How to Avoid the Trap of Parenting Myths
President Abraham Lincoln didn’t have today’s parents in mind when he uttered the words: “Don’t blindly trust anything or anyone.” But that sentiment has never been truer than for those navigating parenthood in today’s world. Some parenting advice is really great, but a lot of it is just plain wrong or leftover from previous generations. And it sticks around because no one bothers to raise their hand and ask why.
Many parenting myths seem designed to make us feel like we’re bad parents. Yet, spending every waking hour hovering over your child and reacting positively to every single thing they do doesn’t necessarily make you a good parent. The bottom line is, don’t be scammed by parenting myths, and don’t judge yourself too harshly. Here are some of the biggest ones out there that you really shouldn’t waste any time worrying about.
Born an Expert
Myth: Parenting is a natural instinct, and you’ll be a master from Day 1.
Reality: Parenting is an ongoing learning experience.
There’s no one right or wrong way to parent, but it’s definitely something that takes work and discipline. There are parts that will feel natural, like soothing a crying baby. But even with that, you will need to develop a technique.
Trust yourself, but also be a good student, and learn how to care for children at every stage.
Myth: You’re a bad parent because your newborn wails constantly.
Reality: Infants come home helpless and dependent, and crying is what they do.
Newborns are so helpless that their only mechanism for communication is crying. And some babies cry a lot more than others, for reasons largely unknown unless quite obvious.
If feeding, comforting, changing a diaper or swaddling don’t calm down baby, they might have colic or some kind of infection.
Like Your Parents
Myth: No matter how hard you try, you will end up making the same mistakes as your parents did.
Reality: You’re human, and you will fail — so, learn from your mistakes, and embrace humility.
As adults, we naturally remember those times when we felt like our parents failed — and this comes into even sharper focus when we become parents ourselves.
Identify what exactly it was about your parents’ parenting style that didn’t work for you. Then, always be conscious of your own behavior as a parent. Child-rearing patterns are difficult to break, but not impossible.
Myth: You will never sleep well again.
Reality: Your sleep patterns will change.
This is arguably the top parenting complaint. “My baby wakes up every two hours, which means I never go to sleep.”
If that’s the case, then you need to tweak your routine. When your baby sleeps, you should as well. Naptime for baby doesn’t mean chore or errand time for the parents.
Myth: Your marriage/partnership takes a backseat to your child’s well-being.
Reality: Happy relationships make happy homes and happy kids.
Someone might tell you that, once your child is born, they will become the sole focus of your life, and your relationship will take a seat way in the back.
It’s really easy for this to happen, but it’s not good for parents or children. Treat your relationship like a plant that needs care and water to grow and thrive.
Myth: A couple in a strong relationship will see eye-to-eye on parenting.
Reality: Even the most committed partners have differing opinions.
We know it’s important for fostering a healthy family to have a strong relationship with your partner, but that doesn’t mean you have to agree on everything when it comes to the kids — and you won’t.
Each person will bring their own views to the table, and if your relationship truly is strong, then you will be able to work through the differences.
Myth: Good parents never lose their cool.
Reality: You’re human, and you will yell.
Children are good at figuring out where the buttons are and how to push them. At some point, you will lose it and yell at them. It’s not good, but it’s going to happen.
To help prevent it, explore techniques for being calm under pressure or take an anger management course. And after you calm down, apologize to your child.
Myth: Everything your little one does is precious and amazing.
Reality: You will not love every single moment of parenthood.
If you have parent friends who always have a bright smile on their faces and talk lovingly about being woken up six to eight times a night by the shrill cries of new lungs, they are either deeply disturbed or hiding something. It’s likely the latter.
Get ready for it: You might not always like your kids. This is a natural reaction to the constant stress of parenting, so don’t freak out.
Myth: Your child disobeys you constantly, so you must have really screwed up.
Reality: Toddlers are prone to doing exactly the opposite of what their parents want from them.
Toddlers have serious breakdowns. They don’t always listen, and they bend the rules until something literally breaks. This is part of their growth as people, how they figure out the world around them.
Tantrums are actually good, as it means you are setting boundaries and limits and expecting your child to follow the rules.
