Have you ever tried to give some well meaning parenting advice to a friend and gotten shut down? Maybe you’ve been on the other end of someone’s excellent parenting advice and found it hard to swallow. Sometimes we fight against the parenting techniques and philosophies that differ from what we have experienced. Sometimes we are scared to share something that might help a friend for fear that our advice will land on deaf ears or worse yet, will offend them.
We will all have the opportunity to be on both the giving and the receiving end at some point. We all have something valuable to give. I’ve found over the course of teaching parenting classes that I have learned incredible things from parents that were there to learn from me. We can truly find great strength and improvement from the feedback and wisdom of other parents, but we have to be open to it.
Is this a parenting class?
Years ago I attended a very well known parenting class. It was an all day seminar where both professionals and parents were in attendance. I didn’t agree with everything said in the class but for the most part, there was some excellent information shared. Just before lunch time we had a question and answer period, during which a woman that was sitting close to me asked a question about how to deal with a specific behavior she was facing with her school aged son. The presenter answered the question in accordance with his particular philosophy, but it was apparent that she did not care for his answer. Minutes later I walked with a group of parents, this woman included, across the street to get lunch. As we sat down to lunch she said, “Who does he think he is to tell me how to parent my kid?” I thought to myself, “Were we in the same place? I thought this was a parenting class, where people come to learn to parent their kid more effectively.” It wasn’t the fact that she disagreed that amazed me. It was that she was so offended and upset that she threw out all other valuable information that was shared. She missed the opportunity to grow because of one miscommunication.
Take parenting advice like a ninja
I recently came across a quote by the great martial artist, Bruce Lee that communicates beautifully the 3 steps for making any parenting education, advice or criticism most effective in our life and the life of our family, no matter if the advice was solicited or not.
Bruce Lee said, “Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.”
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Take Bruce Lee’s 3 Steps
1. Absorb what is useful: Evaluate education, advice or criticism for truth before you do anything else. Don’t allow strong defensive emotions to cloud your ability to learn and take what is useful. Regardless of where the principles or practices come from, accept the principles that are helpful. Look for what is TRU. I think we often feel defensive when we learn new or different ways of doing things because we feel that if this new way is best for us, that in some way means we were wrong before. Or we might feel it devalues what we or our parents did in the past. I am yet to find a parenting program, book or even another parent that I cannot glean something true, useful and powerful from. Sometimes one person or book will say the very same thing that was written by someone else but because of how they said it, it resonates with me and I am finally able to put it into practice. Look for insight. Seek the “aha” moments that can be found everywhere!
2. Discard what is not: Don’t be offended. Let it go. You don’t have to accept everything everyone says. Yes, there is, without a doubt, value in someone’s critique but that doesn’t mean that everything will apply to you and your family’s specific situation. I share the philosophy and techniques of TRU parenting with parents all the time, but when it come down to their specific situation, I challenge them to use the basic principles to help them find solutions that work best for their own family and situation. Discarding what is not useful to you does not require that we are mean or cruel about it. It only requires that we challenge ourselves to find the solutions that work best.
Imagine that you have been given a basket full of fresh and nutritious fruits and vegetables. There are apples, bananas, celery, grape, carrots, broccoli and oranges, but you are allergic to bananas and carrots are too hard for you to chew. Some might refuse the whole basket and go back to eating gruel. Instead, why don’t we say “no thank you” to the bananas, steam the carrots and accept the rest of the basket with gratitude.
3. Add what is uniquely your own: Every parent has an incredible level of intuition and wisdom. We all have a unique personality and so do our children. You know your children better than anyone. You can accept the TRU principles you learn from various sources and then you can find the greatest application. If we continue the analogy of the nutritious basket of food, we might resolve that there are certain varieties of foods that provide greatest health benefits but how each of us prepare those foods can differ greatly. Some may season them while others throw them in a blender and make a smoothie. In the same way, there are principles and patterns that promote healthy parenting and families but how we cook them up and season them can look very different in different households. Know your strengths and build upon them.
Be the best you can be
These principles of growth apply in all areas of our lives. Parenting is an area that many of us feel very vulnerable in and so advice and subsequent change and improvement can sometimes be difficult. We can make it easier by letting go of the defensiveness and begin to learn and grow together. Absorb those things that help us more effectively teach our children most effectively, build strong relationships and upgrade ourselves. Discard the things that don’t fit. Ultimately, become an expert on parenting your child and living your life the best you can be!
Question: What is the worst parenting advice you’ve ever gotten? What is the best?
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