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Parenting Outside the Lines

Forget the Rules, Tap into Your Wisdom, and Connect with Your Child

By Meghan Leahy
13-minute read
Audio available
Parenting Outside the Lines by Meghan Leahy

Parenting Outside the Lines (2020) is an essential guide to forgetting everything you’ve ever learned about parenting – and following your intuition instead. As parents, we’re insecure and desperate to get it right. So we keep searching for the perfect book or workshop that will tell us how to raise our children. But, truthfully, there is no perfect method. The only thing we can do is learn how to tune into ourselves and our children, and respond to specific situations with flexibility and grace.

  • Perfectionist parents wanting to learn how to forgive themselves for making mistakes
  • Parents of young children who are tired of being locked in continual power struggles
  • Parents and caregivers who want to have more fun with their children

Meghan Leahy is a columnist for On Parenting in the Washington Post, and a certified parenting coach. She’s appeared on NPR and ABC, and her writing has been featured in numerous publications.

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Parenting Outside the Lines

Forget the Rules, Tap into Your Wisdom, and Connect with Your Child

By Meghan Leahy
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now
Parenting Outside the Lines by Meghan Leahy
Synopsis

Parenting Outside the Lines (2020) is an essential guide to forgetting everything you’ve ever learned about parenting – and following your intuition instead. As parents, we’re insecure and desperate to get it right. So we keep searching for the perfect book or workshop that will tell us how to raise our children. But, truthfully, there is no perfect method. The only thing we can do is learn how to tune into ourselves and our children, and respond to specific situations with flexibility and grace.

Key idea 1 of 8

Ditch the arbitrary standards and tune in to your kids.

The author, Meghan Leahy, realized that she’d hit a parenting low when she became so frustrated with her two-year-old daughter that she had to lock herself in the bathroom to cool down.

The problem? Once again, her daughter was refusing to get ready for daycare. Leahy had tried all her usual tricks: bribing, cajoling, threatening, even brute force. But nothing worked. Her daughter insisted that she wanted to stay in her pajamas.

At her wit’s end, she googled parenting support resources and came across the Parent Encouragement Program, or PEP. She called the hotline and told the kind-sounding woman her problem. But the counselor’s response surprised her. “Why shouldn’t she go in pajamas?” she asked. “Is that really so important?”

The key message here is: Ditch the arbitrary standards and tune in to your kids.

At, first, the question confused Leahy. But when she took a step back and examined the situation, she realized that the woman was right. The only reason she cared about what her toddler wore was her fear of other people’s judgment. But aside from keeping up appearances, there wasn’t a good reason that her daughter shouldn’t wear her soft and comfortable pajamas to school.

That phone call was a revelation. Leahy realized that she’d been applying arbitrary rules and standards to her children. She’d internalized dogmatic ideas like “if you give a child an inch she’ll take a mile” and become convinced that she had to be in control at all times. But in the process, parenting had become a power struggle. And she had no time to connect with her children because she was so busy telling them what to do.

In order to build a connection with her children, the author would have to unlearn all of those old ideas, and start tuning into reality as it was, instead of as she thought it should be. Rather than pushing her agenda at all costs, she’d have to learn to read her children and the situation, and stop parenting based on hypothetical fears. She’d also have to learn to pick her battles and distinguish which rules were important for her family. She started allowing her daughter to go to school in her pajamas. She was forced to swallow her pride about her daughter’s appearance, and learn to stop caring what other people thought. As a result, the mornings became free of power struggles and she actually started having fun.

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