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Advice Makes Us Crazy

adviceWe’re in an era of what seems to be unprecedented information about parenting. Books, magazines, newspaper columns, and even websites like this one bubble over with advice and opinions about what you “should” be doing for your kids and more to the point, how they should be.

It’s enough to make us crazy. If you’re susceptible to the endless marketing barrage aimed at parents and the constant rush of advice books whose authors aren’t selling anything but themselves, you can really get into a lather. If you’re like me and pretty happy to march to your own drummer, that noise still gets in. I’ve laid awake at night and worried that I’ve shortchanged both my kids because they’ve never done Gymboree or Kindermusik or anything other than low key stuff at the rec department or the Y, have random playdates with whoever’s mom I like versus the alpha kids, and attend a preschool we chose solely because the teachers seemed nice and they liked the bean table.

Turns out I’m not the only one who both sees the madness for what it is and also finds themselves affected by it. Karen Houppert wrote this interesting piece for Salon about parenting advice and how the more she sought it, the worst she felt.

What I found especially insightful is that she discovered instead of feeling more equipped to deal with her son’s little personality quirks, she found herself stressed and snappish, wondering why he wasn’t doing the things all the books told her he should be.

For me, the light bulb went on. I’ve realized recently I am far more yelly and strict about my children’s behavior when I feel like I am being judged — when I find myself unwittingly in a pack of “perfect mommies,” or around those beloved friends and family members whose opinion actually matters to me. I’m wondering if for Houppert –and probably for most of us — the unseen Repositories of Knowledge act as silent judgers.

Of course, the cure is is to learn how to chill right out and shut out all the noise, to deal with your child as the unique and wonderful individual he or she is. But a tough parenting day or a bout of insecurity can make that really hard. How do you “shut out the shoulds” and do what feels right?

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