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The Rules: Your Child Is Not The Average

Updated: Jan 26




A couple I know had a minor incident in their family car, that resulted in a scratch to a reflector on the side of their car. 


They lay awake at night, worrying about the safety of their children in their car seats. After consulting internet forums, they called the car seat manufacturer who confirmed what they had read: that they couldn’t guarantee the safety of the car seats after a road traffic accident and recommended all car seats be replaced. And so they decided to replace all 4 car seats, which if you know anything about this stuff, is about a thousand pounds worth of new equipment, and a thousand pounds straight in the bin.


More than one couple we know did not give their child water on a hot day because the NHS website states (and continues to state) that you should not give small infants water. Eventually the child became quite unwell, and went to A&E. The child was diagnosed with dehydration and was put on a drip.


When you become a parent in the twenty first century, you are bombarded with so many rules, which all end with the conditional clause:


‘...otherwise your child might die.’


Some come from manufacturers who want to avoid legal liability. Others are provided by charities and services committed to reducing child mortality.


All of them induce high levels of anxiety about pretty much every aspect of your child’s life.


In reality, every child is different and it is ok to not to follow every rule or guideline, because neither you nor your child is ‘the average’. Statistically, each individual is almost definitely on either side of the median from which the rules are derived. But how to decide what to follow, and what to ignore? 


At some point in your parenting journey you will inevitably hear: 'in my day [insert parenting rule] didn’t exist and you’re all fine, aren’t you?’


To counter this, it is also true that child mortality rates have decreased as recently as the mid-to-late nineties, probably due to all these new risk-minimising rules. 


Given that both sides of this argument have some validity, ultimately the only way to navigate the labyrinthine and highly specific rules is to trust your instincts as a parent. The thought of this is quite terrifying at the beginning, but you quickly realise that paramount to your child’s safety is that both parents remain sane.


You know your child, and you know what you are capable of doing safely. It's important to let your instincts kick in, and allow yourself to be guided by others, because these rules were made to be read and applied by literally any parent anywhere. Deriving rules that minimise any risk when it comes to children is sensible, but hopefully you are empowered and educated enough to gauge and manage risks in your situation.


For example, you may determine that you are a light sleeper, so the risks of co-sleeping are less applicable to you. But if you’re not sure, go off and do a bit of reading from reputable sources about how the rules were formulated. You may well find they are based on sound reasoning, but don’t forget, neither you nor your child are ‘the average.’ We’re all unique, and that’s what adds the spice to life.


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