You know what really irritates me?
Parenting experts. Or really, any sort of parenting advice.
|We don’t need your advice!
It’s not just the “experts” and the books I dislike though; I also hate all the random, unsolicited advice you just seem to be a target for when you’re a parent. Just this week, a lady in the chemist told me she’d give me a syringe for S’s medicine, but that I really should try and get her to take it from a spoon… Why? Are they going to stop making syringes soon? Will the ones that come free with Calpol suddenly become the wrong shape to fit in child’s mouth? Will I have to turn to the black market for one of the old-style syringes that currently come with every single bottle of children’s medicine available on the shelf in Boots? Who gives a shit if she never takes medicine from a spoon? I certainly don’t; I have bigger fish to fry, lady.
You get people telling you your baby is too hot, too cold, should be wearing a hat, shouldn’t be wearing a hat, should be in a buggy, should be crawling by now, should be sleeping through the night, should be, should be, should be. Based on what? Your extensive experience of working with thousands of children from all walks of life, with different needs and temperaments and personalities? Or the one or two children you’re still busy raising? (who are usually fighting/spitting/swearing in the background while you’re busy dishing out your wisdom)
I’ve had numerous people tell me that I “needed” to do controlled crying with S to “make” her sleep through the night. One person who tried to make me do this was a parent to one child, a little boy who was very clingy and insecure. I found myself thinking, I don’t want my daughter to be like yours, so why would I take your advice?
When they reach toddlerhood the advice seems to reach epic proportions. I shouldn’t be letting her walk to and from nursery; I shouldn’t be carrying her either, though (perhaps she should have learned to float by now?); she shouldn’t be allowed to lead me around the shops in town (I should do the leading apparently, even if we are in no mad rush and it doesn’t matter if we never get to the till to buy this magazine).
It also makes me really uncomfortable when people ask me for advice on any aspect of parenting. I want to laugh at them and ask, “does it really look like I’ve got my shit together enough to know how to handle my own kid? Let alone yours?”
I am an expert, but in a very narrow field. I am an expert in my child. I can tell you what she’s eaten today, the consistency of her last bowel movement, how many hours’ sleep she’s had in the last week, what sort of mood she’s in, what colour pen she’s drawn all over the bottoms of her feet with. I can tell you how to calm her down if she’s upset, the best toys to give her, which dvds and TV shows are her favourites, which foods she is most likely to want for tea. I can tell you what she wants when she’s saying that sound. I can tell you what she likes to do on our days off together, which shops she likes to go in, where she likes to stand to stare at the Christmas tree in town, where she likes to go to feed the ducks, the long route she likes to walk home from nursery. I can even tell you the exact circuit of toys we will do each morning in nursery before she lets go of my hand and allows me to leave her (yes, I wait for my child to be comfortable and settled before I bolt out of the nursery door. Tell me not to, I dare you).
How much of that is of any use to you, raising your child?
Of course, if you’re having trouble getting your child to go to bed at night, I can tell you what works for me. And you’ll most probably balk at the idea of leaving your child watching Despicable Me until they fall asleep.
There is some science involved, and psychologists can tell you about typical brain development, which concepts a 4 year old is and is not typically able to grasp – which can be useful if you’re trying to understand how your child’s brain works, why they don’t understand when you ask them to do this but they’re able to do that… but it’s all pretty abstract isn’t it. It still all comes down to the individual. No expert, scientist or otherwise, can say to you “yes, when you child is exactly 3 years and 7 months of age he will understand this but until that point, it will remain a mystery.” They can give you a ball-park figure that “most children grasp this before they reach 4” but that’s about the limit of it.
Children are all individuals. Even babies. Even when they’ve just been born. There is no one-size-fits-all parenting model that fits every parent and every child. I detest the idea that anyone can tell me how to raise my child, especially those that state with such certainty, “oh, you need to get out of that habit.” It drives me up the shitting wall.