Chicago parenting expert says kids hold the real answers

The other day my daughter asked why people read parenting books.

I told her that there are many different reasons, but sometimes I read them to understand her better.

She quickly replied that my answer didn’t make sense. “That book isn’t about me, it’s about somebody else. If you don’t understand me, ask me.”

I smiled at her insightful response, mostly because I agree with her.

It could be parenting, dieting or traveling—regardless of the topic, people are writing and interpreting their experiences and often selling them as absolutes.

Parenting has no absolutes. There is not one way for a kid to be or behave; there is not one way to respond to a parenting issue. There are only moment-to-moment decisions based on the person and information in front of us.

This is a reminder that parenting work begins with our own self-awareness and history. My past experiences are not necessarily true for my child. Maybe I demonstrated shy behaviors and faced some challenges because of it, but that doesn’t mean I need to “protect” my child from being shy.

I also have to be aware of my future concerns. All parents worry about what might happen to their child, but living in this state of fear doesn’t help our decision making.

The best parenting decisions are done with a clear head and a respect for our children. If they are ready to stretch or take on a new responsibility, we need to be open to that growth. Instead of sharing everything that could go wrong, we can offer a sense of trust in their ability to take big steps, support instead of discouragement.

We don’t teach our children to grow and learn; they do that by themselves. We stand beside them and support, we create boundaries and limits to facilitate their sense of safety, and then we stand back.

I’ve written parenting books, and I enjoy picking up the latest parenting book, but I know the big answers are not there.

The big answers are found in present-moment decision making.

Instead of assuming that we know it all or that the books have the right answers, we need to be present and attuned with the person who holds the answer. And then, as my daughter suggested, we just ask.

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