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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

On Overload

I've just finished reading The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp. My original intention was to do a book review on it, but I'd like to add something to that. Reading this book, and hearing and reading about so many other types of parenting advice has got me to thinking. If you can't share these sorts of thoughts on your blog, I guess you might as well not have a blog to begin with. But I will start with the book.

I think Dr. Karp has some excellent advice on how to understand the inner workings of a toddler brain, and how to communicate with your toddler. I've already tested his advice on my own little guy and it works. The basic principal is learning what Karp refers to as "Toddler-ese," which is the language all toddlers speak. In a nutshell, that means communicating with your toddler with his own limited vocabulary and body language, thus letting him know you understand why he's upset. At first this sounded kind of hokey to me. I really didn't like the idea of saying something like, "No, no, no. No diaper. No," mirroring my son's upsetness at having his diaper changed. (He's taken a great dislike to diaper changes lately.) But I thought, what the heck, no one is watching. My son stopped crying immediately and looked at me in a bit of surprise. Then he stopped crying and let me change his diaper. Amazing!

Now here's where I take issue: While reading through the book, I began to feel overwhelmed with a lot of extra book-fattening parenting advice. Little nuances on how to do this or that. I started thinking, "How in the world can I remember all this?" and "Do I need to know all this? My parents, after all, never had a Dr. Karp. Or a Dr. Sears. Or a Dr. Phil, or an Oprah, or any other advice-givers. By now you're scratching your head and saying, "Hey, isn't that what you do? Your blog is all about advice on natural parenting." Yup! Believe me, I love to share and receive advice. I am the A-#1 book digger on all things. No one likes to research a topic to its absolute last shred of usefulness like I do. But I also understand something we all need to be reminded of from time to time: If the advice doesn't sit well with you, ignore it.

Don't feel pressured to try some new-fangled parenting technique, don't feel like a failure if everyone else is doing it and you can't stomach it, don't let anyone give you a guilt trip if you aren't following the parenting herd.

I believe we're given some innate ability to understand what our own distinct child really needs. Yeah, sometimes we need a prod or direction. That's what the books and the internet help us with. But in the end, we're the ones who somewhere deep down know that this little child of ours truly does or does not need to fall asleep with a binky, eat only organic fruit and vegetables, or learn toilet training at an early age. Since every child is so wonderfully unique, doesn't it stand to reason that the way to raise each child would be just as unique?

So whether you're hanging out with Oprah from your living room television, or checking in on my humble blog, just remember to go with your gut and leave the guilt behind. If you are truly choosing the parenting choices that make you comfortable, it doesn't matter if you're the only mom or dad in town who believes strongly in interpretive dance before bedtime. Because in the end you'll have raised a beautiful one-of-a-kind adult. One who understands interpretive dance or has learned the importance of generosity or healthy eating or culture because you found it important enough to teach. Isn't that in essence the very beauty of raising a child, after all?

(Note: If you're interested in Dr. Karp's techniques, you might try the DVD. It gets to the meat of the information without the overwhelming amount of extras. I also found it much more helpful to see his techniques used on actual screaming toddlers.)


Laura said...

well said. One of the things that I really love about parenting is that it's such and individual job and that we each bring out own set of skills to it! Each style is different... and each w/ it's success and failures. :)

Marie said...

What can I say but -- Amen!

Michelle said...

I think that one of the most freeing attitudes is the one that says even a great mind is not one I need to follow 100%.
I like your review and appriciate the little note at the end of it . . .I have too much going on right now to deal with 'extras'

Laura said...

Wow... very nicely said!

As a mom of a 4 year old and a 2 year old, I often find myself second guessing my instincts for fear of what "others" think and because it might not be exactly what "the book" says.

I agree in that each child is special and unique so our parenting styles and actions need to fit that child!