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Breaking parenting rules: parenting your family, your way

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Breaking parenting rules: parenting your family, your way

piece of paper with word "rules" written on it being torn in two
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Parenting rules, more rules and well intended advice

As parents we are constantly told what we “should” be doing with our children. Whether it’s well-meaning relatives telling us how things were done ‘back in their day’ or books or social media. There’s always someone keen to lay down the parenting rules, or share their opinion or advice on the right way to do things.

It’s great that Mummmy921 found a way of doing things that worked for their family. Go her for writing a book about it, or posting on the internet, and telling a friend. The problem is when people assume this strategy will apply to every family. What’s a problem is creating parenting rules from a few people’s experience; the problem is when we advise other people to do what worked for us instead of helping them to figure out what might work for them! The truth is, there is so much out there telling us how to parent our children, it can be really confusing and conflicting.

White person, hand on hip, finger wagging laying down the parenting rules
Advice and contradictions

Cuddle your baby…no, put them down.
Teach your toddler…no, they need to learn for themselves.
Children need strict rules… no, they need freedom.

Imagine a world without parenting rules

We are so bombarded by advice and parenting rules. Do we ever really stop and think about what would work best for us and our families?

What would you do if there were no parenting rules? Nobody telling you how to do things? If there was no best way or right way? That’s wherefore yourself how to use it.

I’m going to use bedtimes as an example as it’s something that every child does, every day. I suspect the vast majority of us have struggled with this at some time or other.

My first baby: following advice

When I had my first baby, they did not sleep…ever! Ok, so maybe not never. However, it was stressful and difficult every single night. It got to a point at around 6 months old that I dreaded bedtime. I would wake up already not looking forward to the end of the day. My midwife told me when they were born that as they got older and stopped falling asleep with milk I had to start putting them down drowsy but awake. Parenting rule number 1! 

So, that’s what I did, every single night. bath. Milk. Into bed to fall asleep. Every single night I would be in and out countless times. They screamed and cried between me going in. Consequently, I got more and more stressed by the whole thing.

This clearly wasn’t working, but that was the advice I had, and from a medical professional. I felt that it was what I had to do.

white in blue hat and top baby crying in cot sleep training and communication cues
A little trial and error

I talked to friends and read books. I tried to work out whether there was anything else I could be doing instead. It turned out there was lots of other options. Some that I liked the sound of and others that I wasn’t so sure about.

I started to work through them and, after some trial and error, I found that sitting by her bed whilst she feel asleep worked. It took less time, and made bedtime less stressful and tear filled all round. It wasn’t perfect, but it worked for us.

As my family has grown, I’ve gone through this process with all of them when it comes to bedtime. Advice became just a way of finding a new option. You don’t have to take it. With each child I learned about them as an individual. I discovered their needs and preferences, and figured out how to balance the needs of older and younger children.

One size doesn't fit all

Every person, every child, every family: they’re all different. And, like so many things, there isn’t a one size fits all approach. What works for naptime doesn’t always work for bedtime; what works for my family won’t work for yours.  

For example, my second child used to refuse to nap unless he had a tea towel on his head. (I know, bizarre, but for him, it just did the trick!) Should I mandate that all babies be settled to nap with a tea towel on their head? Of course not, that’s his foible! However, knowing that what worked for him made our life immeasurably easier.

The good news is, you can apply this technique to absolutely every aspect of parenting and in fact your life! 

No parenting rules: a frightening prospect

So, ignore the parenting rules. Whatever the situation, whatever approach you use to meet the needs of your family; there is literally nobody policing this! That can be a really scary prospect when you don’t know what to choose. It can be terrifying if you don’t trust yourself. There is one reason many new parents have tried to learn all of the parenting rules!

Your family, your way

Start parenting your family, your way

Practically speaking, how do you approach finding your own way? Narrowing down your options can be really helpful.

Do your research
Make a choice

Finally, work out how you want to use all the information you’ve gathered. Some people will just pick an option  that seems to fit their needs and go with it. They may adapt and change it until it works for them.

If you need a more methodical approach, you could write two lists. One list of approaches that you’re comfortable with, and one that you’re not. You can rank options from 1st preference to last resort. Or, discount options that sound difficult or impractical. Pick options out of a hat at random.

Top tips for finding what works

Time to put it into practice. Take your option, and give it a go. Here is some advice for getting it right. Remember, this is only advice, you don’t have to take it! 😉

Understanding human needs

Everyone has needs, but do you know what they are? Really? When you
understand needs it is so much easier to meet them!


Remember, what works for you will not be the same as what works for other people. Your family is made up of individuals, you have a unique family culture. Every person in every family has a unique set of human needs. You need to find the solution that meets the needs of everyone in your family, and that mean breaking the parenting rules, then that’s ok! This is at the heart of every course, workshop and consultation that all CalmFamily consultants run.

Looking for more support?

Our BabyCalm or ToddlerCalm workshops, courses or consultations might be what you are looking for. Read about our courses and workshops and find a consultant near you, or online.

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