Degas or Picasso? Be your own masterpiece

While you may want your family to look and behave like a Degas painting, instead of the Picasso that you are, it's best to follow your instincts. Here are some tips to encourage you in this regard.

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  • Mother’s intuition is not a scientifically proven fact but many mothers have experienced it. Why then, do we compare our mothering instincts about our unique children with the instincts of others, particularly other mothers?

  • Parenting is a collage of experiments, of trial and error, of success and failure that over time result in family-specific norms, rules and memories. While you may want your family to look and behave like a Degas painting instead of the Picasso that you are, it's best to follow your instincts when creating family operations. Here are some tips to encourage you in this regard.

  • Do what works for you

  • Edgar Degas, 1834-1917, while a student in a French art school was taught, "Draw lines ... and still more lines ... and you will become a good artist” (“Degas Pastels,” Alfred Werner). Degas became a famous impressionist. Pablo Picasso, 1881-1973, also studied art in France and drew lines yet he became a famous cubist. Both painters used lines to create masterpieces but interpreted those lines in vastly different ways.

  • The same is true in creating family norms. Sundays are my most stressful day of the week so instead of making the large family meal my mother cooked and we enjoyed every Sunday, we have opted for an easier breakfast for Sunday dinner menu. We are still enjoying good company and food but have interpreted Sunday dinner differently. Creating family norms that work for you will lead to a happy family portrait.

  • Trust your hunch

  • You have a hunch about your child's well-being but no one believes you. What then? In lieu of doubting mother's intuition have confidence in your knowledge.

  • Marie is the mother of a tender-hearted yet academically struggling second grader. He has difficulty with reading comprehension and handwriting. Marie knew something was wrong and had a hunch that her son was dyslexic. School administrators disregarded Marie’s concerns and instead tried to waylay her fears by praising how hard her son works on school assignments. After research and fervent prayer, Marie had her little one tested by a doctor specializing in reading. Sure enough, her son was diagnosed with phonological dyslexia and dysgraphia. If Marie had not trusted her instincts, found someone with answers and stood up for her son, a 7-year-old boy would not be getting the help he needs.

  • “Trust your hunches. They’re usually based on facts filed away just below the conscious level.” Dr. Joyce Brothers

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  • Incorporate new ideas appropriately

  • My oldest child once asked me, “Why do we always change things because another family is doing it? Why can’t we just do our own thing?” I was shocked that he noticed all my parenting adjustments and that he thought what we were doing was fine. New ideas can be helpful in creating and enforcing family rules but revamping family operations every time you hear of something that works for your sister or a neighbor leads to parenting inconsistency and can make children feel unsettled.

  • Women share stories — it’s in our nature — but resist the urge to throw out your own family norms in favor of another’s. Instead, listen attentively, ponder on the idea before you decide if it would be a good fit in your home. If the answer is yes, transition it into your already working routines, while taking out something that has lived past its prime.

  • Stop second guessing

  • A mother of two struggles with second-guessing her parenting decisions when she goes home to visit her parents and older siblings. It’s as if her years of mothering experience don’t matter because she reverts to the younger sister role and seeks her big sisters’ approval.

  • If you fall into this trap, take a breath and remember all you have learned about yourself and your children. You are not a black sheep because you handle discipline or create memories differently than other family members. They experimented to figure out what works in their home and you can too.

  • Every work of art, like every family, is beautiful in its own way. Do what works for you, trust your instincts, incorporate new ideas appropriately and stop second guessing. This is how you will create a family masterpiece.

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Jen Savage is the COO of her household. She loves life in Arizona.

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