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Trust Yourself

Trust yourself; trust your child.

A culture of trust in your family paves the way for all the subsequent values we’re going to explore. We might not all be able to trust our parental conditioning—that is, we might not want to repeat everything about the way we were parented. But if you (and your partner) do the work of sorting through your past, and if you honor core human values, you can trust your instincts when it comes to parenting.

And you must. Why? Because you’re the one who truly knows what works for your family. You might find, as I did, that the parenting philosophy in your culture isn’t a good fit. Nor is what your pediatrician tells you to do, or what everyone in your neighborhood is doing. You are the foremost expert on your family, which means that you know better than any other parenting experts, including me. I’m writing a parenting book, but I don’t know you, and I don’t know your children. Only you can determine how best to apply these universal principles. My goal is to give you guidelines—not prescriptive advice—and permission to trust your own expertise because if you don’t trust yourself, you won’t be able to instill trust in your children.

Still, I know how hard all of this is. Socially, it can be challenging if you don’t follow the rules and do what everyone around you is doing, even when your kids don’t fit in with those rules, even when problems arise. We’re afraid our children might fail, and their failures will be our fault. We’re wracked with anxiety about not knowing what we’re doing, but we’re certain that whatever we choose, we’ll screw everything up.

The culture has trained us to think we need to consult a specialist for every problem or challenge. When it comes to kids, there are ADD and ADHD specialists, autism specialists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and multiple types of doctors. Some families have tutors for each child, each grade level, each subject. All of this specialization and expertise undermines our ability to think for ourselves as parents and to make the best choices for our children. Somehow we’re convinced that all of these other people know better than we do.

But that’s not true.

You have to trust that you know what’s best for your child and your family.

Walk The Talk

My grandson Ethan still wasn’t talking at 2-and-a-half. He walked and slept through the night and knew his favorite foods, but he didn’t want to talk. It can be nerve-racking for parents when a child lags behind the normal developmental curve, and it’s important to investigate and ask questions. And yet it’s a simple fact that some children acquire skills later than others. Some of us adults do as well. In most cases it means nothing about our intelligence or abilities—it’s just the way it is. That’s how my daughter Janet thought about it—at least at first. But as time went on, we wondered when Ethan would start talking, and we got a little worried. So Janet took him to the pediatrician, who recommended a specialist, saying it was nothing to worry about, that lots of kids need speech therapy. And that’s what we did. Ethan cooperated, sort of, but he still wasn’t talking after several sessions.

Photograph by Orren Jack Turner
Albert Einstein
Source: Photograph by Orren Jack Turner

His parents took matters into their own hands. They read him books every night, every weekend, after every nap. They bought him a tape recorder, a pair of big headphones, and some children’s books on tape (and even recorded a number of stories themselves). Ethan absolutely loved those stories. He’d sit in the family room with his headphones, just listening at first. He loved riding in the car and taking walks—always wearing his headphones. We reassured our- selves that there’s no timetable for development except in parenting books—and kids don’t read those books.

I learned that Albert Einstein didn’t talk until he was 3. Ethan was in good company.

It was more than three months of therapy before Ethan finally started talking, and when he did, instead of speaking in single words, he spoke in complete sentences. He had always been obsessed with elevators, and one of the first things he said to me was “I want to ride in the elevator.” He listened to his taped stories for years after and still loves audiobooks. Now he’s a voracious reader, a leader in his class, and on the debate team.

About the Author
Esther Wojcicki

Esther Wojcicki is a leading American educator, journalist, and mother.

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