Busting the 3 Myths of Parenting Education
This blog post probably isn’t for you.
You’re an intentional parent or you probably wouldn’t be here!
You want to get good at relationships and you know that the time, energy, effort and resources you put towards learning communication skills, mindfulness practice and connection – pays off big time.
But, if your experience is anything like mine, I bet you get some wonky looks from the people around you? Or even outright criticisms, jars or pinching observations? Or maybe these thoughts are coming from inside your own mind…
“Good parenting should come naturally.”
“I don’t need an expert to tell me how to raise my kids.”
“You learn from experience.”
It seems there’s a cultural pushback, a ‘smallification’ if you will, of people who want to self-improve in areas of relationships, spirituality or emotional health. I get it. I too, raise an eyebrow at the validity and justification of the “Self Help” industry.
I too feel that often people are posing as “experts” and playing into my insecurities for self-serving purposes. Or feeding me superficial ideas that aren’t rooted in my best interest, in science or in common sense.
Still, I posit that we don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. That we rely heavily on our own filters: our mind and intuition as the powerful discernment tools that they are – and realize that, just as in any industry, in the parenting advice world too – there’s a lot of noise to cut through – and then there is a wealth of wisdom.
Is learning how to parent a waste of time?
I know you know what I think already (no, it isn’t!). But let me explain why.
We all know and accept that we need training for most of life’s critical tasks: driving a car, becoming a doctor, fighting fires. Heck, I’m willing to bet that you received a lot of training for your job. You might have gotten a degree, read a lot of books and manuals, maybe you were tested, you apprenticed, you self-taught – somehow, you studied.
And we seek out expert opinions or directive information for the lesser gravitas undertaking of life also:
Did you ever consult a recipe book?
Flick through a user manual for your VCR?
Ask a beautician how to pluck your eyebrows?
But for whatever reason, when it comes to arguably the most important relationship we have – we get zero education. And we even tend to pooh-pooh (the 6-year-old loves that I just wrote those words) those who do seek to share their knowledge and those who seek to gain from it. We’re expected to just do it, and grow into it… wing it.
I fully accept that…
- no matter how much I learn, I will make plenty of mistakes.
- the research, the science and the advice I receive may be fickle, confusing, contradictory and ever-changing.
- there’s no one right answer.
- that my circumstance, genes, temperament, belief system and values are unique – and so are those of my child – and therefore all information will need to be tailor-made for me (luckily along with the rest of us, I too have a brain and I’m NOT AFRAID TO USE IT!)
But I will not accept “winging it”.
I will not accept turning a blind and oblivious eye to the incredible, life-changing, dysfunction-busting wisdom nuggets that are now available to me.
Look, the ideas that we don’t need to self-educate and that it should come naturally are MYTHS.
- MYTH: We’re not starting fresh.
Thinking that we can just decide what we think is best is nice and all – but it’s just not true without some serious, effortful soul searching and skill building.
You do not become a parent out of thin air. You have baggage. We all do. And we all default to a reaction to how we were parented – wither emulating our parents, or running for the hills and behaving in the opposite ways.
Either way, this isn’t a conscious choice. To make a deliberate choice we have to learn to unlearn our automatic parenting reactions – and instead find the responses that serve our highest selves, best.
- MYTH: Experience doesn’t make us better.
It’s alluring to think that we’ll get the hang of it in time. And for sure, there’s value to experience. But sometimes doing things for longer does not make us do them better. In fact, it’s sobering to realize that sometimes it’s just the opposite: sometimes we’re actually entrenching our unhealthy patterns more and more as time goes on.
In his book, Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, K. Anders Ericsson, explains that people don’t get better at things just because they do them for longer. This has been true for Doctors, for drivers… and in my belief for parents, too.
To make significant improvements to a skill only one thing really ensures that will happen: deliberate practice. Being consciously aware of how we’d like to do it, and intentionally doing it that way again and again – assessing ourselves and taking steps to improve each time.
- MYTH: It doesn’t come naturally.
When people tell me that good parenting comes naturally, I just want to scream: Look around, buster, what do you see? What comes naturally is yelling, shaming, humiliating, controlling, disconnect – and at the extreme abuse and neglect.Perhaps if we were living naturally – in clans, in nature as hunter-gatherers, the way we were developed to over the vast majority of our evolution – then maybe connected parenting would also come naturally. But we don’t live that way. We drive in cars and go to schools, we use chemical medicines and print books… and these are not bad things at all.I will not accept turning a blind and oblivious eye to the incredible, life-changing, dysfunction-busting wisdom nuggets that are now available to me.via @ParentingJunkieTweet This
But we need to take into account our current living – disconnected from elders, disconnected from nature – and essentially stressed. When we’re living under stressed our “natural” response is to go into fight, flight or freeze mode which often means punishing, manipulating and controlling… Naturally, we can be monsters.We need all the help we can get.
I guess I just wonder why the resistance. Perhaps it’s because being open to grow as parents can be painful. It can mean revisiting our own childhood wounds and coming face to face with our demons. It’s not easy. I know.
But when stacked against the task of doing right by our children and creating a long-term relationship that survives the transition into adulthood (isn’t that one of our goals?), What’s reading a book or two? Taking a course? Watching a video or taking a training? Investing a few dollars here or there? And some of our time?
We invest tenfold that in a heartbeat in our careers. We shouldn’t question investing it in the most meaningful and long-lasting work we’ll do – raising our children, and ourselves.
If this seems self-serving, seeing as I myself sell parenting materials, you’re absolutely right, it is. I hear these doubts from parents who aren’t sure it’s “worth” the investment to partake in my courses or coaching and this is what I want to tell them:
If your relationship with your child is important than investment in it is worth it… whether through my own platform or a myriad of books that I recommend.
Leave me your comment below with your favorite parenting resource! A book? An expert? A blog! Share with our community!