In my personal and professional experience, there are a few
different reasons why much of the advice out there doesn’t work for most
Many of those books are just too damn long, and most parents
don’t have the time, energy, or desire to read all those words. I promise to
get to the point.
The advice holds parents and children to unrealistic
standards and practices that may be great in theory but are impossible to
execute in real life. When the suggestions you’re reading don’t pan out, you
end up feeling like a failure, and you give up. I’m a working parent (my
daughters are eight and ten years old), and I’m not going to dish out anything
I wouldn’t serve up in my own house. This is also a good time to remind you yet
again that you don’t need to be a perfect parent to be a great parent. The more
you stress about perfection, the more likely you are to lose your shit, which
is super ironic, but not in a cool hipster kind of way.
Most advice focuses
on the moment of the freak-out, often by telling you what you should do instead
of losing it. I like to think of these as “shoulda coulda woulda” suggestions.
You know you should do ten jumping jacks or take fourteen deep breaths instead
of yelling, and if you coulda done that, you woulda done that, so clearly you
need a different approach. I’ve got one.
The advice wasn’t the right match for you or your family.
Exhibit A: I once read a suggestion that I should yell into the toilet instead
of yelling at my kids. While this strategy probably worked for the parent who
wrote it, I had one kid in diapers and one in the throes of potty-training
hell. The last thing I wanted to do was spend more time around poop
receptacles. The advice in this book is universal and easy to tweak to fit your
preferences and style.
Finally, there is very little advice about what to do after
the inevitable freak-out happens (which it will, no matter what). The reality
is that there are better and worse ways to respond to yourself and your
children after you lose your shit. The more effective strategies will help you
recover more quickly and make it less likely that you’ll explode again any time
soon, so we’re gonna go ahead and focus on those.
The point here is that if you haven’t yet been able to stop losing it, it’s not because you’re a failure. And it’s certainly not because there is anything wrong with you, either as a person or a parent. This is a really important point so I’m going to repeat it again in capital letters: YOU ARE NOT A BAD PARENT. Parenting is hard, losing your shit is part of the universal human condition, and you just haven’t gotten the right mix of advice and support yet. You can do this. I promise.