The most memorable piece of parenting advice my dad gave me is also the one I fall back on most frequently. I think it’s actually one of The Parent’s best-kept secrets, and I’m going to share it with you. Prepare yourself: it’s a big one.
We don’t actually know what the hell we are doing.
I know, right? When you were a kid and your parents seemed to have it all together, know exactly what to do and how to handle every situation, did you imagine that they were completely winging it?
I can’t remember what prompted my dad to tell me this – it’s likely that I was bemoaning my lack of any clue what to do with my toddler – but I recall that I asked him “how did you always know what the right thing to do was?!” That is when he laughed, and replied “fake it ’til you make it.”
My dad’s pretty impressive approach is to act like you know what you are doing, even when you have no idea what the right course of action is. This fools your child into believing that you hold the road map, therefore you are in control. It must work quite well, because until he shared this with me I actually thought he knew exactly what he was doing. The alternative is that I was an incredibly gullible child, so I prefer to credit my dad’s fakery.
I jest, but I was seriously simultaneously aghast (my childhood belief in my parents’ omnipotence was shattered) and awed (they had me believing wholeheartedly in their omnipotence). As parenting approaches go, it’s simple but brilliant and it’s served us well. As it works, your confidence in yourself grows, and herein lies its true brilliance: you don’t even realise when you’ve stopped faking it. Suddenly the right course of action starts coming naturally to you, and when you stop for a minute, you realise that you’ve got this.
At least until the next phase. Then you can go right back to faking it.