The first step in parenting

Sheryl Sanberg’s three steps to raising resilient kids. Gwyneth Paltrow’s parenting advice: 11 tips. 10 Parenting habits to develop before your child becomes a teen. How many articles and blog posts have you seen like these? The road to hell was paved with good intentions, and parenting advice is no exception. There are many good articles out there, but whenever a headline contains labels like “three steps,” or “11 tips,” I cringe.

Too often the messaging subtly implies if you have not followed these steps then your child will never attain the desired outcome. Worse yet, the deeper implication is if you do not follow these steps, or if the steps happen to not work for your child, you have failed your child.

Parenting and parenthood can be a mess in the best of circumstances. To co-opt a phrase from the community of parents with children who are autistic, if you know one child, you know one child. Just as each one of us is different, every child is different.

Do some of the good intentions produce positive results for some children? Of course. So how, you ask, are we as parents supposed to know what to do with our children? The journey down any path always begins with the first step, which in this case is doing your best to know your child, not who you want your child to be, or how you see your child, but understanding how your child sees him or herself.

But then again, that was the first step I took with my kids.

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