The All or Nothing Approach to Parenting

Have you seen all those articles lately? They’re everywhere. They’re telling you what you’re doing wrong, that you’re ruining your kids, and you should start doing these 5 (or 10) things to fix it. Then, two days later you read another article which completely contradicts the first article. And yes, you’re still ruining your kids. Is your head spinning yet? I know mine is.

How do you make sense of it all? Are they even worth reading? I’ll tell you what I’ve done. I’m still reading them, but I’ve stopped trying to make sense of everything. We’re all so vastly different and come from vastly different places. There is no “one size fits all” way to parent. Certainly there are good practices and bad practices that can apply to all. But, on the other hand, there are many areas where the nuances of a situation can warrant many different approaches.

Case in point: Dear Mom on the iPhone and the many responses to it, such as this one. Talk about uproar. And, I was one of those roaring (privately in my own home, but roaring nonetheless). First you find out that people are actually judging you when you pull out your phone at the park. Then, the line gets drawn in the sand. On one side you’ve got the “never ever look at your phone in the presence of your kids” crowd that accuses all the phone people of ignoring their children and never engaging. On the other side you’ve got the “I’ll pull out my phone whenever I feel like it” crowd who are angry and ready to toss any bit of good advice that comes their way out the window. Honestly, I can’t blame them. Where’s the middle ground? I never saw it in this situation.

Just recently, there was the British nanny letting us know that we were raising a bunch of spoiled, entitled brats and she can tell us how to fix it. Sigh. Yes, this went down the same path. All or nothing with no middle ground.


The good advice is getting lost in the approach. 

Always be present. Never pull out your phone or check your email or talk to a friend, etc.



Let’s go back to the 1970’s. Ignore your kids. Let them run all over the neighbor and drink out of the hose. That’s the only way to raise good citizens of the world.

Do you see the highlighted words? It’s the absolutes. Always, never, only. You slap those words on there and suddenly people are up in arms. Do I pull out my phone at the park? Yes, I do. Do I always pull out my phone? Nope, I don’t and neither do the majority of the parents you see on the phone at the park.

So, why all the controversy? Where’s the good stuff. Where’s the stuff that won’t make me feel like the world’s worst parent? Unfortunately, the good stuff doesn’t always go viral. But, it should. It should get people talking. It should get people thinking. It’s there right in the middle of that all or nothing approach.

Let’s tune out all the fighting. We’ll step back and we won’t engage. If the advice makes you feel crummy or it makes you feel angry, it’s not the advice you need. The good stuff gives you hope. The good stuff makes you stop and think. The good stuff is delivered with kindness. It’s personal and shares the imperfections of life. The good stuff… well, that’s what we all need to hear.

Where’s the good stuff? 

Luckily there is some great advice among all of the controversy. These ladies have it right. They’re real. They’re honest. And, they’re not out to start a fight. When you’re feeling down-trodden thanks to the latest viral bit of parenting advice, read the advice from these ladies instead.



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Terri is a writer and mom of two elementary-aged girls. She has a passion for learning and is always looking for ways to make learning fun. You can find her at Better Than Homework where she shares fun learning activities or Creative Family Fun where she shares art, craft, and family fun ideas.

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