How To Parent (Hint: I have no clue!)

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?

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31 Thoughts to “How To Parent (Hint: I have no clue!)”

  1. I love this post! Personally, I’m pretty laid back and am a big fan of letting my (almost 2) son explore and learn. That being said, he’s got free reign of our house, with the exception of stairs and a few kitchen cabinets withe dangerous items (graters, mandoline, cleaning agents). He gets to run around, and yes, that means that my husband and I have to keep a very watchful eye on him, but he loves it, and is very curious. He eats well 90% of the time, and the other 10%, we let him have popsicles, ice cream, and easter candy. And the kicker? Because he’s learning that these things are treats, he’s figured out that he’s got to be a good boy to have them. Best tantrum-ender ever: “if you want a pop, you have to be a good boy.”

    My philosophy is that there isn’t only one good way to something, there’s lots! And while I know I’m not a perfect parent by any means, I think deep down, that there’s a reason that I am the mother to this particular lovely little boy. So while I’m not perfect, we’re a perfect fit. And that’s enough for me.

  2. Great post! Every mother stresses about whether or not she’s doing the right thing. My only “philosophy” for parenting – Go With the Flow. It’s a nice idea to have rules and schedules, but the one sure thing about kids is that they are all different and they are always changing. Just when you’ve figured out a good schedule for naps or what they like for dinner, they change. And rather than stress about it, you have to just go with it. Like you said, as long as your good choices for them outweigh the bad ones (and we all make those) they’ll turn out ok.

  3. Jessica

    I actually thought I was going to be an overbearing scheduler, but now as a mom I just go with the flow too. I feel as long as my kid is loved, entertained and is learning, then not to stress over the little stuff.

  4. When I was pregnant, some friends of ours asked me what parenting philosophy I intended to follow, as though there were a menu that I HAD to choose from and I could only choose one thing. When I told them that I’d follow whatever worked for my baby without causing her emotional or physical harm, they looked at me like I told them I planned on robbing a bank. Sheesh! Now, Molly’s only four months old, but so far she seems to be doing great with my hodgepodge parenting approach:)

    And as for books, I’m with you. The ones that write as though theirs is the ONLY way drive me nuts. The only ones I’ve really liked so far are Elizabeth Pantley’s books on how to help your baby sleep; she repeats over and over that whatever works for you works ad provides multiple solutions to each problem. Loved it!

  5. Heather in ND

    True that, yo! The only book I would REALLY recommend is the No! book http://www.amazon.com/No-Kids-Ages-Need-Hear-Parents/dp/074328920X/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1273670497&sr=1-6

    But most of it is just what you hear from great parents. Sounds like you’re doing a wonderful job with the Bean, Katie!

  6. Melissa

    I don’t have kids so I ask dumb questions… Why can’t you give a baby honey or peanut products?

    1. Katie

      They have higher risks of allergies. Too bad because I love toast with peanut butter AND honey! 🙂

      1. Bhuvana

        Honey can also have bacteria in it that is harmful to babies’ not-yet-fully-developed digestive systems – http://www.babycenter.com/408_when-can-my-baby-eat-honey_1368490.bc.

      2. The honey has botulism spores…gross! (Though I actually love it, but I’m terrified of giving it to my girl!)

        1. Melissa

          I am so glad I have a couple (maybe?) more years before kids! I really hope that this isn’t common knowledge that I’ve ignored for years and this is something they only tell you in super secret parenting books.

  7. It’s a great question… one that I definitely would have a hard time answering. I guess I’d say I parent to get through the day, but I also parent to instill good values in my kids. My biggest goal in life is to have respectful, caring, and fun-loving kids. So I parent in the same way. (except when they drive me crazy, and I have to lay down the law!) 🙂 From what I can tell, though, you’re doing a great job with Bean, so keep up what you’re doing!

  8. Okay, Bean is starting to seriously get into these photo sessions – just look at his expression in the first one! I think it’s obvious you should sign him up for baby modeling. You can get him an agent and a producer (do individual babies have producers, or is that something provided for each job? – clearly more research is needed) and see if they hold baby boy beauty pagents. And if not, you can start one. I mean, how sexist that there are only pagents for girls. What if little boys want to strut their stuff on the catwalk?

    See, now *that’s* how to parent.

