Last year, I met an older man while I was on a layover at the Fort Lauderdale airport.
Shook my hand.
Asked me what I did for a living and what I was returning to in Tampa.
I explained I was an attorney who blogged and did freelance writing on the side.
He handed me his business card.
Below his name was the title Parenting Expert.
At the time, my then four-year-old daughter was in the throes of having inconsolable tantrums and I wanted his advice.
Running into this guy was like hitting the lottery.
Wide eyed, I asked, How old are your kids?
I don’t have children.
Bear hunting, I thought, He must have said bear hunting expert. Or patenting. He’s a patenting expert.
Oh, I must have misunderstood. I thought you told me you were a parenting expert. What did you say you did for work?
You heard right, I’m a parenting expert.
But you don’t have children?
He looked at his watch, said he needed to use the restroom, and walked away.
Excuse me for assuming that one had to be a parent to be considered an expert in the arena!
I know a secret.
You know the people who consider themselves parenting “experts”?
They don’t exist.
The internet articles that profess the “Do’s and Don’ts” of child rearing?
While offering useful advice, they’re mostly garbage.
The people who sit on panels giving other people advice about how they should raise their kids because they are well-studied “experts” and, therefore, know much better than you do?
They’re full of it.
So are the people who don’t have children who hold themselves out to the public as parenting experts.
There is no such thing as a parenting expert. Everyone is trying to determine how to nurture mother nature. Everyone is just trying to figure it out.
I’ll tell you a personal story.
My oldest daughter, now five, has a lot of grit. She says what’s on her mind and likes to do what she wants to do, when she wants to do it. It can be difficult for her to control her emotions (She get it from her Mama…) and raising her has been challenging.
(Another personal sub-story: when I was pregnant with her, I prayed that God would give me a spitfire instead of a wallflower. I absolutely got what I wished for.)
When my daughter was two, she started having inconsolable tantrums.
Some of them lasted for hours.
She would frequently wake up in the morning and hysterically sob without any known reasons. Her teachers often complained the tantrums disrupted the entire class and would be triggered for silly reasons, one of them being that a classmate simply made eye contact with her. Sometimes during the tantrums, my daughter would become so enraged that she would bang her head on the ground. The tantrums were making her sick and sometimes she would get so worked up that she would vomit.
There was once a time where my daughter was having such a bad tantrum at daycare during drop off that I had to toss her over my shoulder and carry her all the way back to my car kicking and screaming. In the two-minute trek between the classroom and the parking lot, I received text messages from three different friends who witnessed the ordeal and were offering their compassion.
Stay strong! Been there and it’s the pits.
I sat in my car and sobbed to myself.
Why is she doing this? Where have I failed along the way?
My husband and I fruitlessly tried everything we could imagine to stop the tantrums.
Google searches. Appointments with her pediatrician. Meetings with teachers and guidance counselors. Asking other parents. Calling my mom and grandmother. Reaching out to nannies and caregivers with extensive childcare experience. Reading parenting books.
We heard and read the same piece of advice from the “experts” over and over again.
She’s a smart girl who is trying to control the family with the tantrums. You must completely ignore them and they will go away. If you coddle her and give attention to the tantrums, they will indefinitely continue. It is critical that you pay them no mind and be patient. She’ll eventually grow out of it.
So that’s what we did.
We ignored the tantrums.
But they got worse.
One day, during an hour-long tantrum that was triggered by something ridiculous, I defeatedly got down on my daughter’s level, looked her in the face, told her I loved her, and gave her a hug.
The tantrum stopped almost immediately.
We did a few more modifications, such as an earlier bedtime and implementing a strict “time-out” policy but, in sum, the major catalyst for the tantrums ending involved simply getting down on her physical level (e.g., my hands and knees) and hugging her.
This was exactly what all the “experts” told us not to do.
Here’s the deal.
Nobody really knows what they are doing.
All children are different. Just because something works for 99.9% of the population doesn’t mean it is a perfect fit for your child.
Unless you have a rule-following “kid in a box,” you have to do everything you can do until you solve the problem.
Even if it means doing what the “experts” tell you not to do.
One of my friends compared parenting to a scratch-off ticket. You just have to keep trying different options until you hit the jackpot.
And here’s another thing.
Don’t feel like you are a bad parent just because your kid’s behavior stinks.
Keep doing your best and it will probably stop.
Speaking from experience, I felt like a failure that my husband and I couldn’t quickly get a handle on my daughter’s emotions.
My negative thoughts began snowballing into irrational catastrophes.
What if she’s nuts? What if this continues and she gets kicked out of school? What if this behavior rubs off on her little sister? What if, what if, what if?
I was going crazy.
The tantrums eventually subsided. Don’t get me wrong, she still occasionally has them, but they are age appropriate we are usually able to stop it and notice a correlation to lack of sleep the night before.
Girl needs her beauty rest.
Thank God we didn’t rely on the “experts.”
You know your child better than anyone else. Go with what feels right in your gut.