Parenting is truly challenging these days.

In addition to the exhaustion, tantrums, diaper changes, and multitude of tasks facing parents each day, we are also bombarded with an unrelenting onslaught of contradicting advice and opinions. A brief glance through parenting articles posted by friends on Facebook yields dire warnings for nearly every parenting choice.

If you let your kids sleep with you, they’ll never sleep alone and you’ll never have sex with your partner again! If you have your kids sleep alone, they’ll feel insecure – they’re only young once, enjoy those snuggles!

If you praise your kids too much, they’ll grow up to be people pleasers who are only motivated by praise and external rewards! If you don’t praise your kids enough, they’ll grow up with low self-esteem and won’t feel connected to you!

I spoke to a parent recently who felt she had “messed up” because she told her child, “good job!”

Another parent shared with me that she wanted to wait until her child was four to send him to preschool, but she felt pressured by friends and family to send him earlier and worried he would be “behind”. Others were telling her it’s best not to send preschoolers to school and let them have their childhood to play!

There’s a kernel of truth in all of these statements, but none of them tell the whole story. Play is crucial at a young age, but a good preschool can also provide excellent opportunities for play and socialization. While it’s true that there is research showing that specific praise that focuses on effort (“You worked so hard at building that tower”) is more effective than general praise (“good job”) or praise that focuses on results (“You did it!”), by no means should we turn that information into some kind of parenting litmus test or let it become yet another way to shame parents or put ourselves down. Beating ourselves up over every move we make as parents is not helpful and does not make us better parents. Yes, you can learn to improve aspects of your parenting, and no, telling your child “good job” has not ruined their chances of succeeding in life.

Finding our voice as parents in the constant cacophony of advice can be challenging. Of course every parent wants to do their best. Of course parents want a close relationship with their child and to raise successful, confident and independent children.

The truth is that there is no one right way to do things because we all are raising different kids and we are all different parents with different needs. Parents of multiple children will tell you that what works for their first child might not work for their second. Parenting choices are complex. They are based on your needs, your child’s needs, and your family’s needs. So how do we tune out the noise and find our own parenting compass?

It starts with making intentional decisions and learning to set boundaries. What kind of parent do you want to be? What kind of child do you want to raise? Do your actions today reflect that? If not, what needs to change?

I’ll be writing more on these questions and finding your inner parenting compass in upcoming blog posts. Stay tuned!