The Secret of Parenting

Annie The Nanny

Annie The Nanny

Get your parenting advice questions answered at Annie´s Advice Column
Annie the Nanny is a professional parenting educator. She writes a weekly advice column for parents who need help with their children's behaviour. Her advice has also been featured on CTV, CBC and in all kinds of print media. For more information about Annie, please go to her 'about' page.

The secret of parenting

So what’s the secret of parenting? Is there even a secret? Well, before I answer that, have you ever watched the movie “Babe?” It’s quite an old film but it’s both brilliant and funny.

It’s about a clever pig who turns out to be a fabulous and natural sheep herder. Now, you wouldn’t think that this story has much to do with parenting, let alone a “parenting secret,” but bear with me. At the end of the movie, a flock of sheep just won’t do as they’re told at the sheepdog trials. Babe, the farmer’s alternate “sheep pig,” is finally told by the ewe herself the secret magic word to get the sheep to listen. “Baaramewe! Baaramewe! To your breed, your fleece, your clan, be true!”

The secret of parenting: Is there really a parenting secret?

So is there a “baa-ram-ewe” equivalent parenting secret? Is there a singular action that you can take that will ensure you have nice, well-behaved, fabulous kids? Well, the answer to that is “no.” Yes, there are certainly some things that you can do, but having said that, there is no magic “baa-ram-ewe” equivalent. But here’s where things get strange: one of the first things I notice in my business of assisting people with their parenting problems is that many parents are constantly on the lookout for a series of quick fix tips that will magically disappear their parenting issues and provide them with happy, well-behaved children. They are, in effect, looking for the secret of parenting.

The secret of parenting: So why don’t quick fix parenting strategies work?

So, why are parents drawn to quick-fix solutions for their parenting problems? What is it about quick fixes that makes the answers more compelling than solutions that are more along the lines of “work your socks off?” Well, I think we all know the answer to that question. It’s because we are genetically disposed to finding the easiest path. This has resulted in a modern society where we’re constantly bombarded with products that allow us to take the path of least resistance. TV dinners, dishwashers—so we don’t have to reach for a scrub pad, and so on.

The secret of parenting: We have the ability to choose.

We’ve got time to do what we want. We’re free!  Or are we?  But, just as we’ve been liberated from the monotony of daily life, we’re increasingly seeking the same quick fix solution for our children. It’s everywhere. I notice this need for ease all over the place. Case in point. I’ve just had my website redone. I hope you like it. But when I had it redone, there were a whole whack of things I had to change, not because they were bad, but because I had to make it more “readable.” Ok, what’s readable? Well, it turns out that nobody can be bothered to read an article anymore, so I had to divvy it up into titled paragraphs to help keep people’s attention. Are you still here? Oh, great! Thanks so much for renewing my faith! No, really, I mean that.

The secret of parenting: Parenting solutions need to be for the long haul.

So now I’m not going to include you anymore in the quick fixers because you’re still reading this, but it’s true that if most other people can’t get a “solution” to their parenting problems in the first five seconds, they don’t bother looking any further. They’re looking for the “baa-ram-ewe” secret of parenting or its equivalent: the ten most effective methods; the twelve parenting tricks that will get your child to stop throwing temper tantrums; and so on. The bizarre part is, though, that these quick, magic, solutions are often way more work than if parents actually got to the root of the behaviour the first time around and then did something about it.

The secret of parenting: It’s human nature.

Think of it like this: You have a car with a slow leak in the tire. You’ve been meaning to do something about it, but the tire place is quite a drive, and it’s money and time and you just can’t be bothered. Anyway, it’s a super slow leak, but it still means that regularly you have to pull up at the air pump, keep a regular eye on it, get out in all weathers, and pump it up. It’s annoying and time-consuming, and sometimes it’s raining while you have to stand at the air pump. However, it’s still not actually unpleasant enough for you to make the effort to get to the tire place and fix the problem once and for all, at least not until it gets so bad that you no longer have an option.

The secret of parenting: There’s no easy way out.

It’s often the same with behaviour issues, like temper tantrums or picky eating. They’re annoying and time-consuming. Parents would rather they didn’t happen. While they’re struggling with their little person’s meltdowns, along comes a magazine that offers 10 easy tips, so parents dive off in one direction and then another. They try this and try that, ask their friends, get texted an easy solution, or try a new tip. They’re always searching for the secret, as if the secret to parenting were just one tip away. And that’s not because they don’t care. Ironically, it’s because they do care very much, so much so that they want it fixed immediately, on the spot, now! But whenever we try and change something without putting in the work to understand why our children are behaving that way, it’s a band-aid solution, and by definition, the results won’t last.

The secret of parenting: It’s part of our system.

Tips are just an extension of our “quick fix” society. They are the antithesis, the polar opposite of a solution that simply keeps the problem reoccurring. Having people come back is built into an economic system that demands growth. You like something; you keep buying more of it. That’s how money is made and jobs are created. The ups and downs of life are not commercial, yet that’s what they have become.

The secret of parenting: Things have changed and not for the better.

In days gone by, nobody profited from advice. It was simply part of the community, handed out as part of family and community gatherings for the betterment of all. While the economic opportunities of the parenting market provide me with a much-appreciated dinner, the downside of having turned our inner struggles into market opportunities has come home to roost.

Tips are our own parenting version of that economic treadmill at work. They are an endless stream of semi-solutions that never work properly because they appeal to our need for instant gratification without the hard work and understanding that underlie them. They are, by their nature, temporary. “Baa-ram-ewe” was the sheep pig’s recipe for success, but then again, it was just a movie. We live in the real world. For more information, see my behaviour intervention services. For fun articles, check out the article “The #1 biggest parenting mistake

Behaviour Intervention Service

Or how about reading Annie the Nanny’s ten tips to being a successful parent.

If gentle parenting isn’t working for you be sure to read this.

Do you revolve your whole world around your kids?  Here’s why making your kids your world isn’t such a great idea.

Do you know why telling kids they’re special isn’t such a great idea if you want to boost their confidence?

Do you know what to do when your child encounters peer pressure?

Do you know why parenting with a focus on gender-creativity may not be the best idea?

Would you like to teach your children to be kind?

Here’s a clip of Annie the Nanny talking about the power of choice on CTV Calgary.

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