As someone who has written three books and numerous articles on the subject of parenting, I know that I (and many other parenting book authors and bloggers) write with the intention of inspiring, encouraging and empowering parents.

Yet I also know that the Internet and bookstores are filled with conflicting advice and opinions on child rearing and sometimes what is intended to be empowering actually feels condemning. What is meant to be encouraging may be discouraging. What is written to be inspiring ultimately may leave you feeling confused, anxious, guilty, or just plain angry. It’s so hard to know which voices to listen to in a sea filled with endless voices.

The best piece of advice I can give to my readers is the advice I had to learn to take myself—in the end, the voice you need to listen to is your own.

Not the reactive, knee-jerk voice or the critical voice you carried with you from childhood, but the quiet, calm inner stirring that you’re sometimes afraid to listen to because it’s starkly different from all the other voices surrounding you. That quiet, calm, peaceful inner voice whispers love and connection because that is what we are designed for.

Parenting is a long, tough game and whether you’re at the top of the first or the bottom of the ninth, you’re playing your heart out because you know it’s all on the line. You want to make all the right choices, so you read countless pages and weigh the science and consult your trusted friends and you do the best you can. Then, you read something that goes directly against the decision you just agonizingly made and you start questioning yourself all over again.

It’s exhausting, I know, to have a constant stream of “you should do this” and “you’d better not do that” messages thrown at you every day.

The further along I get in this game, the more I’m convinced that there is no right way to play for every team but that there is a best way for each individual, unique team. We can all have different playbooks and still play really well, but there is one single quality every team must have to succeed—unity.

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So, when all the messages overwhelm you and you don’t know which way to turn, remember this one parenting tip—unity is first and foremost.

Always. Your relationship with your child is number one, and if the relationship isn’t right, nothing else will fall into place smoothly. When you’re not attached at the heart, you lose true authority and parenting becomes exponentially more difficult. Any time you find yourself struggling in parenting, ask yourself if you’re connected with your child.

Are you unified?

In times such as these, I can’t think of anything more important than keeping our children close. Through connection, you will have influence on their values and character. If instead, they give their hearts to their peers because the attachment with you isn’t strong enough, then it is their peers who will have the influence to shape them. Connection with you will give them confidence, resilience, and a soft place to land when the world knocks them down.

Inevitably, there will be times of conflict between parent and child. We are not on peer level with them and we cannot always make them happy. But we can always be the one to extend the invitation for closeness, to repair when conflict occurs and to keep our finger on the pulse of the relationship.

Without this important foundation, all else we try to build is at risk of falling. But with that strong foundational support, we can truly build something beautiful and everlasting.

This article was originally published on Positive Parenting.