There is no “One Size Fits All” method of parenting

One Size Fits All Approach

You need to learn one thing when you become a parent, and learn it fast: you will never win.

There is no topic that is quite as emotive, opinionated or talked about as the subject of parenting. From best-selling books to primetime TV programmes, websites to NHS leaflets, hundreds of millions of books have been written about the “best” and “right” way to raise children. And you know what? They all say different things.

Whichever parenting expert you choose to follow, there will be another one just waiting to tell you to do the opposite. And I use “expert” in the broadest sense. Whether it is your mum or your best friend, your health visitor or a celebrity nanny, there are many people who believe they know you and your baby better than you do yourself. 

A conversation with a friend recently transported me back to the me of three years ago. As I was chatting on the phone to my friend – a mum herself – I suddenly felt like I had been picked up and put back in 2010, when my baby was four months old and I was still a vulnerable and impressionable new mum. I was that mum who would sit for hours reading threads on parenting forums, trying to work out the answer to my latest mother dilemma. I lapped up every word the health visitor told me, then went home and read about it, becoming more and more confused.

The thing is, I was absolutely convinced, back then, that there was a “One Size Fits All” method to parenting. Being new to the motherhood game, I was yet to learn of the different (and often conflicting) parenting “approaches”. The terms “attachment parent”, “controlled crying”, “natural parenting”, “Gina Ford style” etc were all alien to me. I just assumed that the people I spoke to about my baby knew better than I did, every time. I had no reason to question their wisdom.

It wasn’t until my daughter turned six months old that I started to understand there were different ways of doing things. That I didn’t have to follow the advice, word for word, of other mothers or health visitors or TV experts. By then I had got to know my own instincts pretty well and I had started to suss out that this idea of a “One Size Fits All” approach was utter rubbish. It didn’t exist, much to my dismay. I would have to work out my own way of doing things.

Something my dad said to me around that time still often comes back to me. “Molly,” he said. “Whatever you decide to do as a mum, just make sure you follow your own instincts. If you take on an approach to weaning or sleep – or whatever – that goes against your own views of the world or common sense or gut feelings, then it won’t work. It’s that simple.”

He then went on to tell me how he and my mother attempted to deal with their own problematic baby, back in 1984. Their baby was eight months old and not sleeping through the night. She would wake constantly and cry and cry. Exhausted, they took their baby to the doctor. The doctor told them to put her to bed and let her cry. Dutifully, they put their baby to bed and closed the door. Ten minutes later, unable to continue listening to their baby’s wails of distress, my mother and father opened the door to find vomit all over the bedclothes. Their baby had made herself so upset she was sick everywhere. It was then that they decided to ignore the doctor’s advice and just muddle on through with their own idea of how to live with their sleepless baby.

I’m not telling you this story to have a pop at the controlled crying method. I’m telling it to you to show that, for my mum and dad, that method did not work. It didn’t work because it went against what they felt was right. And, at the time, they were offered no other option. It was presented as the ONLY option open to them.

Incidentally, when my mum and dad had another baby (my little sister, born four years after me) they were different parents. They did leave their other baby to cry and didn’t feel upset when doing it. This baby was a different baby though; she was “easier” in the sense that she slept for longer periods and was far more placid than her older sister. That personality trait continues to today, by the way. I would imagine my little sister has, generally, caused my parents fewer headaches than their (sometimes troublesome) older daughter.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that ALL BABIES ARE DIFFERENT. Not just that, but ALL PARENTS ARE DIFFERENT. If you found that a certain way of dealing with a problem you faced with your child worked, then that is fantastic – good for you. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that YOUR method would automatically work on MY child. Because, you know, your child is not my child and, importantly, I am not you.

I am all for the offering and sharing of advice about parenting dilemmas. Goodness knows, I’ve asked for it enough times. I am constantly seeking reassurance and asking for tips on all manner of parenting related subjects. The only difference is that, now, I can understand that some tips may not work for me. Rather than accept that a piece of advice is the ONLY advice out there, I am able to add it to a list of ideas and pick the one that best suits me, my child and my family.

It’s taken a long time, but I now fully realise that when it comes to being a parent, there is no “right way”. The only “right way” is the way that feels right for you. It really is that simple.



  1. says


    Too weird.

    Were you peeping over my shoulder at 3am this morning when I finished my parenting book?

    My book starts with these words!

    I echo it throughout the book and although I’m a ‘parenting expert’ I think you’ll like my book.

    For a start I have children, experience and yea, a few ace qualifications but like you – I’m a mum.

    A mum who helps others who ask for advice and you know what I say mostly? ‘Here are your options, here’s all the different methods I’ve tried and know work BUT every child is different – go with your gut.

    Molly I want to send you my book – not because you need it or need help with sleep – because I value your opinion and think it’ll make you smile.

    Well, I hope so.

  2. says

    Oh this is SO true. We’re ALL different, just some more different than others 😉 what we need to do is embrace Difference, and lose the judgey-ness (not a real word, sorry). Parenting manuals are there to give ideas, not to be followed to the letter. Some need them more than others. We all have different ideas. Life would be boring if we were all the same!

  3. says

    So true Molly! I’m on my second baby and I did ask my health visitor for some advice the other day and she was actually really good at finding out that I was happy with before giving me options as nice as it would sometimes be for there to be a ‘solution’ to baby issues there just can’t be one rule for everyone because like you said every person and every baby is different. I out J in his cot to go to sleep on his own last week, I laid next to him as I didn’t want to leave him and to my surprise he did it really easily compared to Cherry who screamed for over an hour but then she stopped waking up every hour after I did it, J hasn’t! They really are all different and I guess we just have to try things to see what works. I hate the way people judge one another for their choices though. I think happy parents equal happy kids no matter how they choose to parent x

  4. says

    Applauds! I’m coming at this from the special needs parent angle, and being bombarded with contradictory advice on how to cope with my autistic 12 year old. And some of it just doesn’t sit right with me at all. And I know I’m going to have to do my own thing, even while others on-line and IRL will be shaking their heads ….

    • says

      Thank you for the lovely comment. I am no expert, but I really think that often a parent’s instincts are right. There really isn’t just one way to deal with a situation – all children are so different!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *