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Health & Parenting

Why You're a Great Mom, No Matter How You Mother

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Understand that your kid is unique.

Kids are not robots that you can program. "Children are born with different temperaments that determine how easy or challenging they're going to be to parent," says psychologist Howard Paul, Ph.D., a professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. And since the exquisite skill of good parenting is meeting your child's specific needs, no one is better equipped than you are — whatever your style — to parent your child. A few years ago, Laurie Hurley, 50, of Newbury Park, CA, was an easygoing mom to then 8-year-old Hannah, but her style changed after she adopted a daughter who had attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. "I went from being spontaneous to sticking to a schedule," Hurley says. "I'd never naturally be that regimented, but it made my daughter's life more peaceful." Yes, you're the mom, but parenting is always a give-and-take proposition. Researchers have recently discovered that even in the newborn period, the baby likely has more impact on Mom than they once thought. Apparently, infants — by communicating through cries and other signals — influence not only Mom's actions (getting her to change a diaper, for example) but also her brain, actually stimulating new neurons, enhancing existing ones, and prepping her to become the particular kind of parent that child will need.

Follow your gut.
Nobody knows your child better than you do — not your pediatrician, your neighbor, your mother-in-law, or some guru on TV. "We devalue ourselves as moms when we don't trust our instincts — that mommy-vision you get when your baby is born," Borba says. "Your gut instinct, which is where your parenting style is formed, is almost always right for your child." And when you start listening to your heart, you'll make peace with your parenting style. This bore out for me when my 3-year-old, who'd been potty-trained for a year, began wetting her pants daily. Her preschool teachers told me to be patient, while my husband thought we should bribe her with stickers. No one liked the idea of making her wear diapers — except me. I thought that it would work because my daughter, who's always striving to act older, would be horrified at a backslide into babyhood. And, after one embarrassing day at preschool in a pull-up, she quit the pants-wetting cold turkey. I did it my way — which was right for her — and it worked.

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