“If someone hits you, you hit them back,” I heard myself saying. “If someone pushes you, you push them back. Don’t ever let anyone hurt you.”
This was my advice to my daughter since before she was fully fluent in any language. Since she was barely three years old, I have taught her that she has a right to defend herself against school bullies, children in the playground, or even relatives. They have no right to lay a hand on her, and she should make it known.
Now, every morning as my four-year-old marches into her classroom with a bright smile and spring in her step, I know that no one will be able to touch her. Her classmates know that she’s a strong girl who is not afraid to hit back.
Not everyone agreed with my advice to her. Those who overheard said, She’s too young to be taught this. Teach her kindness instead.
I am a flexible person, but on this I am not. Everything in my gut was telling me: she needs to be strong, she needs to know that no one can walk all over her.
I didn’t listen to them.
Since my daughter was born, I pored over parenting books and articles. I wanted to be the best parent possible. I wanted to make sure she received every good thing I could possibly give her.
But I started to read articles that contradicted each other. Some research would say one thing, only to be debunked by a newer, shinier theory shortly thereafter.
Kids need to sleep in their own room. Oh wait, it’s good for kids to sleep next to their parents.
You must spend all your waking hours with your children. Oh wait, maybe your health is important, too.
Time-outs are the way to discipline your kids. Oh wait, time-outs actually imply that you don’t love them unless they’re “good.”
The list can go on for pages.
I’ve come to terms with the fact that my parenting is 99% instinct. I’ll use the words that feel right when they come out of my mouth. I’ll let her sleep in the room where she feels the safest and most comfortable, I’ll discipline her in the most loving way I can muster. Sometimes she needs to be bribed.
And I won’t feel bad about any of it. I’ll try not to anyway.
I still read parenting articles if they’re interesting enough. I still get ideas for activities and crafts from IG moms and homeschoolers. There are resources out there that are quite wonderful. But at the end of the day, it’s me and my daughter at home with no one else to parent her. So we decide what works and what doesn’t.
What if my instincts are wrong?
My parents raised us without the help of any parenting books. My mom didn’t speak any English anyway when she immigrated to Canada as a 20-year-old wife. She was young, but she was good. She was a believer in God, in Islam, in kindness and gentleness. Both my parents were. And granted, their instincts weren’t always right, but they fiercely protected us and pushed us to value education and hard work. We knew we were loved. And that was enough.
When I’m afraid my instincts aren’t correct, then I don’t go around trying to improve just my parenting skills by voraciously reading contradictory material. Rather, I try to improve myself because I’m a great believer in being who you want your child to become.
I believe in my heart of hearts that God created us with the instincts needed to be good people, and to be good parents. But we have to build on those instincts by continuously learning (not about “parenting skills” per se, but about our society and about what it means to be a good person in our society).
I have a feeling that the older my daughter gets, the more complicated my parenting journey will become. Perhaps one day my instincts will not be enough.
But for now, they are. So yeah, I’m doing just fine. And so are you.
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