The Only 6 Rules You'll Ever Need for Confident Parenting

“In spite of the six thousand parenting manuals in the bookstores, child raising is still a dark continent and no one really knows anything. You just need a lot of love and luck—and, of course, courage.” —Bill Cosby

Take time for yourself. Spend more time with your kids.

Don’t expect too much. Don’t expect too little.

Embrace technology. Resist technology.

Be consistent. Be flexible.

We swim in a sea of advice on how to raise kids, and the messages are sometimes contradictory and confusing. The “shoulds” and “oughtas” come to us through real-life conversations with friends, pediatricians, and well-intentioned in-laws – and virtual voices that stream to us in digital forms. We all want to do right by our kids, but sifting through all the expertise can leave us feeling wobbly and insecure.

Despite all the written and unwritten “rules” on what it means to be a good mom or dad, there are some things to remember that can help you maintain your center of gravity during those times of doubt and second-guessing:

1. You are the expert – for your child. No one knows your child quite the way you do. In your role as a parent you’ve spent a lot of hours watching, listening, experimenting and readjusting. You’ve got the data to support what your gut is telling you. Consider the information and advice you are getting from other trusted sources, but in the end, make parenting decisions based on your own experience and intuition.

2. Your kids want you to be confident. As adults, we don’t want to work for bosses who don’t seem to know what they’re doing. It’s hard to gauge our own actions when the person in charge is unsure or wishy-washy. The same goes for kids . Confident parents make kids feel secure. Sometimes you just have to fake it ‘til you make it, but that’s OK.

3. Not all guilt is equal. Guilt can undermine confidence, but there’s a difference between useful guilt and false guilt. Useful guilt is our conscience telling us that something important is genuinely out of whack – like when screen time has taken over face-to-face time in the family. False guilt is all the peripheral stuff that doesn’t really matter in the long run – like when you didn’t have time to do laundry so your daughter had to wear swimsuit bottoms under her jeans. Have a good laugh and let the false stuff go.

4. You’re wiser today than you were yesterday. We all make mistakes along the way, but that’s what makes parenting an art form. The things we’re worrying about today are generally not the things that were a really big deal a year ago. Children grow up, we figure things out, and we move on. That’s why grandparents tend to have a more relaxed attitude about raising kids – they have the perspective (and selective memory) that only time can provide.

5. Focus on what you’re doing right. As parents it’s easy to dwell on our foibles and failings. So you lost your cool when the kids missed the bus, but in the same day you also oohed and aahed over a great report card, made meatloaf from scratch (letting your 4-year-old crack the egg), and listened with rapt attention to the details of THE BEST RECESS EVER over dinner. Few have achieved a 4.0 grade point average in parenting – let perfection go and aim for B’s.

6. Children will find their way – and so will you. Some kids seem to take the freeway through ages and stages, with apparent ease and smooth-sailing, while others take the – shall we say – scenic route. Regardless of the path, you can breathe easy knowing that the vast majority of kids come round right in the end to become full-functioning members of society. And you’ll be left wondering why you ever doubted yourself.


1. Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids: 8 Principles for Raising Kids You’ll Love to Live With by Bonnie Harris, 2008, Adams Media.

2. Take Back Your Kids: Confident Parenting in Turbulent Times by William Doherty, 2000, Sorin Books.

3. Building your self-confidence as a parent.

4. I’m a Fantastic Mom via