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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