Tips and Tricks: Why They Let Us Down

I admit I’ve been pulled in more times than I care to admit. Those tantalizing headlines just sound so phenomenal: One Simple Tip to Handle Whining, Ten Ways to be a Better Mom, How to Un-Spoil Your Child (Kudos to the author of this one who acknowledged off the bat that the first step is acknowledging you actually have a spoiled child to begin with, and he or she (ahem) got that way somehow.) But have you ever clicked on these parenting articles that pop up on social media only to find yourself suckered again? Oh, I think, apparently my kids whine because I don’t have a PhD in crafting and make every interaction a game. Or I already do all those things with my kids and I still feel like I’m missing something. Why is it that we can know the value of listening to our children, the importance of play, the necessity of literacy or all the techniques to keep from yelling and yet we somehow fail to consistently apply them in our own homes with our own kids?


We are a culture that loves quick fixes and simple sound bites. When a parenting guru hands out Eight Easy Tips on just about any subject, our desire for easy perfection kicks in. If only parenting could be reduced to a sound bite! If only we could take all the tips of our friends and relatives and social media celebrities and use them to produce responsible, happy, well-adjusted children—what a lovely life we would lead. But somehow the proliferation of information and the overflow of advice has us in more of a quandary than ever. 


Some of the tips I’ve come across have been helpful, or at the very least insightful. I love hearing how other parents handle sticky situations and find success in their own homes. But all the parenting advice and tips in the world can’t help me if I don’t have a way to filter it through the lens of my own values, my own personality, my own parenting style, and the needs and particulars of my own kids and family. I appreciate a blogger or columnist whose approach says “I’d like to share this because I found it helpful and maybe you will too,” but as soon as the tone turns to “This is what you need to do to make it work,” I know I’m barking up the wrong tree. Good parenting is not achieved through tips, tricks, formulaic approaches or generalized admonitions to “give them choices” or “say ‘yes’ more often.”


We all have an idea of what it takes to parent well. Our ideas may not all be the same, but most parents I talk to have some idea of what they want for their kids. And many of them have an idea of what their kids need, at least on a basic level—attention, love, opportunity. But so many don’t know how to bring the ideal into the reality. Telling an overworked, overwhelmed mom of three to read to her children more often may just overwhelm her more. Suggesting to the mom of preschool twins to post a list of rules and expectations and make up a song to sing it with her littles each night might make her want to crawl in the closet and hide. Recommending fourteen great websites with “amazing!” and “easy!” and “so quick!” recipe lists may encourage the culinary-challenged mom to resign herself to scrambled eggs and toast for dinner for the next month. Unless parents have the tools to put great ideas into practice, all the advice and how-tis in the world won’t produce the desired results.


I love coaching because it bridges the gap between education and implementation. Rather than rely on generalized principles or mis-applied platitudes, it addresses a specific parent in a specific family with completely unique circumstances. The parents I’ve worked with have all been well-informed, insightful, connected and aware, and yet they still struggled to implement what they knew they wanted in the specific parameters of their home. They had the education, but they needed help with implementation. And coaching did just that. 


As a parent, I’m well aware of all the “shoulds” floating around about how to raise kids well. But one thing I know is there is no replacement for customized support. Let’s remember that education and implementation are not the same thing, and that all the information in the world won’t help us unless we learn how to use it to make a positive difference in our parenting.