As a parent, have you ever been somewhere with your child, minding your own business, when suddenly, out of the blue, someone gives you unsolicited advice on how you should raise your child?
Perhaps you’re in the grocery store with your toddler sitting in the shopping cart and a mother comes up to you and says, “you know, there are these great new cart covers…you can buy it and bring it with you to the store so your child doesn’t have to come in contact with all of the germs on the cart”. Or maybe you are pregnant and someone decides that you need to know every product they used and how they used it on their newborn.
It’s almost as if, as a parent, you walk around with a large sticker on your forehead saying “give me any and all of your advice on raising a child”.
As a pediatric occupational therapist and psychotherapist I have spent my entire career studying child development and the way things “should” be. When I am out in public I see things, many things that I could comment on. But I don’t. You know why? Because no one asked me to. The mother at the park who has not put her 8 month old down on the grass never asked my opinion about sensory exploration or social interactions. The father of the 2 year old crying and tantruming at the grocery store isn’t asking for my help in regulating his child’s behaviors. Don’t get me wrong. There are many times when I would like to offer a piece of advice or assist with a situation, but just because I have an opinion on how a situation should be handled does not always mean that it is the right opinion or only way to do things. I have no idea what is going on with these families. Catching a 10 minute sliver of their daily lives does not make me an expert on how their family functions.
I believe that there are MANY ways for a child to develop and MANY theories and ideas of how things should be. When I am working with a family, I try to understand what is happening in their family system before I make recommendations. Because I know that unless what I am recommending ‘fits’ with their family lifestyle, I am simply wasting my breath. It is important to understand that not every child is the same and not every family functions the same way. There is never 1 and ONLY 1 way to do things. As long as a child is not at a disadvantage or being harmed, parents need to do what works best for their family.