Whatever Happened to Parent Intuition?

Parents today are inundated with copious amounts of professional parenting information, advice, theories and perspectives. Much of it is state of the art and comes in the form of thick research-based parenting text books, many of which, unfortunately, also often contradict each other. The consequences amongst busy, over-worked and regularly overextended parents is self-conscious, manual and google-driven, fretful to-the-point-of-beingcontrived parenting. Their children experience the parents’ overanxious, preoccupied concern, and themselves end up developing anxiety and an insecure sense of self.

Parenting intuition, both as a concept and an innate ability, has for the past few decades been undermined if not usurped by the thousands of parenting books and so-called parenting experts flooding the market. But raising a child ‘by the book’ or according to the directives of a shedload of ‘experts’ (including me!) is like trying to live a healthy life by following diet trends; fat, dairy, wheat, and coffee have all intermittently been good and then bad and then good for us, (and then of course it depends on whether we are gluten or lactose intolerant). The intention may be good, but ultimately making any significant choices in our lives by following fads can have inadvertent and unhappy consequences.

Loving, caring parents who are sincerely committed to doing the best for their children are self-consciously, and often anxiously, trying to follow advice that is not only regularly contradictory but frequently also encourages them to be alert for symptoms of a pathology or disorder. Don’t get me wrong, diagnostics has helped countless children and families handle difficult challenges and traumas. However, increasing numbers of psychologists and mental health professionals are, like me, becoming concerned about the over-diagnosis of too many children, and the ease and speed with which medication is prescribed. For the last two decades working with children, parents and teachers, I have become more and more convinced that, for the average child, seeking a diagnosis is not the answer. Nor is turning to or blaming schools, or necessarily even ‘experts’ (or the 85,000 plus parenting books published to date). The everspeeding roller-coaster ride we are on of excessive cognitive analysis and hyper advice-giving is not working – instead it is leading to analysis paralysis: we are losing touch with our innate human needs and abilities, our need to connect with each other in person and our ability to ‘tune-in’ – to each other and most importantly to ourselves and our own intuition. In my view this applies as much if not more to parents and children than any other group.

Over the years, I have seen repeatedly that meeting this need to connect and tune-in requires, not more advice but less; it requires simplification and letting go of the overemphasis on expert advice, labelling and analysis; by both parents and professionals. For parents, perhaps the hardest thing it requires is letting go of the over-use of technology and social media –whether it be turned to for answers to questions, for social connection, for texting, or to share whatever –it not only interrupts any connection flow between parent and child (one little girl told me her mother was ‘always here but never here’), but also prevents us from connecting with our own intuition and so ultimately reduces our trust in ourselves, making us more and more reliant on answers from outside.

Simplification does not require parents to spend more time with children but rather to be fully present in the time when you are with them. For ‘professionals’, simplification requires us to step back, impose less and listen more. It requires that we turn towards the parents and rather than analysis and advice, give them tools to manage their stress better so they can access and draw on their own wisdom. It requires us all to take responsibility for being more fully present with all children, and with ourselves.

Whether you reading this are a parent, grandparent, child-caregiver, or child-care professional, my experience both as a mother and parent-mentor, has taught me that you very likely have an innate intuitive wisdom that can help you raise the children in your care with considerably less anxiety and stress about ‘doing it right’ than is currently the norm. I have witnessed countless parents become empowered and confident after gaining some simple practices for how to manage their parenting-stress, learn how to reconnect with their own parenting insights and act (rather than following fads and experts) according to their parenting values. Invariably it results in children that are happier and more balanced, and a family that functions in a far more harmonious way.

About the Author

Jennifer Day specialises in emotional intelligence coaching, parenting, stress management and leadership coaching. She is the author/co-author of 6 books translated into 10 languages, and has designed and facilitated seminars and trainings for organizations, schools, parents, teachers and the general public in the US, Hawaii, the UK and Europe. Jennifer has now combined the best of all her experience and knowledge for coaching parents how to communicate and understand their children and create a thriving environment for their development. For more information, check her details here: http://wp.me/p6AdrA-2b

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