A Magic Parenting Word that Can Help Us All

I have come to think that parents are the most competitive creatures in the world. Parents are constantly comparing their children's development to other kids' progress. Parents are very possessive about their preferred child-raising techniques and tend to judge others for choosing different styles of upbringing. Parents worry excessively if their kids aren't meeting whatever milestones are considered to be the norm and are quick to use labels for why a child isn't precisely "on track."

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Some are hands-on, some are hands-off, some love discipline, some prefer freedom. It's a real Wild West of child-raising philosophies out there, so it's no wonder it feels like a giant competition all the time - to see whose kid turns out "best."

All this competitiveness is utterly ridiculous because there's no way every child can be assessed by the same criteria, nor will every child respond identically to the same upbringing. As any parent of multiple children knows, you might use the same technique for raising all of your kids, but because they have such different personalities, the results will be entirely different. Comparison - and the underlying assumption that all kids are the same and can be compared - is pointless.

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Parents need to slow down, stop comparing, and wait. This word, "wait," is used too rarely in today's frenetic lifestyle. Magda Gerber, a renowned child therapist and infant specialist, considered waiting to be a fundamental part of her child care philosophy. Parents don't wait for their babies and children often enough, since we're always in a mad rush for them to achieve, perform, and do us proud.

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By waiting for children to accomplish things in their own time, we acknowledge that each child has their own "unique developmental timetable." Janet Lansbury explains the different ways in which parents should wait for their children. Here are some of her tips:

-- Wait for development. "Readiness is when they do it," Gerber often said.

-- Wait before interrupting. Allow your child to become an independent self-learner.

-- Wait for problem solving. Children are capable of doing many things on their own.

-- Wait for discovery. "When you teach a child something, you take away forever his chance of discovering it for himself." (Jean Paiget)

-- Wait for feelings to be expressed. Allow the child to process them before we react to our own emotions.

If more parents embraced waiting as an inherent part of raising well-adjusted children, much of the competitiveness would disappear and the whole experience would become a lot more pleasurable for everyone.

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