Why I Don’t Parent By The Book

May 5, 2015

Why I Don't Parent by the Book

I’m sure as I publish this I will regret it. Maybe? I don’t know, but I figure there will be lots of discussion that will ensue and people will think I’m hatin’ on the books. Looks ladies, hear my heart on this. This isn’t about the books. It’s about the heart. That’s why I’m writing. We all need rules & boundaries and all that good stuff for our kids. Heck, there are good tidbits out there in those books. But today, I’m writing to your hearts. From one type-a mama to another.

For years I’ve been asked what parenting book I use. I always reply honestly and in the words of a good friend “We’re just wingin’ it over here.” We do not parent by a book at our house. I didn’t actually know that was a ‘thing’ until I had my first son.

So the big question: Why did you choose not to parent by the book?

We probably never adopted a book because honestly I could never find a book I loved enough to be my guide. At first I thought I was being naive by not reading. I must be missing something. Everyone else was using books and techniques that I wasn’t. Maybe my kids would be lacking in something. I didn’t know what exactly, but I felt that way in the beginning.

My kids don’t fit the ‘norm.’ Sure in some things they do, but in others I sense a specialness. It’s like a distinct God-like fingerprint was left just for me to discover, as a treasure in pieces of my kid’s personalities.

Each child has them. Yours. Mine. Some days these little treasures are beautiful and joyful. Sometimes they’re handed to me completely jagged and raw; left for me to figure out. A specific task just for me as their mommy that is part of their soul’s uniqueness.

If forced into a mold their spirits will conform, for we are their mommies and most children want nothing more than to please their mommies.

In the process, the heart piece I’m in charge of, will be lost.

My two boys have very different personalities. Our oldest is the rule follower, social butterfly – typical first born. The second is determined, silly, vocal and independent. I’m thankful that I get tasked with the challenge of figuring my kids out…

…because kids will make you go crazy and cause stress and frustration. Yet, in the same breath they are like waves of grace poured over us each day with the joy and individual pieces of their personality that speak to parts of our souls we didn’t even know we needed to have someone speak to.

Our guards are down because they are a piece of us and so the hard days are harder and the good days are gooder.

I think that’s why parenting seems so hard. It’s like we’re constantly conflicted and blessed with pieces of our souls running around outside of our bodies in the form of little people.

Being a verbal child from a young age we worked really hard with our oldest on being able to verbalize feelings early on. It solved a lot of frustrations and potential freak-out moments at the grocery store because he could share how he was feeling it a moment.

It also allowed me to navigate my own Type-A personality when it came to things like discipline. Cuz folks, I can go there with rules and regulations, but my spirit knows I need to not go there all the time.

Andy Stanley spoke about this very thing at #Drive15 Conference and I’m so thankful my post published when it did (during his sermon) because I got to edit really quickly to add this nugget of wisdom:

Preserve the Relationship > Rules – What worked for Child #1, doesn’t work for Child #2! A rigid system will always work for 1 kid.Good parents break their own rules all the time.  — Andy Stanley

When I’m asked “what book do you follow?” I usually encourage moms in ONE area.

Whatever you choose have the ability to discern modifications need for each child. I know my rules and discipline are only effective for so long, if I don’t have my kids’ hearts.

The days you need to modify the plan, isn’t abandoning discipline. The day your child has an outburst at the store. Guess what? We’ve all been there as moms and our child isn’t an unruly child. They had a bad day.

Think of all the ups and downs we experience as adults. As grown-ups we throw temper tantrums almost daily, they just look a little different. We know we can’t go marching around huffing loudly because the woman at Target cut in front of us. I probably have a whole lot of adult-sized words running thru my mind because she just made me late though.

Just saying. That’s me. Trying to be real here haha! Sometimes adults don’t even have words for how we feel, yet we expect our kids to have the self-control and forethought of grown-ups.

Each child is uniquely created & woven together. As a parent one of our soul responsibilities is to guide them in the way they should go. Consistency in approach is great, but this is where me and the books come to a bit of a fork in the road.

Hearing the needs of my child, is a heart/love moment. We don’t talk about the gut mom-instinct piece much anymore. It’s a gray area and it’s one that is unique to each parenting relationship with their child.

What happens if my child thinks differently, feels differently than other kids, senses things stronger or has a hard time sensing emotion all together?

Remembering back to before Jack was born I loved this quote from Michelle Duggar. Love her or hate her, I think she has some very sound parenting advice and she said, “If I don’t have my child’s eyes, I don’t have their heart.” I loved this and have used this with Jack.

I used this not as a form of control, but as an instant heart connection.

Can I connect for one second with you? From a mom to another mom:

You’re doing great. Trust your instincts (heart & mind). We might have to break thru some instinctive fears, but we’re equipped to raise these little ones. Let’s start throwing off the expectations of our rules we have and feel confident that we don’t have to have it figured out in the eyes of the world to raise an amazing child!

As I continue to walk forward I realize being a parent is an everyday learning experience. To be fair, some of these books have great structures and systems that lay a good template foundation. Black and white is helpful, but what about the gray areas? Gray area is really hard to give examples for.

I like to think life with kids tends to operate in the gray.

My boys aren’t high maintenance. We do timeouts. We have discipline. They sleep 13+ hours a night. I chose to nurse them exclusively until a certain point (Jack was 15 months, Charlie 10 months – her was a little biter – I cut him off so fast! haha).

What have I learned in that time?

Having kids is a daily dose of exhausting awesomeness and coffee tastes extra good in the early years 🙂

I’ve also learned my children’s specific needs, cries, and personalities. Cries have different meanings and while I don’t go rushing in every time, sometimes a night warrants extra hugs, cuddles or a song to calm an anxious heart.

The books didn’t work for me. There are lots of moments as a mom I won’t have someone helping me speak in those moments. I want to encourage other moms to believe in themselves and to know they are equipped – no matter how much we feel like we’re messing it all up! We can do this without the books!

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  • Reply Hannah Kersh May 5, 2015 at 1:06 pm

    Lisa! I love your heart and I so appreciate your authenticity in this space. You have two amazing little boys and as a future mama, I enjoy hearing how you and Steve have raised them. Don’t worry about regretting this post 🙂 Grateful for you!

    • Reply Lisa Marcia May 5, 2015 at 7:42 pm

      Thanks for reading Hannah and your kind words of encouragement!! 🙂

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