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Ignore the Experts (Most of the Time)

With all the expert parenting information available to us today, you’d think as mothers we’d feel well-informed and prepared to raise a brood. But easy access to expert advice has had the opposite effect on Marybeth Hicks, a mother of four children ranging from 11 to 19.

"I felt the worst about my parenting those times when I was sitting in the pediatrician’s office reading articles about all the wonderful parenting you should do -- never yell or tell your child he was bad but rather that he made a poor choice. Then they get into the whole natural food thing and how you should never serve SpaghettiOs. I think we learn to distrust ourselves sitting in the pediatrician’s office reading magazines while waiting for our appointment."

Arming yourself with information can be useful. But too much expert advice can lead you into the trap of believing that there is one right way to do things and that if you’re not doing it that one way your kids will suffer -- a perfect recipe for mother’s guilt.

In real life, moms get stressed and lose patience. Sometimes, we yell. "But one of the things that those articles never mention -- and I’ve experienced -- " Hicks says, "is that children are very resilient. And they know that when you act in love that you’re acting on their behalf."

Going With Your Gut

Once you’ve talked to your pediatrician, read a few books, and perused some good parenting magazine articles, it’s time to step away from the schooling and start trusting your internal mothering guide. "We joke that kids don’t come with directions, but they do in a sense," Hicks says. "The directions are your values, and they are the basis on which all of your decisions are made."

If you feel strongly about the objectification of women in the media, for example, then a lot of your decisions about what television programs your kids can watch will be made with that in mind. That’s parenting.

"If you make those little decisions along the way, you start to create a path for yourself that looks different from everyone else," Hicks, who is also a columnist and author of Bringing Up Geeks: How to Protect Your Kid's Childhood in a Grow-Up-Too-Fast World, says. "Then you create a pattern of decision making. And the more you do it, the longer you do it, your family has its own unique personality. It just gets easier as you go, and people know what to expect of you."

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