Advice from Grandparents (You Should Probably Ignore)
“Oh honey, cherish every moment. It goes by so fast.” Despite my sleep-deprived brain, I somehow managed a smile, but I wanted to scream. The older woman behind us in line at the grocery store had good intentions, but her words hit me wrong. I was a single mom with a two-year-old and a three-year-old, and it had been a rough day. Honestly, it had been a rough year. I wasn’t exactly in the mood to hear someone romanticize my current situation.
It seems to be a favorite sport for more seasoned parents, especially grandparents, to share their hard-earned knowledge with the newbies, whether they want to hear it or not. To be fair, some of the advice may be very good, and some may be welcome. My advice for grandparents is to not give your opinion unless asked for it. My advice for young parents (which is in itself contradictory): Listen politely and then do whatever you know is best. Here are the five pieces of commonly given advice and my rebuttal to them.
1. Treasure each moment. The years go by in a blink.
Although I understand the sentiment entirely, it may come across as insensitive. I remember feeling exhausted and thinking each day was dragging on forever when I was home with two little ones. The years may go by fast, but some days seemed to last for a month.
2. We did it this way, and we all survived.
No, we didn’t all survive. Since we started putting babies to sleep on their backs, the rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome has decreased. Since we began using car seats, children have been more likely to survive car accidents. To paraphrase Maya Angelou, “When we know better, we do better.” Science is constantly evolving, and we are the beneficiaries of the knowledge if we choose to use it.
3. Put the baby down. You’re spoiling them.
Experts used to believe we should not coddle babies. Those “experts” advised parents to let babies cry and learn to be independent. Thank goodness, we now know that it is essential to respond to a baby’s cries in the first year. When parents respond to a baby’s cries, it teaches trust and helps children develop healthy attachments. If your baby cries excessively, discuss it with the pediatrician. In the first year of life, hold that baby all you want.
4. Spare the rod, spoil the child.
Baby Boomers grew up in an era when it was common to spank children. Spankings were often given with a switch, a paddle, or a belt. Spankings might have temporarily made children behave better, but corporal punishment also created fear, distrust, and resentment. If a child’s brain stays in fear mode for an extended period, the results may eventually be anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The current thinking is that a parent should discipline instead of punish. There is a difference. Click on this link to read about the negative impact of spanking and effective alternatives.
5. Clean Plate Club
It was common in the 1950s and ’60s for children to be required to eat everything on their plate and be a member of the “clean plate club.” I have heard horror stories from my friends who were forced to sit at the table until they had eaten everything on their plates. I was fortunate that my parents were ahead of their time and never made food an issue. We had healthy food offered at every meal, and we could eat what we wanted. While it’s good to attempt to get your child to try new foods, it is not a good idea to force it. Also, it is much healthier to teach children to listen to their body’s signals and only eat when they are hungry. Childhood is the time to develop a healthy relationship with food.
Grandparents often do have good advice. After all, we successfully raised our kids, the parents of our grandchildren. Give us some credit. However, time does change some things and as knowledge evolves, so does the expert advice for raising children. As a grandparent, I try very hard not to give unsolicited advice. I haven’t been perfect. I know I’ve opened my mouth and talked when I should have remained silent. I’m lucky that my grandchildren’s parents have cut me some slack and forgiven me. They know what they’re doing. Young parents need to find their own parenting styles and do what they know is best for their children. Listen to the grandparents, sort the good advice from the bad, and then make your own decisions. And if you ever hear me utter those dreaded words, “Cherish every minute. It goes by so fast,” feel free to ignore me.