No Instruction Manual



"Having children makes you no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist."                                                                                                                                                                                Michael Levine

As a parent you have made or will make great preparations for the arrival of your child.  You get the room ready, with a crib, diapers, clothes, blankets, wipes, pacifiers, and all the things a baby could need or want.

The big day arrives.  You take your precious child home and that’s when it first hits you.  There is NO instruction manual ... None ... NADA.  Actually, I think I first realized this little detail while still in the hospital with my first born.  I had absolutely no clue what to do with a baby.  Sure, I had taken a few prenatal classes, but I had never been around many babies or small children.

In nature, animals recognize their babies by smell or sound.  Seal mothers go hunting, and, when they return mother and baby easily find one another.  I’m sorry, but when my babies were first born, if you had put a bunch of babies in a room, I don’t think I could have picked out my own baby, especially if others were similar in size and hair color.

So.  No manual, no homing instinct.  What’s a parent to do?  Wing it.  That is what all parents do.  Why?  Because every child is different.  Every day is different.  The possibilities are endless.  Yes, you may follow some of the same direction that your parents took regarding parenting, but, obviously, you will have no recollections about how your parents handled situations when you were very young.

Whether you are near the beginning of your parenting journey, the middle or in the final stretch, all parents need to keep in mind that parenting is definitely one of the most difficult jobs on earth, but it can also be the most rewarding.

Even though there is no instruction booklet, you, as a parent, do have inner resources to pull from.  These are your parenting tools.  You will hone these tools on a daily basis, and your parenting skills will improve and develop as you grow with your child.  A key point to remember is that each child is uniquely different, and the parenting technique you develop with one child may not work with another.

What inner resources will help you to develop good parenting skills?

Love.  This is the basis of your parent-child relationship.   Without love, no one will have much of a chance to succeed as a good parent.

Patience.  While some parents have an abundance of this virtue, many of us have to work hard on this.  We all falter at times, but this is a key ingredient to good parenting.

Kindness.  Essential to raising a kind child is your own kindness.  Even discipline should be enacted with kindness.

Honesty.  Being truthful to your children will help them to be honest themselves.  Teach truthfulness by your own example.

Discipline.  One of the hardest parts of parenting is learning to properly and kindly discipline your child.  We must also discipline ourselves, learning to use restraint in our own lives, as well as when dealing with our children.

Acceptance.  Key to building self-esteem in a child is acceptance.  Positive words and actions go a long way in displaying our acceptance of our children.

Humor.  Another essential ingredient to good parenting is humor, the use of which helps foster happiness.  Learn to laugh and laugh often.

From the book by Kristin Fitch and Sharon Pierce McCullough, Parenting Without A Paddle: Navigating the Waters of Parenthood


Sharon is an artist, designer and author of both "how-to" books and children's picture books.  She is also co-founder of ZiggityZoom and the managing editor.  The book "Parenting Without a Paddle:Navigating the Waters of Parenthood" was co-authored by McCullough, along with Kristin Fitch, the other co-founder of ZiggityZoom.  She is passionate about family and family fun.