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Children don’t come with directions!

You don’t need a license to be a parent – you don’t even need to take a class!

Yet this is probably the most important endeavor we will ever take on.  Raising children – indeed, raising the next generation – is likely the hardest job a human being can do.  It calls for a huge variety of skill sets.

Think about it – at any given time a parent needs to know some of the following things:

  • What do babies eat?
  • How to bathe and clothe an infant, a toddler, a child?
  • What do I do when a child is sick?  Or unhappy?  Or having a tantrum?
  • What does “normal” or “typical” really look like?
  • How do I take care of my child when I am sick?
  • How do I navigate the school system?
  • How do I find trustworthy childcare?
  • What do school-age children really need?
  • How much sleep do children need at each age or stage?
  • Who do I contact if I suspect my child has special needs?

Family and Parenting

There are as many parenting education programs and websites out there as there are parents and children. We can download handbooks on how to grow tomatoes, but the difference in opinion on how to raise children is exponential.

I don’t have a parent program to promote, but will say, I appreciate those that encourage love and support along with boundaries. As a school psychologist, I have often encountered parents who are, in effect, being raised by their children.

Part of growing up is learning and moving from a place of absolute dependency to independence. A young child’s awareness is much different from a toddler’s and a teen’s or a young adult’s, so it stands to reason that as parents, we need to adjust our parenting accordingly.

I also know that there hasn’t been a parenting handbook or program that I feel is always spot on. I’ve read a lot of them and not one has been perfect. It’s important to trust our instincts about our own children. It’s also important to forgive ourselves when we figure out we could have done this or that better and to be less critical of other parents. Certainly, when we see abuse, we need to address it, but I know it is all too easy to just think that parent is just “wrong” when we see what we think of as bad behavior.

I recall a time when I went with my family to the movies at about 5 pm on a weeknight, long after the movie had been out in the theaters. We wanted to miss the packed crowds, but not miss the movie. There was a family in the back row who had 2 or 3 kids with them. They spread out across the whole back row and one child was running back and forth, often yelling out or making noise. My first thought was, “how rude!” But later, as I saw them leaving the theater, I knew there was something else going on and this little guy – he was adorable – most likely he had some special needs. This was possibly the only time the family could go see movies together – when it was not busy. So we never know why a parent might act in a certain way, or why a child might act in a certain way. So let’s be gentle out there!

Here are some of my favorite “go-to” resources right now.


Julie Lythcott Haims – I love this woman’s work. I had the pleasure of attending one of her speaking engagements and was hooked.

Love and Logic – I was a Love and Logic Parent trainer and really liked the balance of support and boundaries and allowing life to be the teacher.

Dr. Jane Nelsen’s work is also very good.