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Parenting is NOT One-Size-Fits-All

By , Hillary Copsey

The advice starts pouring in as soon as your belly starts to show.

First, they want to tell you how to give birth. Then, they have wisdom about how to feed the baby. Breastfeeding, bottle feeding--doesn't matter. The world has opinions and those opinions don't care what's working best for you and your child and your lives. Just when you thought no one could have any more to say about food, it's time to start solids. Actually, it probably was time a month ago. Unless you've already started, in which case, that's too early! The food advice slows only when the questions about the big developmental milestones start flowing. ''Is he walking yet? Has she started talking? Here's how you get them ready…''

And of course, there's the mother of all parenting advice: ''Enjoy them now! They grow so fast."

Some of my best parenting tricks have come from the advice of others. My sister taught me how to diaper a baby boy to prevent leaks. My mom helped me learn to ignore the small tantrums of a toddler. I got my boys to at least try everything on their plates thanks to the advice of a blogger. A preschool teacher taught me how to turn on my sons' ''listening ears'' before issuing commands. I'm all for using the wisdom of the masses to make my life easier.

But I've also gotten some really rotten advice, advice that makes life harder if only by its existence. That bit about enjoying them now, for example. I'm all for that when my boys are snuggly and cute, using their listening ears and telling elaborate stories about their imaginary friends. It gets a bit more difficult when they're running away from me in a store or screaming over some imagined slight. Why is it always at this moment that people--generally grandmotherly women--choose to tell me to enjoy every last moment? I know that someday, I'm going to miss them being this little--tantrums and all--but emotionally, at that instant, it feels like they're just being jerks. Cute jerks, perhaps, but jerks nonetheless.

Other bad advice is not unilaterally bad, but just not good for my particular kids. One night at a restaurant, following the advice of I don't know how many mothers and grandmothers, including our well-meaning waitress, we made our oldest take ''just one more bite'' of the fish he'd told us he did not like. He vomited all over the table. Everywhere. I was more traumatized than he was. We still make him try everything on his plate, but once he says he doesn't like something, it's over for that meal.

With my 2-year-old, we had been following all the parenting wisdom that tells you to ignore small tantrums. This advice worked well with my oldest, but the youngest is a different child. Ignoring the first little yells and stomps only allows him to work himself into a tizzy. Pretty soon, he's throwing things and trying to hit you. It's not pretty. We've learned to ignore conventional wisdom and intervene as soon as he shows signs of frustrations.


What's the worst parenting advice you've ever gotten? Is there any conventional advice that just doesn't work for your kids?

Hillary Copsey is a newspaper features editor in Florida with experience writing about everything from population trends to health-care issues. As the mother of two boys, she also is versed in searching for daycares, cooking healthy dinners on the fly and playing with trucks. She co-writes the blog Not raising brats. She writes about parenting for dailySpark and

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Absolutely true information. Report
Every kid is different, thanks Report
EVIE4NOW 5/10/2020
Different kids, different methods. Report
Tailor to each unique individual Report
Parenting is the trickiest job. Report
Excellent Report
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thank you Report
As an experienced parent of two really fantastic young men, here is my best advice. Each child is different, each day is different. What works for one child or one day, won't work for another child or another day. Love them. Listen to them. Be consistent. If it is no today, it is no tomorrow. Accentuate their positive traits. Help them deal with their negative traits. Celebrate their individuality. Never take them to the store tired. All children need good male role models. Make sure yours have them. Tap into their curiosity. Love them some more. Report
The best advice I got was from my mother. Treat them like individuals. Different things worked for each of my children. I know it's popular to try to treat everyone the same, this is thought of as fair, but they are not the same. So I try to give each one of my children exactly what they need at any given moment. My youngest is turning 18 this week. My children have become wonderful adults, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Report
great advice, thank you! Report
I am having a hard time dealing with my 6 year old. It's not that I can't deal with him but it seems that he is just out of control. He is hyper active and it seems when he doesn't get his way he screams, cries, just is out of control. I tried everything from marble jar to taking stuff away. He does like to play on our smart phones or computers. I limited his time on here and it still doesn't seem to work. Report
My best childhood friend didn't have a clue on how to raise children. Didn't want any advise, because she knew it all. I quit letting my kids hang out with hers. Her 3 kids were some of the most ill mannered, disrespectful, obnoxious children I have ever had the displeasure to be subjected to. I accurately predicted that her son, as a teenager, would be involved in drugs and offering it to the other kids.
Her children are now young adults, all with police records, varing from minor offences to felonies.
I think if they'd been raised right, they would have turned out to be great kids. But she would not take anyones advise and wanted to make her own mistakes.

