You can watch the video version of this post on my Facebook page.
Today, our topic is that YOU are the expert on your child. Those of you who have been following me for a while know that there’s kind of two flavors of class that I run- the more research-based ones and the more opinion-based ones. And tonight is firmly in the opinion based category. I think it’s important and that a lot of people need to hear it, even if intellectually you already know this. Often I have Moms come to me and say that some professional- a doctor, a therapist, a teacher, a school administrator, whoever has made them feel like they don’t know what’s best for their kid. That they’re stupid. That, as a parent, they just DON’T have the knowledge to make decisions for their child. And there are very few things that make my blood boil more than that. I have vivid memories of being in program planning meetings and seeing so-called experts STEAMROLLING over mothers. I’ve STOPPED meetings and pulled Moms out to give them this talk. As a Mom, I’ve also experienced it, and multiple times already I’ve had to rip some new assholes over it. So I’ve experienced this phenomenon from MULTIPLE angles. And it PISSES ME OFF.
Let’s get something straight: NOBODY knows your kid like you do.
You are the one who sat up all night with them as infants, you are the ones who feed them, comfort them when they’re sick, know what they find funny, know what ticks them off. NOBODY- except perhaps maybe your co-parent- knows your kid like you do.
If you feel like something is ICKY- like something is WRONG- IT IS WRONG. Full stop. There’s no if ands or buts about it. If ANYONE is trying to talk you into something that you just feel fundamentally uneasy and not okay with- DO NOT DO IT.
I’m not saying listen to your first knee-jerk reaction. Sometimes people make suggestions that- at the moment make us go HELL NO… but then we ask questions, we clarify, we try and understand their perspective and what they think they’re going to achieve and how. And we go oh… yeah okay I can get on board with that. I’m not sure that that’s exactly how I would have gone about it or even if it’s going to work, but obviously how I’m going about it isn’t working so sure, let’s try it your way. We all need help, being the expert on your child does not mean you have to unilaterally have ALL the answers. We all need to get out of our own heads and get input from others. Even I do! I have colleagues who are also parenting coaches and we coach each other because even though we have the knowledge and the know-how when it comes to OUR OWN kids, we’re often just to close to it to really make an effective plan and we need someone else to help us put the pieces together. It’s like doing a really complicated algebra equation in your head. You can have all the skills and know the order of operations but when you’re stuck in your head it’s easy to start overthinking it and second-guessing yourself and getting confused. BUT- if you find someone else who also knows algebra and you talk it out with them, suddenly you’re able to work through it. You still didn’t write it down, you still didn’t need the other person to teach you anything- you just needed to get out of your own head. Sometimes we’re just too close to our own kids to see them clearly. Which is when having a coach or a professional or even a friend to talk it out with is really extremely valuable. And sometimes those conversations expose a hole in our knowledge and we have to seek out more input. THAT DOES NOT MAKE YOU LESS OF AN EXPERT ON YOUR CHILD.