  9. Great post! My little guy is 7 1/2 months and I’ve gone compltetly off the page when it comes to food – well, within reason. I’m doing what works for him (chunkier, homemade stuff) and following him. I get so tired of people telling me what I should and shouldn’t do, I’m just doing what feels right. I quit reading the books and figure since he’s still alive, I must be doing ok.

  10. My parenting philosophy is . . . the whole thing is a crap shoot. Seriously. Great parents can turn out horrible kids and terrible parents sometimes manage to produce stellar citizens.

    That being said, I think we need to
    a) Love them.
    b) Put their interest before our own.
    c) Be intentional and consistent and safe.

    And a good sense of humor is key. 🙂

  11. Rebekah M.

    seeing that i was 19 years old when i got pregnant, i felt like i needed all the help i could get! (and it seems like no amount of babysitting will ever prepare you for motherhood!). I kinda read what to expect, but it really freaked me out. i had a few little complications and it made them seem like the worst things ever (when looking back, they were minor in comparison to other things).

    So, i read “The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy” and “The Girlfriend’s Guide to Surviving the First Year” I felt like a friend was just giving me advice! and i loved it! Both should actually be read before baby comes because ‘surviving the first year’ has tips for labor/post labor.
    I didn’t really read anything parenting related much over the first 18 months. I did consult What to Expect the First year when it came to little things. but nothing major.

    At my son’s 2 yr ckup his PCP recommended 1-2-3 Magic for disciplining. I picked up 1-2-3 Magic for the Christian Parent & have enjoyed reading it as well as implementing it. As my son gets older i will implement what Dr. Kevin Lehman teaches. I recently heard him speak at a conference & his ideas are very grounded in Biblical beliefs and they are just very logical!

    Look out! 1 is just around the corner & 2 is not far behind (and just wait until he learns to understand/comprehend the word “no”)

  12. Bhuvana

    My daughter is almost 10 months old and I LOVE being a mom. My style is to not obsess too much over the milestones – e.g. the things a baby is “supposed” to do at each age.

    As for books, I actually didn’t like “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” while I was pregnant, and my OB recommended that I not read it. I did enjoy “The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy” but mostly for the humor. For actual useful info, I mostly consulted babycenter.com.

    And I also try to think of my daughter as a little person with her own wants and needs. When she’s teething, she’s cranky and wants to be held; I’d probably feel the same way!

  13. Katie, you’re right. There is no one, correct way to parent because you know why? No child is exactly like another. As a mother to a 2 year old who is very curious and independent, I have found that “going with the flow” (within safe and reasonable terms) is the best way with our child. For him, he needs to be engaged whether it be playing outside with friends, alone playtime, watching a little TV, eating dinner, whatever. I try to talk to him, explain things to him, and try to let his natural curiosity and independence shine through. At the same time I’m trying to teach him right from wrong: be nice to others, be respectful, don’t touch what’s not yours, say “Please” and “Thank you.” But above all I tell him everyday multiple times a day how much I love him!

  14. courtney

    I hate parenting books. I’m pretty strict when it comes to manners and what not, but I’m laid back on other things. I do what works best with my child. I totally agree with the food thing. We started healthy table food when my son was 9 months old and he is now one of the best eaters I know. I do allow him to have cookies, chocolate, and (heaven forbid) cheetos, etc., but not as a part of his regular diet. He is healthy, happy and at a very good weight for his age. I think it’s all about balance. The only other thing I try to limit is t.v. – I think it stifles their development and creativity, but that’s not to say I don’t use it when I need it. Sometimes mom needs a 20 minute break 🙂

  15. I read one book during my first pregnancy, I think it was called ‘Your Pregnancy, Week by Week’. I liked that there was a new chapter for each week always telling you what was going on and what to expect, it was very comforting during those long waits between OB appointments.
    After my son was born, I didn’t read any books, though I liked getting the weekly emails from babycenter.com. Google also came in very handy many times, like when he was 2 and woke up screaming in the middle of the night with his first night terror. I had no clue what was going on and almost called 911, it was so scary.
    Even now with my daughter, it’s totally different and though you kinda know the basics, it’s all still a learning process. I guess you could say i just go one day at a time.

    I hope to raise children I can be proud of and that can be proud of themselves.
    I show them how to do something instead of telling them so they are always learning.
    I love them without smothering them so they know they can come to me.
    I keep them safe without keeping them sheltered so they can grow.
    We offer them as much in this world as we can so that they have experiences to remember and interests of their own.

