Parent to Parent

Too Much Expert Parenting Advice?

by Patti Hermes

woman at workRaising children is hard. Not like “math is hard” or “saving for retirement is hard”, but parenting is really hard. And there’s no shortage of experts to remind us just how hard it can be. Once you think you’ve got one stage figured out and things are going along smoothly, then junior jumps into a new and different stage. Maybe more fun than the last one, maybe not.

With the internet, this explosion of information literally right at our fingertips, there’s plenty of advice to answer our every question as parents. And, of course, not all of our selected advisors, whether paid or unpaid, will agree on what’s best for our children, our families. Because what we are asking for, when we seek the advice of parenting experts, is actually just someone’s opinion. Whether that be an educated opinion, or one based on actual experience, or just plain observation, it’s still just an opinion. And it’s no more valid than your own.

It’s not just the internet that is overflowing with experts who think they know more than you do about your own children. Just try and watch television news and not be inundated with more and more self-proclaimed experts who will now tell you what to think about the news they are analyzing for you. Because how could you possibly understand all by yourself? They think they’re so smart.

Many parents still put up with family doctors who don’t listen when you say your son has strep, or an ear infection, even though he has no fever, because that’s just how he is. Because you can’t possibly know your child is sick without the standard symptoms that he, the doctor, has been trained to recognize. Even after they’ve been proven wrong, those kinds of doctors don’t change. Unless they’re parents themselves (and sometimes even if they are), they just can’t understand how you could possibly know more about your child’s health than they do. But we have ways of dealing with these types of experts. The mother of the sick child doesn’t stop looking for the one who will help her child, while the mother of the well child ignores overbearing and unnecessary advice, both secure in the knowledge that they know their child best.

We should remember that when we deal with the experts in the education community. They are the ones who, in their zeal to justify their own existence, are actually breaking down families. Starting with the insistence on “screenings” of the very young, even before a child is ready for pre-school, these very helpful professionals will undermine the confidence of even the most sure parents (or at least try to). After ignoring several invitations to have my oldest son “screened” for some unknown deficiency, I was even interrogated by the playground patrol.

“Why HAVen’t you had him screened yet?”
“Because I don’t need a stranger to confirm for me that he’s perfectly normal.”
“Oh, but you never can tell.”

Um, yes, you, the parents, both mother and father, usually CAN tell if there’s something not quite right. And you are most likely the best authority on whether it’s just the far side of normal, or something that may need attention.

What about when you do need the help of those experts? That’s when it gets really tricky. When dealing with public schools, especially, once you’ve identified your child’s particular area where he or she needs some extra help, now you will be forced to fight for that help. Yes, after years of being invited to free screenings all over the place, once they are actually given the special needs label, most school districts want to do as little as possible while collecting those precious extra funds. Your best bet is to get together with an army of parents who are in the same boat. There are real experts out there, without all those secret code initials after their names, who can help you navigate the world of IEP’s and behavior plans and medical monitoring while your child is at school all day. Again, the internet can help you find them, and you may be surprised to find out just how many are in your own neighborhood.

This is not to say that all the specialists employed at your child’s school won’t be helpful. Chances are you’ll find someone to take up your child’s cause, but you most likely will be sitting across the table from someone who holds purse strings, and holds them very tightly. Or you may be up against a teacher who advocates medicating students into compliance, just to make the teacher’s day go smoothly. And, as some parents have shared with me, once a plan is in place for your child for one school year, everything can change the next year. And you start all over again, sometimes with a whole new team.

But don’t let the experts get you down. Whether you need them, or feel they’re butting into where they don’t belong, always remember that you are the parent. You are the Best Parent for your child. And all of the expert advice that’s out there is just a bunch of opinions, to be listened to or discarded at your discretion. You know what’s best for your child. In the end, everything is up to you, so have the confidence of your convictions. You will make the right decisions, because you know your child best.

Patti Hermes

Patti Hermes, Parent to Parent, is living the dream with her high school sweetheart, raising their boys in the Midwest because it's a good starting point for epic road trips. While writing, reading and homeschooling take up most of her time, she still blogs at HermesParent to ParentParentingParent to Parent Too Much Expert Parenting Advice? by Patti Hermes Raising children is hard. Not like 'math is hard' or 'saving for retirement is hard', but parenting is really hard. And there's no shortage of experts to remind us just how hard it can be. Once...Parenting Advice| Family Fun Activities for Kids