How many times have you read something written by an expert and thought: Oh, he's an expert. What does he know? He's not here in the trenches with me. Yet, we seem to be a generation of parents hooked on experts. The bookstores are loaded with their books. Magazines feature their words of wisdom. Web sites and radio call-in shows enable you to directly ask them questions. It's understandable. We don't live in a traditional culture anymore when child-rearing do's and don'ts were passed on from Grandma to Mom to us. Things have changed so much since Grandma's and even Mom's time that we often feel their advice is antiquated and ill-suited to today's generation of children.
I remember reading my first book on parenthood 25 ago. It was a book about the benefits of natural childbirth, which inspired me to inform my doctor that I wanted to give birth without medication. He explained the wonders of modern painkillers and tried to spare me the torture of a primitive birth. I thought about what I had read, considered the doctor's advice, and found another doctor who would listen to my needs. Since then, I too, have become an "expert." I conduct parenting workshops, prepare couples for childbirth and counsel breastfeeding mothers. My expertise is based on three things: The unfolding of my own personal philosophy as I raised my family of six children, gaining professional status through studying and becoming certified and perhaps most important, separating my personal philosophy from the information and counseling I offer parents, and learning from the parents themselves how different alternatives can be tailored to fit their needs.
I've never had a problem understanding the advice given in the "how-to" parenting books. I've just had trouble following it. Whether it is talking-to-my-children-so-they will-listen, a la Faber and Mazlish, or applying Adlerian humanism to family dynamics, there has been a gap between knowing what should be done in a given situation and actually doing it.
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