain of salt (including this one).
Don’t believe everything you read about parenting. Or, if you’re apt to believe things, at least put on your thinking cap and adopt your own constructive view of the idea. Be a skeptic. It can’t hurt. I’m not saying the author is pulling everything straight out of thin air. She might be making an awesome point. I’m just suggesting that you avoid taking tips at face value and see if they make sense when you look at them with a discerning eye (and heart).
2. Ask yourself if this tip aligns with your *reality*
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read books or gone to workshops that told me to try something that would NEVER work with my kids. But when I was a new mom, and being a rule follower at heart, I always went home and tried things out. When they didn’t work, I assumed something was wrong with me. I was a bad mother. No more. If a tip doesn’t align with my reality, I hit the ignore button and suggest you do too.
3. Ask yourself if this tip aligns with your *values*
This is serious. If you want a guaranteed path to a huge parenting identity crisis, just ignore your values and follow every tip you’ve ever read. But, if you’re seeking a more grounded approach to motherhood or fatherhood, let’s dig a little deeper to lay a solid foundation for your parenting. If there was ever a tip I followed blindly, it was the one about clarifying my values. And once I did that, I was able to read books and attend workshops with confidence and a sensitivity to what resonated with me and what never would. I suggest you do the same (or not).
4. Always skip tip #4 (including this one). It’s just a placeholder.
Made you look. I wonder if most people even read beyond the headlines. Are you?
5. Notice if this tip makes you feel crappy about yourself or good about yourself.
The problem with tips is that they have a tendency to make us feel like we’re not doing what we’re supposed to. But if we’re already doing that tip, then we must be on top of our game. No, no, no. Someone else’s list of ideas doesn’t mean or say anything about you other than what you just made it mean or say. So be kind to yourself. If the tip makes you feel worse about your parenting, it’s probably not worth heeding.
6. Remember that there’s no “right” way to do things.
Haven’t we all fallen into the trap of thinking that we’re parenting the “wrong way?” Or worse, thinking that another parent is doing it all wrong? It’s a trap because we assume there’s a right way to do things. Tip articles often assume that as well. By the way, there’s no right way to read a tip article. There’s only a way that works best for you. And hopefully, this article will help you learn to read those articles and feel empowered instead of completely deflated. (Note: As a former child abuse investigator, I’m clear that there’s an illegal way to parent. I’m just saying that there’s more than one way to raise a child.)
Nowadays, being on the internet or reading a magazine is a recipe for sensory overload. From ads to social media to an inbox on steroids, there’s no way we can really absorb everything we read. Now and again, I read an article or see a video that changes my life (I would link to them here but then you’d leave this article. Join me on Facebook to read my favorites), but I try to remember that when I catch myself reading tips articles, I’m usually just avoiding something I need to do, like make lunches for tomorrow (ugh) or stop and tune into my inner wisdom. Usually, the answers to my most burning parenting questions lie inside of me. And I’m confident they’re inside you too!
8. Stop reading tip articles (including this one) and go play with your children.
If this is the only tip you read, I’ve done my job. Stop reading this article and stop trying to DO parenting right. Now go BE with your children and yourself. Sit in awe of the incredible gift your family is to the world.