I often hear people say, “I wish the hospital would give out a parenting manual when you leave the hospital with your first child.” Well, me too. Maybe one day I will write that book. But until then, here are 5 reasons why there should be a parenting manual, and what should and should not be in it.

1) Minimum Requirements for Parenting

Whether its a license, a certificate of training, a class, or whatever, they should warn you about what its like having kids. Its overwhelming at times! When I went to Daddy Boot Camp before my first was born, I learned a lot that was very helpful. Then I went back as the Mentor Daddy to help others after my first was born. If I hadn’t had that experience and learning… Woah, chaos and confusion!

2) Giving your kids a different life than you had

If you want your kids to have a different life than you had, how do you raise them differently? This stumps a lot of people. Some try doing the polar opposite of their own parents. And that doesn’t work either. Some try doing the same but a better job at it. The problem is they end up with the same holes in parenting as their parents had. Here’s a hint: Think back to what you didn’t get as a child that you needed and work for that in each moment.

3) You are going to make mistakes, and its OK

You’re human. You know that you make mistakes. Perhaps you are hard on yourself when you do make mistakes. But do others tell you its Ok, or do they judge you for the mistakes you make? Its Ok to make mistakes. Apologize and ask for forgiveness. Work hard to make the changes that need to be made. Let it go and try again.

4) What to do when nothing else works

Breathe. Its Ok if everything you have tried hasn’t worked. That does not mean nothing will work. Part of parenting is conducting experiments to see what works for each child. Keep looking, keep trying things. Something will work. You may have to go back to basics and start from there.

5) How to handle feeling like a failure

We all go through this. At times we feel under prepared to do battle with those little humans, and at times we feel like nothing we do works. Hold on, not so fast. Just because something didn’t work once, doesn’t mean it never will. My wife and I were talking about our oldest one night and what to do about some behaviors. After discussing it, we were doing the right things, it just hadn’t worked yet. I reassured my wife that we may have to do something 1000 times before it takes hold. Remember that your child is responsible for their behaviors. You are responsible for teaching and disciplining them.

parenting manuals are not playbooks

Parenting is not a Playbook

Notice none of those items on that list are about what to actually do as a parent. That’s because parenting is a mindset and an attitude, not a playbook. Since every child is different, parenting every child is different. You may use the same underlying principles in parenting, but each child may require their own tweaks to make things work. Regardless of the child, if you don’t have a proper mindset or attitude toward your children and what you are trying to accomplish, you’re toast. Your children will have you spinning and reacting to their every move.

As parents, it is our job to manage ourselves and the moment. You won’t always find how to do that in some book, or even in a parenting manual.

[ Photo credit: Moyan Brenn/Flickr ]


Todd has been a therapist for over 20 years in a variety of settings. An unconventional therapist who tells the truth, Todd has taught undergraduate and graduate level courses, and authored his first book, Simply Relate.

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