When my children were little and making me wonder why I ever wanted to become a parent, my mother-in-law pointed out that one day we would laugh at all the things that drove us nuts when the kids were little. I didn't believe it at the time, but today I look forward to those family dinners where the kids share stories they remember from when they were little and "into everything," whether they were supposed to be or not. We have many funny stories that are so much fun to share! Just as no two people are exactly alike, every parent is different and deals with different children than any other parent. While there are some real pearls of wisdom handed down from generation to generation, we need to accept our own instincts as the best guide. If WE think our child is spoiled, perhaps he/she is, but it isn't up to anyone else to judge our parenting strategies! Report
I find each child needs to be handled differently and each incident too. Report
Opinions are like rear ends - everyone has one but while yours works for you mine is better for me to use.
I might not have kids, but even I know that advice only goes so far. The parent needs to mold the advice into what works for them. If it works for someone else then it *might* work for you, but that's for you to decide. Though, I'm someone who gives advice (then has people dump on me because they're disgusted I might know something they don't when I haven't had the pleasure of having my own children - thank you very much for pointing out that horrendous fact) because I've studied the body, pregnancy, birth, and child rearing for many years (because I wanted to plan ahead for the family I wanted). I do so because I care and I want people to see they have options. How many parents know that newborns only see in black and white, then bold colors, and eventually pastels so to stimulate their brains you should follow that trend with decorating and toys? If someone has their hearts set on having pastel colors surrounding their baby from the first day, then go for it - it won't hurt me if you ignore what I say. But don't tell me that I'm stupid and useless because I haven't been there. Just because I haven't done it myself doesn't mean I couldn't know more thank you think I do. When finding a doctor for your baby do you refuse to see a single male because he's obviously too stupid to treat your child?

*getting off soapbox*
My point is don't deny advice based on prejudicial ideas. Weigh the advice with your knowledge and experience then choose what you believe is best. If what you choose doesn't work, revisit the advice you've gotten, do some research, and try again. A lot of advice is given out of care/love/a want to help, but it's always up to the parent to make the final choice. Report
I when my second child was also a girl, I thought having 2 girls would make life easier. WRONG! They couldn't be more different. What worked for the oldest didn't work for her younger sister. Thankfully I learned the lesson and didn't expect daughters 3 and 4 to be like either older sister. Report
Someone once told me that no one else will ever have my child's best interests at heart and when they are still too young to make decisions and stand up for themselves, no one else will do it for him/her. So as their mother, I must always trust my instinct and do what I think is the best for my child. I think that advice is perfect and fits all areas of their life from infancy up to adulthood. I just pray that I do the best in getting my children ready for when they become adults, parents, etc. Report
Yup, each one is a little (or a lot) different. What works for one doesn't necessarily work for others and what works one day may be totally off the next. There really is much good advice out there. I hope you can always find what works best for you and yours. Report
I have two children that are 14 months apart, but they are night and day in many aspects. I pay little attention to advice telling me to treat them equally or to be fair. After all, there differing personalities require different consequences and discipline. I have no problem considering advice, but I usually know best about whether the advice needs tweaking or just won't work at all. Report
Actually, I'm going to share a POSITIVE from a friend who had a wonderful, old-fashioned pediatrician w/ her kiddos. When something would come up, he would ask her what her "mommy-gut" was telling her. -- What a GREAT way to encourage and build up a mom in making choices and decisions for her kids!
(...too bad there aren't more people like that!) Report
I have five children and they all slept with me when they were small, which of course now they say you shouldn't do. Worked for me just fine. Report
At three months old my child started crying ALL the time and I got tons of advice to let them "cry it out", even their doctor said I was making too much of I bundled her up because I just knew something was wrong and took her to the hospital. She has spinal meningitis (hope I spelt that right). So there to all the people that wanted me to close the door on her -- moms know best! Report
The "one more bite" story traumatized me too. Three adults tried to get a child (my son) to finish his milk at this expensive restaurant. He was full, but with 3 adults picking on him he drank it. And of course he promptly threw up and continued to throw up all the way to the restroom. argh! Report
Who knows your child better than you...I dare say no one.
Build a loving trusting relationship...which requires listening, boundaries and a little faith and trust. Advice is like an opinion ...everyone has some...useful or not!!! Report
My favorite is when you get advice from people who don't have children! They just seem to have all the answers ;) Report
Nothing like getting parenting advice when a: you're not pregnant, just fat, b: not married, don't want any kids, and/or c: you've got Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and it's either very difficult or impossible to conceive anyway! Lessons for all you grandmas and other well-meaning folks out there - see a lady who looks in her twenties, thirties or forties who has a bit of a belly, just shut up until you actually see a kid in her arms... Thanks :) Report
The best parenting advice I ever received was from my doctor when my son was 2 and I was worried about him not reaching a milestone as quickly as his peer. She asked how tall the peer was and how many teeth he had and when I looked puzzled, she explained that my son had just finished both a growth spurt and had several more teeth than his peers and that kids bodies and minds tend to focus on one thing at a time so when they're growing quickly, it sometimes takes a bit longer for their brains to catch up with their bodies and when they're fast tracking mentally, it can take time for their motor skills to catch up.
My babies are 20 & 25 today and that advice has been true all through their growing years. :) Report
I despise the old classic "Spare the rod, spoil the child".