But then there are other times- and these are the harder ones because they’re deceptive- where someone makes a suggestion that your initial knee-jerk reaction is “OH- that sounds awesome! Yes, I want that outcome!” But then you get into the nitty gritty of it and the more they flesh out this suggestion the more you go “Oh, no, I don’t think I’m okay with that.” This is SO MUCH HARDER because then you start to doubt yourself. You generally have a thought process like “Well, but they say this is the way to get the outcome I want. Maybe I’m wrong? Maybe I’m too soft? This person is a doctor/therapist/coach/teacher. They know kids. I just know my kid. So they must know what they’re talking about even though this feels fundamentally wrong. They seem pretty confident this will work. And I do want that outcome, maybe this is the only way.“
And again, I’m not saying to reject anything you don’t think will work just because you can’t see it working. I know from personal experience sometimes I give a suggestion and people look at me like I’ve grown a second head and are like “I don’t see how that could possibly help.” If the ONLY objection you have to a suggestion is that you don’t think it will work- then do some more digging and reconsider. Often the most out-there suggestions I give are the ones that work THE BEST. Or, if the only objection you have is that it sounds like a LOT of effort. Also, do more digging. No pain, no gain is true way too often. That doesn’t make you any less of an expert on your child. Because sometimes you’re just too close! Or you don’t have the ability to see the bigger picture. I’m talking about suggestions that you are NOT OKAY WITH on a moral, fundamental level after you’ve heard the background and the methodology and the science behind it. That gives you that icky feeling in your gut. There is ALWAYS more than one way to skin a cat. Anyone who says “THIS IS THE ONLY WAY!” is probably wrong. That doesn’t mean there won’t be a trade-off- like that it’s going to take longer or be more labor intensive or more painful. BUT- there is generally another way, and maybe you’re on board for that path for whatever your reasons are. That’s where your expert status comes in. Your priorities are your priorities. And here sleep training comes to mind as a good example. I’m a big sleep training advocate. But, I have had clients who have just flat out refused to allow SLIPing, even if they say that getting sleep is a top priority. And that might be because they’d rather be sleep deprived than hear their child scream- because their mental health can’t handle that. That might be a religious or a personal belief they have. Like- the science doesn’t lie- sleep training is safe and effective. BUT IF THEY DON’T WANT TO because their priorities lay elsewhere, well then you’re still going to be able to teach your kid to sleep but the trade off is it’s likely going to take way longer and be very labor intensive. I, personally and professionally, think that’s a horrible trade-off but IT’S NOT MY KID. I don’t get to choose the priorities for someone else’s kid. Doesn’t matter that I’m a child development specialist and that I think SLIPing is the best avenue- IT’S NOT MY KID. THE PARENTS are the expert on their child. Now that might mean the professional you’re working with might not be the best fit, and sometimes that can be worked around and sometimes that can’t. There are 7.5 billion people on the planet, I can guarantee you there are ALWAYS alternatives. Use your expert status to find one that is in alignment with your priorities.
And sometimes it does happen that the decision you’re making DOES feel icky but at the same time deep down in your bones you know this is what is in the best interest of your child. That’s exactly how I felt moving my oldest son on to formula. At the moment it felt AWFUL. But I made the best choice of formula I could, I wasn’t comfortable with feeding him milk from some random off the internet, I wasn’t eligible for the screened milk bank local to us, I didn’t have any super lactating friends I trusted who were offering to pump for me, so even though it made me feel icky I knew deep down in my bones this was the best choice for him and for me. Generally, with this kind of choice, I find that it feels icky until the decision is made and then once the unknown wears off it’s a lot more comfortable. And like- in my situation- it stopped feeling icky almost instantly once I stepped into it and owned it. That didn’t make me any less of an expert on my child. In fact, it made me the ULTIMATE expert because once I had all the information I made a choice based on my priorities and what felt like the best decision for all of us.
ALL this to say- under no circumstances should you allow ANYONE to bully you into making a decision you don’t feel is in their absolute best interest. Don’t let ANYONE tell you that your priorities are wrong. Don’t let ANYONE tell you they know better than you do and you should surrender your decision-making rights over to them. Don’t let anyone make you feel stupid or like less than the expert you are for asking questions and gathering data- because that’s EXACTLY what experts DO. Don’t let anyone make you feel like any less of an expert for seeking out other experts you trust and consulting with them and learning from them. That makes you more of an expert, not less!
How’s everybody feeling about that? I know it can feel scary, and I know it’s easy to feel like you’re not the expert- but when you’re feeling lost and the least like you know how to help your child, that’s your red flag cue that it’s time to start connecting with others and assembling your team and seeking out more knowledge and guidance from someone who you trust. Again, seeking guidance doesn’t remove your expert status- because you can and probably will disagree with them on some things still- but seeking help from other experts reinforces and enhances your expert status, it doesn’t remove it.