Thursday, October 17, 2013

Parenting: You Are Doing It Right (Most Likely)


Red: Bad parents; Green: Good parents; Blue: Super-cool parents

When you become a parent, you get tons of advice.  From friends; from parents (now grandparents); from great grandparents; sometimes from siblings; often even from complete strangers you meet on the street.

The complaints are as varied as they are frequent: You aren't feeding them enough, or god-forbid you are feeding them too much, or all the wrong things; you are ignoring that they are cold; does she feel warm to you?; you aren't putting them to nap properly; have you missed that they she is teething?; you aren't setting enough boundaries, wait wait, you are setting entirely too many!.

Almost every suggestion you'll hear comes complete with the potential for the opposite advice from some other corner.  Except maybe two: You probably are letting them play with too many toys your parents' generation never had and you probably are being more permissible than they were; just accept those, um, facts.

But check out the graph above, because to my thinking, the green area represents the chances that you are doing this parenting thing "the right way."

That's right, a large portion of parents, and overwhelming amount, even, are doing it right.  That includes families where parents work two jobs, families where both parents work; families who are more well off and families who are less well off.

Listen, parents are going to screw up their kids.  There is simply no way you can live with someone for 20 years of your formative life, someone who's job is essentially to say no, and not come away with some resentment about something.  I think everyone who is honest with themselves would say they would do something different than their parents did.

I know I feel that way.  That isn't to say my parents did a bad job; they did a different job.  I'm sure when my kids reach my age they will want to do some parenting differently than I do, despite my best efforts.

But different isn't wrong.  1,000 years of human history, countless generations of families and tens of millions of humans tell us that we are doing an OK job of raising our little ones.

Why?  Some of it is genetics.  Our kids are as smart as they will be at birth.  At birth their relative happiness is also set.  Sure, we have some ancillary affect on both depending on how much we interact with them, but outside of letting wolves raise them they will reach their set intelligence and happiness.

If you pay attention to your kids and spend the time you can with them and avoid abusing them, you probably fall somewhere in that green area.  Because raising kids is much more about giving them attention and love, almost regardless of the type.  Even if that means watching TV with them.

Congrats. You are a good parent.

Keep this in mind when you become that grandparent mentioned in the beginning of the article or when you want to tsk tsk that mother (or father, but honestly, its never the father) next to you.

Next week: How to get out of the green and into the super-cool blue area of parenting.

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