Raising my children I learned that even between a pair of siblings 13 months apart, the form of discipline that was effective could vary a LOT - and almost never needed to be physical and painful. (And as one of several siblings who ALL received physical discipline, aka paddlings, I saw from that perspective how little benefit it did in raising us "proper".) Report
I've gotten a lot of the "ignore the whining, they will stop" lately for my daughter. Well I don't care about that advice anymore! The whining is much more manageable than the scream fest that ensues when she is ignored! Don't get me wrong, I don't cater to the whine, but straight up ignoring her is like calling all the demons from hell up for a party! SO that of course turns into the lovely advice of "well you obviously give in and give her what she wants-so she's going to get that way" .. NO! I give UP and walk out of the house before I smack her silly! No one needs that stress. Report
I don't believe in re-inventing the wheel so I am always interested in tips and advice. But I know my children better than anyone else does, so ultimately I have to choose to do what I think is best. I'm not perfect and neither are they, but we have done well! Report
I have two very different daughters. One has always been a good listener, always willing to be helpful, kind and very much involved in her school work. The other is a button in pushing the buttons that lead me straight to frustration levels. I love them both for who they are...button pushing and all.

I try very hard not to give parenting advice, and when I was getting that unsolicited advice I'd smile and say thank you, but still did it my own way. My girls are grown now for the most part (the oldest is 22 and away at college while the youngest is 18 and a senior in HS), and I have no regrets at all in how I raised them. I looked at what I liked and didn't like about my own mother's style of raising me, and did what felt right. Before my mother passed away, she told me I was a better mother to my kids than she'd been to me. I disagreed with her. She was a wonderful mother for the difficult child I'd been. (Yeah, I can admit that.)

Every generation is different, and there are no experts on child raising in my opinion. Report
Great blog and I agree! My two boys are different children at times and other, like twins! It's pretty funny. The much funnier part is to see my youngest who is JUST like I was at his age. Good of course, hee hee. I have learned to have more patients at these times thinking of how my Mom was... better then any advise others have given me! I go with my gut and we seem to be raising very polite, caring, and God loving boys! That makes me happy. Like someone said above, I learned to filter the advise. Now with my oldest heading to high school the advise has started up again, and some... oh boy, hee hee. Best of luck with your children! Enjoy!!! Thanks for the blog! Report
Sophia Loren, I read once, said thank you and smiled graciously while she wore what she called "in and out earrings" when she was offered unsolicited parenting advice. Report
amen. i have 3 kids that are very close in age (18, 16, and 15) and their entire lives i have parented each of them somewhat differently based on their individual personalities. so far so good. Report
Kids are like Baskin Robbins - there's a multitude of flavors, each one is different and deliscious. Report
Torampaul, your friend would be telling you how to raise your kids whether she had one kid or 10. (Having "only" one child doesn't make you a lesser parent. She might have plenty of knowledge that a mom of several does not. But no one should give unsolicited advice.) I agree with you about the only sound piece of advice: you don't have to listen to anyone's advice!
I have three children, and something we quickly learned with our middle child is that what works for one does not necesarily work for the other(s). They are different children with different strengths, weaknesses and character.
The best advice anyone gave me when I was pregnant with my first child is "Don't take anyone's advice". And that's the only piece of advice I've ever taken :)
I especially hate it when a particular friend tries to tell me how to raise my three children, when she only has ONE, and this child runs the house (as Dr.Phil would say, "the tail wags the dog" in that family).
I've filtered out all parenting advice..I just do my own thing. Report