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How not to be a paranoid parent


This is one of those articles that you get asked to write and you think, "how in all good conscience can I suggest readers don't worry about things when I'm such a paranoid parent myself?”

Luckily, I solved that problem by seeking advice from far more relaxed parents than myself.
Here is their advice on the things you shouldn't worry about. After all, who wants to be a paranoid parent?

How not to be a paranoid parent © Rex

1. Forgive yourself the little things

When my daughter was just a few weeks old, I dropped her plastic hairbrush in her eye. She screwed up her little face and went silent for what felt like minutes. When the shock sunk in, she cried her little heart out. I felt dreadful, but when I rang an ex-nanny friend she shrugged it off saying, "Make a note of every little thing you do wrong. And when they get to their difficult teenage years, start crossing them all off one-by-one".

2. Let go of modern guilt

Parents have so much to feel guilty about these days. Are we spending enough time with our children if we work full time?  Do we feed them the wrong things? Do we let them watch too much TV? Are we doing them psychological damage if we say the wrong thing?

Joanne Mallon, mum-of-two and author of ‘Toddlers: An Instruction Manual’, has this great advice:
"Make a positive choice not to feel guilty about anything. If you do something you're not happy with, decide to do it differently. Ask yourself: am I doing the best I can for my children and myself right now? Don't waste your time and energy feeling guilty about not being some kind of mythical supermum. That will never be you, because she doesn't exist."

3. A little danger can be a good thing

Giving your children freedom to run in the playground or walk ahead of you on the pavement can give them confidence - and can teach you to trust them too. One of the best tips I had was from my sister, Caroline, who said: "So few parents teach their children to stop when they tell them to. But it's better that they learn to walk safely on the pavement or have a go at climbing on the climbing frame than you panicking, putting them in reins and holding their hand every step of the way".
Obviously, don't leave your tiny ones to fall off slides or run into the road, but steeling yourself to let them enjoy the some of the same freedoms in childhood that you did will make everyone feel calmer.

4. Your rules are the right ones for you

I know so many parents who have different rules around things like routines (strict, flexible or non-existent), food and TV that it's no surprise we all question what's right. And we get told so many things by experts it can be hard to find our own way to parent.

My husband and I have all kinds of arbitrary, ever-evolving rules that just feel right to us. But because they don't always make complete sense to an outsider ("why is your daughter allowed chocolate buttons on a cake but not a bag of chocolate buttons?"), I often question our decisions.
Being flexible and willing to change as your child grows is always helpful, but if you've decided on a rule, chances are it's the right one for your family. As my sister-in-law says, "We all raise our kids differently. If we didn't people would all turn out the same, which would be pretty boring!".

5. Milestones are meaningless
There are so many pushy dads and flash-card mums out there it can be easy to feel intimidated.

In times like this, it's always worth turning to those classic urban myths to make you feel better. Winston Churchill did badly at primary school and Einstein didn't talk until he was four (or three, or seven, or five depending on which version of the urban legend you favour).

We can all thank Professor Joan Freeman, author of the book ‘Gifted Lives: What Happens When Gifted Children Grow Up’, who looked into the adult careers of 210 child prodigies and discovered that only six of them had gone on to remarkable careers – or at least the kind their parents had mapped out for them.

Hot-housing children can turn them off hard work, and success at an early age doesn't always lead to happy adulthood. Luck, personality and hard work are more important for success than intellect. So if your daughter is still running around with a bucket on her head while her cousin is learning to read, don't panic that your child is falling behind: a fun childhood is more important than a high IQ score. 


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