Get a PhD in Parenting (for free!)

I have a bone to pick with my high school math teacher. Contrary to his promises, I have never used the pythagorean theorem or cared to find the value of X since graduating a hundred or so years ago. That is, unless you count helping each of my 5 children struggle through their math homework.

What I have used, however, is relationship and parenting skills. Every day, all day. So where was the required Parenting 101 class in high school or college when I needed it? How ironic (and sad!) that virtually all adolescents and young adults, who will someday be a mom or dad or at least have to relate to another human, are not formally taught how to succeed in relationships.

Licensure varies across states, but to become a beautician it requires around 2,000 practicum hours in addition to coursework. To drive a car? Forty roading hours plus passing the test and class. To become a parent? Nada. In comparison, what knowledge and skills matter most to children, family life, our community and nation?

This is where voluntary, continuing education steps in.

Parents today have ripe information for the picking. Endless resources are at our fingertips to help us navigate this most important career of raising children. Websites contain information about family health, making kid crafts, homeschooling, parenting children at different stages of development, taking online parenting classes, and marriage and relationships skills, to name a few.

Best of all, most are free. Thank you, Mr. Google and Mrs. Pop-up Ads.

Here is a list of some of my favorite parenting sites. Many of these I have contributed articles to and have enjoyed those written by others.

The downside is we need to be aware of how to navigate through so much information. I’d like to share 5 tips for being a wise consumer and using internet information successfully.

  1. Keep an open mind.

It’s not enough to say, “I’ll just do what my parents did in raising me and hope for the best.” That’s like keeping the bar so low that if no one ends up in jail, it’s a sign you’ve been a successful parent. Too often we are blinded by old habits, bad attitudes, and cultural trappings with which we were raised. We only see what we are used to, even if that means perpetuating abusive behaviors that seem “normal” to us.

Every mom and dad can and should be actively looking for ways to improve through motivating and informative content. If you were raised by terrible parents, you have some distance to cover in a short period of time. If you came from adequate or even excellent parents, you can always do better.

  1. Trust your instincts.

There will be lots of advice in cyberspace, but as every mother has learned from listening to birthing stories at baby showers, no two kids are alike. They all come packaged with their own special temperaments, personalities, talents, and interests. Therefore, not all advice may be what’s right for your child. Follow general, sound principles, but if a specific practice doesn’t feel right, listen to your gut. Even if something works fabulously with one child, another one may need something different.

  1. Filter, filter, filter.

Do you sometimes feel like you’re hooked up to a fire hose when all you want is to drink a glassful of information? It can be overwhelming. There’s just too much, and even sometimes, conflicting information on the internet. Read and apply in small doses. Let’s not spend endless hours surfing websites and replace it with spending time understanding our children and building a relationship him or her.

Use your filters when looking at airbrushed photos of perfect children, flawless table settings, or crafts that most certainly were created by professionals, not preschoolers. It’s not real, folks! There are also plenty of mommy bloggers who love to shock and disturb with their latest episode in the series of Disasters of Being a Mom. Yes, we all have bad days, but let’s not revel in rudeness. It feels like jumping into a pig sty and rolling around the muck to be part of the “feel-sorry-for-ourselves mommy club.” Be wise instead, and choose websites to be inspired, laugh, and learn.

  1. Let this be a start.

The cyber community is a great gathering place, but it is, after all, a virtual world. Use websites and discussion boards as a safe place to ask questions and find answers and then follow up with live connections in the real world. Talk to trusted family members, friends, pediatricians, and other parents in your community who can offer irreplaceable emotional, physical, and social support. If there is another parent involved in raising your child, share what you are learning so you can both be on the same parenting page. Go to classes together and read books to further your education.

  1. Keep trying.

Methods shared on parenting websites are usually fairly reliable. Responsible experts base their findings on research and extensive experience. When you latch onto an improved parenting approach and try it out with your child, it may be a complete failure the first time or two.

Changing both ourselves and our children is a process. By being consistent, you will show your child that the “new and improved” parent is not going away just because he or she threw a tantrum when you didn’t give in to that cookie right before dinner. When you make a mistake and fall back on a former bad behavior, admit your mistake. “Honey, mommy forgot that she is trying not to slam doors every time she gets mad. Please forgive me. I’m going to do better tomorrow.” Let’s work on getting an advanced degree that requires classes in kindness, forgiveness, love, unity, and respect.

Now that’s a PhD I’d like earn.

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