I get emails and comments a lot asking me about what types of parenting philosophies I follow. Sometimes people want to know what books I read or which theories I like. Sometimes they want to know about my decision-making process as a parent. And sometimes their questions are as simple as, “How do you do it?”
Now, I am not foolish enough to believe that people are after MY secret to parenting necessarily. I think it is just the need to reach out to someone to validate what we do in our own homes. I do that, too. I like to see what the thought process is for other parents because it helps me to feel good about my own and, sometimes, to make changes to my own. Having multiple viewpoints can really help get a better view on your own parenting style. So, what I am about to write is not advice or a methodology so much as it is just a look at how another family parents.
When I was pregnant, I read What to Expect When You’re Expecting and it was actually kind of nice. It told me things to watch for in my pregnancy and changes that my body would be going through. It made me feel like I was right on track and doing great. So, for Christmas last year I asked for the book What to Expect in Your First Year. And it completed frustrated me. Turns out that, for the most part, pregnancies are fairly predictable. Most women experience the same things at relatively the same time and while there are definitely exceptions and differences in each pregnancy, they tend to stick to the same plan. Apparently there aren’t too many ways to grow a fetus.
But when the baby is born, all hell breaks loose. Babies have as many differences in them as there are hairs on their little bitty heads. Each one is unique and individual and that is what makes them so special. But that is also what makes me crazy when I read parenting books. Most of them – though not all of them – make me feel like there is only one way that is the right way and if that doesn’t fit my child, well then I must be doing something wrong. The only exception I have found to this has been the book The Babytalk Insider’s Guide to Your Baby’s First Year. I read this during my pregnancy and loved it. It isn’t about parenting so much as how to keep your baby alive – which is where I needed the most help!
For parenting styles and ideas, I don’t read any books. I use guidance from my mom and other good parents that I know personally. I read blogs of young mothers who write about being a mom more than they write about parenting. I like the tone of people sharing their experiences more than I like reading about someone telling me how to do something. My favorite blog for this is The Glamorous Life of a Housewife. Whitney is a wonderful SAHM and she is always doing fun things with her son that give me ideas for things to bring into my own home with Bean.
But mostly, I rely on my own understanding of my baby and good old fashioned common sense (though sometimes my common sense lapses…). In general, I make parenting choices by asking myself the question, “What would I want if I were the baby?” Instead of viewing Bean as a baby, I try to think of him as a little person. For example, if my teeth were cutting through my gums, I’d be irritable, too. And you know what I’d love to chew on? Something hard and cold that I could hold onto and move around by myself so I could get to those places that really hurt. One afternoon I had a bag of baby carrots right out of the fridge and I noticed they were big enough to not be a choking hazard, but small enough for Bean to manipulate. And they were cold. And hard. I’d love to chew on one of those if I had a toothache! So, I gave one to Bean and he loved it! Did I read about it somewhere? Nope. Did my pediatrician tell me about it? Nope. It was just a solution that I would want for myself.
Food is another great example. Yes, I sometimes give Bean things that are probably not recommended for a baby (i.e. lollipops, Twizzlers, Frosty’s from Wendy’s…) but I am a firm believer that if your healthy choices outweigh your unhealthy ones, then you are eating a balanced, healthy diet. So, yes, I sometimes give him things that might not be the best, but I make sure that those are the exceptions to his normal routine of pure, wholesome veggies, fruits, meat, and dairy. And I think as long as the scale is tipped in favor of the healthy, then we’re doing okay. Of course, I draw a hard firm line on things that can be harmful to Bean – no honey, no peanut products, etc. There’s a difference between being laid back and being reckless.
I know that there are so many different ways to raise a child and, as a blogger, I have people tell me every day the right way to raise mine. But generally speaking, I think people need to just chill out. It is an important job to raise a child – the most important job I’ll ever have – but I don’t think it has to be as complicated as it can sometimes be made out to be.
What about you? What is your parenting style? Do you follow any specific parenting methods or philosophies? Or do you have any books you’ve read that you find particularly helpful? If someone asked you the question, how do you parent, what would your answer be?