by Kirk Daulerio
dirty little girl Â© micha – Fotolia.com All rights reserved.
When it comes to parenting, everyone and their brother has an opinion on how to do it best. We tend to judge each other on everything from our kids’ sleep habits to their diet to their behavior in public to even their speech patterns. “You’re putting your kids to bed at 6:00?!” I’ve been asked, as if to say, “What kind of sleep Nazi are you?”
“You’re giving your kids French fries again for lunch?” is another favorite. Like by allowing my kids to eat a few fries I’m going to turn them into fast food junkies and forever clog their arteries. It’s not only the comments that I’ve noticed, either. Once at a movie store my two kids (ages three and two) went after each other because one of them was holding an empty movie case the other desperately wanted. I didn’t make much of the situation because I witness this type of behavior on a daily basis — they’re THREE and TWO years old, after all. Another couple in the store, however, gave me a look as if to say, “Get some control of your kids, buddy! What is wrong with you?!”
It’s merely human nature to compare ourselves to others we see around us, especially when it comes to raising our children. I’m no exception. Thinking back, I remember comparing my kids to my friends even from the time they were babies. Does your baby smile yet? Can she recite her ABCs? Sing Baa-Baa Black Sheep? Use a fork and spoon while eating? Pick up a Cheerio with her thumb and index finger? Read War and Peace? NOOOOO?! Well, you must not be providing her an environment conducive to advanced learning. Aren’t you worried she’ll be behind her peers? Hmmm?
Now, I realize that some of the defensiveness we all feel over these types of issues is a result of our own perceptions. Universally, as parents we want to feel that we are doing the best for our kids. Hence, we all rationalize our parenting decisions by convincing ourselves that our way is the best way, the only way. My kids go to bed early because I want them to get enough sleep to maintain their health. I can’t fathom letting my kids stay up until 10:00 every night (I mean, theres only so much Elmo I can bear before I myself start hopping about the room like Mr. Noodle). I let them eat French fries because I feel a little greasy food is OK from time to time, and I feel that moderation in their diet works well. Similarly, I don’t blow a gasket whenever my kids have a public lapse in behavior because a) it’s merely the stage they’re in; b) I’ve seen it many, many, many times before; and c) they tend to work things out on their own (with a little constructive guidance, of course).
Seems to me that every kid is different, and every parent raises their kid(s) in their own unique way i.e., the way that works best for their own family. All of us as parents strive to provide a healthy, happy, and balanced environment for our kids, yet we work toward this end result in a million different ways. For example, some of us strictly monitor our kids’ food intake in order to maintain the healthiest of diets for them, while others don’t think twice about letting our kids snarf down a McDonalds cheeseburger and fries every once in a while (ahem, daddy loves his Big Macs). By the same token, some of us are religious about our kids’ bedtime routines, while others go with the flow and feel that kids should be able to adapt and adjust to different schedules.
Now that I think about it, I’m embarrassed to admit that many times I have judged my peers based on their parental decisions and/or their kids’ behavior. When it comes down to it, kids will be kids — at times messy, cranky, ill behaved, and defiant — and parents will be parents — at times overprotective, stubborn, and dead set in their ways. If were all trying to do the best we can to raise our kids in a positive manner, then who is to say which parent’s methods are better than another’s? The next time you witness a child’s public meltdown or hear that your friends allow their little ones to stay awake late at night, reserve your judgment and focus your attention on your own decisions for your kids. At the end of the day, that’s what really matters.