Rational Parenting: What's the Secret?

Recently friends have asked me these questions: 
“Does your baby’s face ever get red?” 
“Is my baby going to be dehydrated because she didn’t finish one bottle?” 
“My baby is rolling one way but not the other, is that ok?”  
Irrational mom syndrome is spreading and must be stopped!  The toxic combination of hormones, lack of sleep, everyday anxiety plus the ability to research everything your kids should and shouldn’t do and watch Facebook videos of other kids is adding to a new wave of irrational moms.

So what is rational parenting and how do we practice it?

Rational parenting takes bits and pieces from many other parenting styles.  It has some similarities to the “CTFD Method” coined by the Daddy Complex.  Calm the F Down assures you that, albeit abuse and torture, your child will most likely be fine. Whether or not you are the best parent, your child will think you are and that is what matters.  The examples used are: “worried your friend’s child has mastered the alphabet quicker than your child? Calm the f down.  Stressed that your child exhibits behavior in public you find embarrassing? Calm the f down.”   While this method makes perfect sense to me, I think its simplicity might resonate better with men.  Females need a little more explanation, a little more substance. That is where rational parenting swoops in and saves the day (or at least saves you from eating that piece of chocolate cake at 3am when you can’t sleep).
Rational parenting a combination of tiger parenting, with the tiger acting calm and reasonable and helicopter parenting, while the helicopter is sitting on the tarmac, not over-analyzing anything.  The standard for a rational parent follows the legal reasonable person standard, meaning you should act the way a fair, sensible person would act in the same situation.  The challenge with rational parenting is realizing how to launch your rational thoughts into action before they develop into a full irrational attack.

To begin, do this exercise:

(1) Think of the most rational person you know.  Who provides you with reasonable advice and keeps you calm? That may be a friend, parent, mother Theresa, Oprah.  

(2) When you feel an irrational attack looming, channel that person and say “what would X do in this situation? What would their advice be?”

(3) Ignore any anxiety looming in your body (take a Xanax, do some jumping jacks, drink wine, scream loudly) and most importantly, do NOT Google your question.  If you do, your child will most definitely be suffering from a terminal disease and someone in a baby site will tell you that you are a horrible mother.           

Rational parenting also includes taking advice from professionals at face value and not making excuses.  That is where it can get tricky.  For example, you have been waking up for night feeding for 5 months and are exhausted.  Your doctor told you that by three months, babies no longer need night feedings.  Using rational parenting, you would make an effort to remove the night feeding and soothe your baby other ways if he wakes up.  Rational parents understand that Rome wasn’t built in a day and implementing change may take some time, but with consistent effort and reinforcement, your baby will skip the night feeding.  Irrational parenting is when you keep saying that your baby needs the night feeding.  Think about it rationally – if you were feeding me a bowl of ice cream at 3am every night, I’d wake up for it also. 

I admit that I sometimes have bouts of irrational mom syndrome, like when I could not figure out what my doctor meant when she said “Your son can eat everything you eat.”  The simplicity of that statement was lost on me and I became irrational, asking every person I know what they feed their baby, reading every Google article and baby cookbook I could find.  I honestly still can’t conceptualize that it is ok to feed my child everything I eat (lamb vindaloo?) but I decided to screw my head back on, act rationally and feed him whatever can be mashed into pieces that a similar child of his size and experience would not choke on.  Reasonable person standard!

Try rational parenting for a day.  

I think you will feel calmer and more confident as a parent, and you may not be the main reason your child needs therapy.  If nothing else, I’m sure your husband will appreciate one day with a sane wife.



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