As parents, we are surrounded by rules on parenting. I mean, I even have several on my own blog! Do this. Don’t do that. This is the best method. This method will cause your child endless therapy later in life. I even just read some “rules” about how to appear to other parents (wear make-up, but not all the time; dress nicely, but not all the time. Please.) and how NOT to act in front of your child’s teacher (it should be obvious, but it probably does need to be said). It’s exhausting. I was just laying down next to my toddler playing, to relax and let my spine lengthen back to where it should be, when I was thinking of all of these rules. It can be too much. Just like my middle child (dramatically) told me: Mom, there are too many rules! I’m starting to think he’s right.
Some rules are necessary, of course. Our children need to be taught right from wrong, safe from unsafe, polite from rude, etc., and there are effective ways of doing this and ways that could actually compound the problem or even teach/encourage poor behavior. That’s where parental “rules” come into play. Different rules work for different families and different situations, but the overarching goal is that the children learn effectively while still feeling loved.
I’ve read a lot of research from pediatric psychologists through books and online articles (sometimes I’m left wondering if they’ve ever actually had children themselves). I’ve taken loads of advice from parents whom I admire and from my own mother — I feel like it helps me remember how I was as a child so I can gain that perspective. I feel like I have adequate “tools” in my proverbial “toolbox” to handle most situations in the most effective and loving way, and I do. But, honestly, sometimes I’m left staring wide-eyed and gawking at especially my second child and thinking, “I don’t know how to handle this. What do I do?” (as my brain is spinning through all of the discipline “rules”). Seriously, I feel like sometimes nothing works. I have a split second to discipline, and I’m left with “oh my God, nothing is working.” We talk about the issue; he gets consequences for his actions; but I still feel all of the mothers of the world staring down judgmentally at me. I want to do the right thing, but there are SO MANY RULES about how to discipline that it actually can become stifling.
These parental rules are important for the safety and health of our children. I get that. Advice is definitely good. I get that, too. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and this seeps into my parenting, but I can’t lose the main focus: getting my children to learn to behave appropriately. Yes, I feel like parents have too many rules at times and that all mothers are watching me (it’s ridiculous, I know) — I get so overwhelmed — but I need to remember that these rules are designed to create “tools” for our discipline “toolbox”, and I need to get the judgmental chatter out of my head!