The Washington Post Parenting Expert, Meghan Leahy, is a mom of three school-aged girls and a parenting coach. Like her clients and readers, she grew weary of the endless “shoulds” of modern parenting—along with the simplistic rules and advice that often hurt more than help.
Her recent book, Parenting Outside the Lines: Forget the Rules, Tap Into Your Wisdom, and Connect with Your Child, explores a new approach, offering permission to practice imperfect parenting with a strong dose of common sense, empathy and laughter. Each chapter offers real-life examples, followed by questions that will help you reflect and gain perspective on trusting your gut, picking your battles, and when to question what’s “normal” (as opposed to what works best for your child).
Ask yourself these key questions the next time you get stuck.
When You Need to Regain Your Parenting Confidence
- Do you believe you have your own unique parenting intuition? Can you trust your intuition? How often do you push back or give up?
- What are your physical symptoms that you are out of step with your intuition? Do you sweat, clench your jaw, do your hands fist up, does your breathing become shallow, does your stomach hurt, do your shoulders rise to your ears? Do your best to slow down and understand the somatic reactions to feeling out of step (and yes, there are always reactions in the body).
When You’re Feeling Stretched and Stressed
- Do you truly have the time and money for the activities that interest your family? Most find a way to “make it work,” but stretching yourself too thin is not in anyone’s best interest.
- Have I set up my children for success? For example, have I provided my children with a schedule, let them know who will be there, and had them gather some toys and snacks for themselves?
When You Need to Re-Evaluate Your Support System
- Are you befriending people who ground you? Or do they keep you twisting in the wind of parenting anxiety?
Sadly, among the list of people who keep you twisted up are family members. Don’t throw them all away; just recognize how much energy you are giving these people and stop doing that (if you feel chronically anxious and belittled). Stop asking for and receiving their advice.
Corinne Canning is the associate manager of editorial and marketing for National PTA.