Overwhelming Advice and Picnic Buffets

When I was a new mom 22 years ago, my only internet options were dial up. And if you don’t know what dial up is, you are very, very lucky. Had I gone to the internet for parenting advice back then, my baby would’ve aged a full year before one of the websites had loaded! So I went to the library, checked out books, and read ferociously. 


My husband and I didn’t have the benefit of having family near us and so phone calls on a landline with my older sisters had to suffice for questions on teething, potty training, etc. The church that we attended at the time was too small to have an official moms group, and so, I put on my big girl pants and found one at another church. I walked in that first day not knowing a soul, but in time, that group became my lifeline.


I received advice there — blessed advice from moms who were knee-deep in motherhood. It was a balm to my withering, floundering self. Add to that a kid-free breakfast, a speaker, and prayer and I was set to take on the world again!  



Back then, advice for me came from limited sources. But advice in the world now seems to swirl around from everywhere. There is a plethora of information that is golden and good, and there is plenty of it that is bad. How on earth does one know what advice to take? 


Well, here are some things that might help you:


  • Consider the source: Is this information from someone you respect and who has parenting experience, or is it someone simply regurgitating a list of good ideas? 


  • Notice the fruit: Did this advice bear “good fruit” in the advice-giver’s kids? Do you think it would bear fruit in your own unique children?


  • Does it land right with your values? Not every family has the same values and that’s ok! Generally speaking, trust your gut.


  • Think of advice as food at a picnic. My friend, Jen, gets all the credit for this concept. I’ll explain more below…


Let’s say you go to a mom’s group one week and the speaker gives you a list of 10 ways to get your kids to go to bed (and stay in bed) at night. Now is the time to mentally go on a picnic. 


Imagine that each of those 10 ways is a dish at a potluck. In looking at the spread of typical potluck foods, you see old favorites, dishes you’ve never tried before, ones you know you won’t try because they’re too spicy or too rich, and maybe you even see foods you’ve never considered eating before. 


Now, do you get overwhelmed and leave the picnic because you simply can’t eat all of the food (i.e. implement all of the advice)? No, of course not! You pick a few that seem good and you try them. You might declare that one is the best you’ve ever had and you get the recipe. (Or you try one that seems amazing but you have to dump it almost immediately.) 


Ten ways to do “this or that” with your children is simply a picnic spread. They are options for you to take or leave without any guilt attached. 



It might surprise you to know that the nighttime routine for our kids was embarrassingly simple: brush your teeth, pray with mom and dad, and go to bed. We didn’t read three books, sing a special song, tuck them in and intercede over their life while they slept. That’s an amazing thing to do but it didn’t fit us. We read to our kids at other times during the day, we certainly sang songs (usually in the car), and Jonathan and I absolutely prayed for our kids, but it wasn’t part of our nightly routine. Why? We were tired. We were simply too pooped to start a routine that would require us to do “all of the things.” So we did what worked for us. The fruit of this routine was that the kids went to bed without too much fuss, and it aligned with our values of rest for the family. It wasn’t an elaborate plan, but for cryin’ out loud, it doesn’t have to be!


In a society with a myriad of advice, you can go a long way by simply picking one idea and doing it well. Consider your own energy levels and honor the framework you and your kids have been given. There isn’t a contest to win when it comes to doing the right things for your family. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 10:12 thatwhen they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” In other words, don’t compare yourself with other families — you are not being wise to do so!


Lastly, give yourself the opportunity to change course. It was absolutely flooring to me when the discipline method that we used on our two oldest boys didn’t work on our youngest child. It felt like we corrected twice as much with him and with half of the results.


It turned out that he had ADHD. His impulsiveness had more to do with how his brain was wired than it had to do with willful disobedience. We had to change course and learn a new approach. This process took about a year and half and was excruciating for us (and for him!) We went to a therapist and read books. We got some understanding about how our son saw the world. It took a lot of adjustment on our part, and I learned a really big lesson:


We’ve got to stay humble about the parenting gig.


If we dig our heels in and declare that our way is the only way, we will be set up for some big disappointments in life. I can tell you with absolute certainty that once you think you have things figured out, your child will enter a new phase where the old ways don’t work anymore. 


And when that happens, take a deep breath. Seek advice from trusted sources and remain open to new ideas…as you consider the fruit and then go on a picnic.


Tami Glendenning is a wife to Jonathan and mom to Ian, Max and Ben. She is also a piano teacher, crafter and avid book reader.

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