Parenting styles and reality

Now, I am aware this post may be controversial. Parenting trends are all the rage and each has to have a name it seems. ‘Gentle’ parenting often seems to go hand in hand with attachment parenting which includes baby wearing, baby led weaning and bed sharing. And I am fan of many aspects of these styles of parenting. Some things make a lot of sense and I want to make that clear from the start. I am not disputing the benefits of such parenting trends nor am I criticising them. 

I like holding my baby close and carrying her in a baby carrier. I often use a front carrier rather than a sling of any kind, as both of my daughters and I found it a lot more comfortable. But what I don’t like is the strict ‘rules’ that some like to assign to attachment parenting which suggest that this is not deemed to be baby wearing and so is somehow less beneficial. My baby is happy, it works for us, so it is best for us.

I like cuddling my baby in bed next to me but I believe she is safer, happier and better placed generally in her cot to sleep. This, again, doesn’t comply with attachment parenting philosophy and therefore must mean I am from that harsh camp of parents who likes to banish her baby away from the maternal embrace into her own, (mighty expensive and comfortable, I might add,) cot to sleep. 

I think baby led weaning works best hand in hand with traditional weaning. Some foods work best eaten with hands, some delivered by a spoon. Finger foods allow for manual dexterity practices, spoon feeding for tastes and ensuring she actually eats. A recent debate I read focussed on whether ‘spoon-loading’ was allowed if you were truly doing baby led weaning. What a waste of mental energy to work out if it’s ‘OK’ to put food on a spoon.

I try my best to give my toddler daughter choices, speak to her in as equal a manner possible allowing for her age appropriate emotional development and maturity, and involve her generally rather than bark orders and instructions in her direction which I don’t think is cool. But do I always manage it?

No. There are times when I believe that children need to learn to follow rules or procedures in the same manner adults needs to; it’s how society works. Or simply to follow a set of age appropriate instructions so that the rest of the people in the family can coexist. Life is not always a case of, “Well, I understand your opinion so let’s discuss it.” It might sound a harsh lesson to learn, but as adults we do not get this privilege of always doing things our own way. Sometimes, we need to do certain things and listen to certain people, and by giving a child too much autonomy when they lack the emotional maturity to cope, we are not benefitting them at all. As a teacher, I have seen plenty of children who have never been taught that they need to follow instructions previously which makes for unpopular and uncooperative children amongst peers and teachers alike.

I give my daughter choices such as, “Would you like to eat a banana or grapes for snack today?” This, I believe, gives her a choice she can handle and some control over her life. She is a well behaved, social, lovely little girl so I think we must be doing something right most of the time.

I read recently about gentle parenting involving avoiding arguing with your child or telling them off as is damages the parent-child relationship and makes the child afraid. Everything should be along the lines of, “I understand why you want to do this but let’s try this way.” I believe this works to an extent but sometimes once mummy has said this for several hours already, there is simply nothing left to negotiate and it doesn’t do a toddler any favours to give them more choices than they are emotionally mature enough to handle. I do not believe asserting parental control via clear instructions instills fear if said in a calm and controlled manner. Yelling, hitting and bullying instill fear, not being told clearly and calmly what to do by a loving parent.

So I wonder why we have to give these parenting styles names and a set of rules at all. Or why we have to choose one. Can’t we just do our best and use common sense? Do what’s right for our own family? Lets stop assigning labels and judging everyone else by our own values and assume most parents want what’s best for their child and do the best they can.

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