Life Is Over
Myth: When you become a parent, your old life disappears forever.
Reality: When you become a parent, your life changes.
Children enhance our lives. They change us in ways we never knew possible. Does that mean you can’t ever go out with your friends or get away for a weekend alone with your partner?
The answer is an unequivocal no. You just have to be more conscious of your time and ensure that your needs are fulfilled (to a reasonable degree).
Myth: Parenting is so hard that it will force me to abandon my healthy lifestyle.
Reality: Not working out or eating well is a choice you made.
It’s so easy to use your child as an excuse for anything you used to do that you no longer do, but it’s hardly their fault. Sure, they are taking up so much of your time now that it’s hard to go to the gym or cook a wholesome meal. But it’s far from impossible.
As with many parenting things, it’s about time management and prioritization.
Clutter and Chaos
Myth: Your home will never be clean again.
Reality: If you were clean before the child, you’ll be clean after the child and vice versa.
This is another area in which children are blamed for their parents’ shortcomings. People who were neat and tidy before baby will remain neat and tidy because that’s how they live their lives — especially if they live in a small home where space is at a premium with the new addition.
The one thing that won’t happen is messy folks suddenly becoming clean freaks.
Myth: Sweets turn kids into monsters.
Reality: There’s no evidence that backs this up.
Studies have debunked this myth, but it lives on. In fact, it’s so ingrained that in one study parents still assumed their children were hyperactive even after eating a placebo with zero sugar.
There’s also no evidence that sugar affects behavior or cognitive skills.
Myth: Your baby will be smarter if they listen to classical music.
Reality: It might be soothing, but it doesn’t boost intelligence.
Babies tend to enjoy music, and playing the same song for them in the womb and outside might help to soothe them when they’re fussy. But it will do nothing to make them smart.
However, playing an instrument could be beneficial to brain development.
Solid Night’s Sleep
Myth: Feeding an infant solid food will make them sleep better and longer.
Reality: There’s no evidence to suggest this is true, and it might even have the opposite effect.
Babies do wake up during the night when they’re hungry, but loading up their little tummy with solids right before bed will not put them into a deeper sleep.
In fact, if you start infants on solids too soon, it might make their sleep patterns worse.
Food for Thought
Myth: Baby’s first bite of food must be baby cereal.
Reality: Babies can eat anything but might not like the same things as adults.
The move to solid foods is both exciting and scary, and there are a ton of guidelines for how to go about it. These, however, are not gospel and should be used simply as guides.
Your baby can dictate their eating habits, and baby-led weaning is becoming more and more popular.
Myth: Avoid feeding infants allergy-causing foods.
Reality: Early exposure gives kids a higher chance of avoiding an allergy.
This myth was actually fed for a long time by the medical community, which has since revised its recommendations on high-allergy foods like peanuts and eggs.
Infants should now try these foods, as early exposure reduces the risk of developing an allergy later on. Infants should also eat the same foods regularly to reduce risk.
Myth: Sippy cups get in the way of the tongue and thus hinder speech development.
Reality: Sippy cups have their issues, but this is not one of them.
There is a real movement against sippy cups over straws due to speech pathologists’ insistence that sippy cups mess with the tongue. But aside from the claims of these professionals, there is no concrete evidence to prove this idea right or wrong.
However, these cups might cause cavities if used too frequently, and kids can hurt themselves if they fall while using one.
Myth: If you have health problems, you won’t be a good parent.
Reality: Your health will inform your parenting style, not remove you from the equation.
This is one of the grimmer myths out there, and it’s simply ridiculous. Plenty of people with chronic illnesses or diseases, or other debilitating conditions, are more than capable of having children and raising them responsibly.
In fact, kids who grow up in such families might view the world around them in a much more empathetic way.
Asking for Help
Myth: If you can’t handle your child on your own, then you’re a bad parent.
Reality: It takes a village.
Asking for help is the opposite of weakness. If you’re lucky, you will be surrounded by friends and family who want to contribute in many different ways.
Allow them in, and be proud of yourself for doing it. Parenting is not a contest.