Modern parenting is full of rules. I don’t mean the rules that parents set for their children. I mean the rules that society sets for us. You know the rules like, ‘Never feed, rock or cuddle your baby to sleep’ or ‘No television before the age of two’. There are heaps of them. If we compiled society’s parenting rules into a list, it would be a very long list, far too long to conveniently fit on your refrigerator. Ironically, it would be exactly what parenting experts say a list of rules shouldn’t be like. Too many rules! Not realistic! Too contradictory! Too confusing! Too difficult to follow! Not consistently enforced! Not enforceable! And rules should tell you what to do not just what not to do! The truth is that some of the rules are useful at times. Some contain a grain of truth. But they should all be held lightly because even a useful rule can get in the way. The trouble is, when your focus is on rule following, you stop noticing what really matters, like whether what you are doing is actually working, or whether you are having fun, or how your child is feeling. So the parent who religiously follows the rule, ‘Never feed, rock or cuddle your baby to sleep’ doesn’t notice that they actually enjoy cuddling their baby to sleep. The parent with the strict ‘No television before the age of two’ rule doesn’t notice that, some days, a little Sesame Street in the background allows them to stay calm and to keep from yelling at their boisterous toddler. Whatever parenting rules others tell you, whatever parenting rules you like to follow, hold them all lightly. Even the rules you find useful. Don’t forget to notice if things are working, if you are enjoying yourself and what your child needs. And, every so often, maybe drop the rules altogether and go with the flow instead. Just for the fun of it.
Apply it to your life: Can you hold the parenting rules lightly?