How To Tune Out All The Parenting Advice And Trust Your Intuition
I hate it when I dismiss a gut feeling only to discover later that I should have paid more attention to it.
The sheer number of books, blogs, and articles that offer conflicting advice for parents — from breastfeeding to discipline to helping children prepare for college — is enough to make a person crazy (and often does).
As someone who devours parenting and self-help books at a ridiculous rate, I understand how time-consuming, confusing, and frustrating all of that contradictory advice can be.
When I was struggling with breastfeeding, for example, I kept reading and reading to find the “perfect” solution to my problem; that one pearl of wisdom buried beneath stacks of books and online articles that would ultimately convince me to stick with breastfeeding. Or not.
I spent all that time searching and suffering, rather than trusting my intuition, which was telling me to STOP. Instead, I could’ve been using that time to bond with my baby.
Several of my clients have also told me that they feel paralyzed with fear because they’re scared of making a decision that will somehow land their kid on a therapist’s couch for life. So they consume more and more information and delay taking action.
This is not to say that we should make decisions based solely on our gut feelings and forget about logic and facts. Being informed and learning about proven, effective parenting strategies can certainly be helpful. I think the key is balancing what we know intellectually with how it makes us feel.
The difficulties I’ve had trusting my intuition began when I was a child. (Settle in with a cup of tea, friends.)
I often knew when something seemed “off” in my family (like when my father repeatedly told me he loved me no matter what in the weeks leading up to my parents’ divorce), but when I confronted my parents with questions, their explanations usually seemed to make sense. I needed to be able to trust them, so I doubted myself instead.
My father also had very strong opinions and beliefs about what he considered to be right and wrong. I sought his approval and often mistrusted myself when my ideas or opinions differed from his.
By college, my self-doubt had grown so strong that I had trouble making even the smallest decisions. I often asked others what they thought I should do in different situations because I wanted their approval, and feared making the “wrong” choices.
When Marissa was born, I was filled with insecurity. Mother’s instinct? What was that? I had to re-discover the power of intuition and learn how to trust myself.
A few years ago, I picked up a book in my “to read” pile from the library. It was called, Big Fat Lies Women Tell Themselves by Amy Ahlers. After reading it, I wanted to learn more about Amy and her coaching business. (By the way, I’m not an affiliate and I don’t know her personally…just telling you about my experience). I discovered that Amy helps women silence their inner critics (she calls them Inner Mean Girls) and get in touch with their Inner Wisdom.
As a therapist, I knew all about negative self-talk and positive affirmations. I even used affirmations in my daily life! But something about Amy’s work appealed to me in a new way and I started following her advice.
The first step in developing my intuition was to become more aware of my Inner Mean Girl (IMG) when I was thinking, What should I do?
Like I said, I had trouble making even minor decisions. What should I order off the menu? What should I wear today? Should I go to the bank or the supermarket first? Then there were bigger decisions like, Should we move to a different neighborhood? Should I start my own business? Should I wait and become a Certified Parent Coach or is my Social Work license enough?
My IMG would say things like, You’ll make the wrong choice. Other people will judge your decision. You need more information.
After I let my IMG rant, I would get quiet and ask the question Amy prompted me to ask myself: What does my Inner Wisdom know?
It may sound hokey and too good to be true, but almost instantly, my Inner Wisdom’s voice would “speak” to me and tell me what I needed to know.
Your body is craving pizza. You feel good in the black shirt and jeans. The bank. Yes. Go for it. Don’t wait. You are enough.
The practice of becoming still, tuning out all the mental noise inside my brain, and asking that one question: What does my Inner Wisdom know? has helped me so many times when I would have otherwise gotten really overwhelmed.
I always say that at the end of the day, YOU are your family’s best parenting expert. You know yourself and your child best, so do what feels right for you. The last thing you want to say to yourself is, “I should’ve listened to my gut.”
Although it takes some vulnerability and courage, sharing your thoughts and experiences in the comments below can help you find your own inner wisdom and may provide an Aha! Moment for someone else. Please take a minute to share about a time you trusted your intuition to make a parenting decision. How did it turn out? And, if you’re currently stuck in an information-gathering rut, close your eyes, breathe, quiet your mind, and ask yourself: What does my Inner Wisdom know?
If you liked this post, please share it with your friends and “like” it on Facebook. And for even more great tips on becoming a calm and connected parent (delivered right to your inbox every Tuesday), please subscribe to this blog.
Apreciation to my father who shared with me aboit this weblog, this website iis actually awesome.
Great post. I was advised during my first pregnancy to choose one book on babies and stick with it or risk conflicting advice and confusion. It never occurred to me to use my intuition – I just knew I needed a how-to book of some sort. 14 years ago the Gina Ford Contented Little Baby Book was published and I was one of the very first to buy it. I followed Gina to the letter for both babies and often wondered later how life might have been different had I simply chosen a different book. Or gone with my instincts!? There are pros and cons to Gina’s approach which I can see now with hindsight. I use my intuition now more than ever. But in those bewildering early days of motherhood I just wanted to be told what to do!
Kelly – What made you go with Gina Ford’s book? Maybe some intuition was at play there and you didn’t even realize it. I mean, with hundreds of books out there, something must have felt right about her approach, yes?
I read a newspaper article about it being this brand new parenting book, hot off the press, and it would get your baby into a routine so you could get your life back together quickly and be a parent-led family, rather than child-led. I guess my instincts were telling me I wanted a piece of that?!
Pam this is very timely for me as the past year I have been on a similar journey to you – learning to trust my gut. I was speaking to a therapist the other day and she said it is in fact a very common issue for women.
I always ask myself the question – what shall I do – and now i get very clear answers. I find my inner critic has a quick panicky feel and my intuition is a slower more grounded voice. I know that sounds crazy (voices in my head ha ha) but it gets stronger and stronger the definition.
I ask my intuition lots of questions now and sometimes I don’t get the the answer I want. For example when I go for breakfast and I want bacon and eggs my intuition tells me to have the healthy option. (to my dismay) but it’s allowing the best for me and my health.
Sounds far out but I am totally with you on this. Especially with parenting.
Our kids know too. They often have the answers I think.
Love this post.
Claire, I totally agree that our kids have great intuition. I try to respect their choices and what feels right to them, even when I would choose something different. Thanks for your comment…and maybe one of these days your Inner Wisdom will tell you to go ahead and eat the bacon!
Great post Pam!
I am a strong believer (and user!) of intuition. I often say “I feel we should …” – which I’m sure drives everyone who’s much more analytic around me nuts!! – and try to listen to my heart when making decisions.
I just finished a great book that you might be interested in. It’s called ‘Tune In’ by Sonia Choquette and is all about tapping into your intuition. I hope you enjoy it if you read it. Xx
Helen – thanks for the book recommendation. You know I’m putting it on my “to read” list right now!