    1. courtney

      I loved week-by-week while I was pregnant. And I had forgotten about night terrors, but oh my gosh did google come in handy with that one. It scared me to death. Also found medical websites handy when it came to croup. That’s another scary one.

  16. Courtney

    Thanks so much for this post Katie. I’m definitely recommending both of those books to my cousin and his girlfriend. They are expecting a baby in July and while their all the way across the country I want to contribute.

  17. Jacquie

    …nothing to do with this particular post, but a thought that crossed my mind today…
    you know when you have spent too much time reading a blog – one of the babies from my work arrived today and I was thinking “you really do look like someone I know….oh, no; you are the spitting image of bean though!!” doh!!

  18. Drew bug just turned one and I guess over the last year I’ve become a hippie. haha, ok not really but I have a very laid back earthy approach to parenting.
    My house is his house too so he has places in each room to explore. In the kitchen one cabinet isn’t locked and has measuring cups, pots, pans, towels, and tupperware for him to pull out and explore, in the bathroom the bottom drawer has all kinds of things just for him, washclothes, little bottles of soaps and lotions that he can’t get open, loofa sponges. Even under the fishtank he can open a compartment and find plastic fish toys. It lets him feel like he’s part of the family and I don’t have to keep saying no all day. He thinks he’s getting away with something too 🙂
    I am a big fan of let him have fun, meaning I have lots of messes to clean up. I let him have sensory time in flour, birdseed, rice crispies, soapy water. Anything you can think of really, he loves sensory play.
    I just follow my heart and know that years ago parents didn’t have books and their kids survived.

  19. Ella

    I also read what to expect when your expecting while i was pregnant and it was a huge help to me. To be honest i dont get a lot of time now that my son is 2 to sit down and read a parenting book so i pretty much just trust my instincts. My son is healthy, happy and doing all the things he should be so i must be doing something right. At times i do second guess myself and its times like that ill seek a second opinion from my partner or someone else close to my son.

  20. Amen to Katie and the other moms who aren’t reading all the books! Hooray for common sense and responding to the needs of your child as he has them! I am amazed every day at how much my non-verbal, non-signing 10 month old can communicate. And I really enjoy “listening” to him! Not to say there aren’t periodic panicky phone calls to the pediatrician…

  21. Diana

    As a mother of four grown children and a daycare provider for the past 11 years, one thing I am is experienced! There are a few things that I really think make the infant months easier like swaddling, for one, but more than anything I think we could all do well to remember that there is no one right way to do everything when it comes to parenting. We all do the best we can…and it usually seems to work out just fine.

    1. Diana

      P.S. One more thing, children really do like boundaries…really! It may not seem like it (who wants to be told no or that they can’t do something that they want to do) but they find security in them.

      1. Totally agree. Boundaries, and at least some semblance of a schedule, even if it’s only meal times and bedtime.

  22. Hhmm, that’s a hard question to answer. Because really with two girls who are just shy of 6 and the other 3 with baby#3 on the way, my parenting style changes as they do.
    Being a Christian mom I generally follow the word of God as far as life goes and the same goes with my babies. The method may differ, but for the most part I have my child’s heart in mind. For instance when my oldest asks me to do something, like play with paint pins (this happen the other day, there really was no honest reason why she couldn’t) and my first reaction is to say no, because well its messy! I must rethink that because its my own selfishness that is shining through. Instead I must consider her heart, a creative one at that, and must encourage her. Plus I have found that if I say yes whenever possible, my no’s stick better. Its not like I’m saying no to every little thing.
    For the most part, I’m a laid back parent. We have rules, but not to many. And my kids (even at 3)have their chores they must do. I try to remember from day to day, when I’m in the trenches of parenting what my ultimate goal is. Is it to have a good day, or to have a great life come from the children that God has entrusted me with? I want to raise God fearing, kind,responsible, hard working, fun kids, so whatever I do must lend itself to that goal.

  23. Lots of great encouragement and contributions here in comments. And I think you’re doing a great job, Katie. You seem to have your head on your shoulders and a good attitude. And you’re so right about figuring it out, what works for you. Each parent is different, each kid different, each “situation” different – all things that affect what works. Having 4 kids and working on a 5th, (oldest is 6 1/2) I think that the infancy stage is the easiest, in terms of parenting. It’s when you get closer to 2, and you have to start weaning from nukies or bottles, dealing with tantrums, hitting, sharing, whining, etc that the “real” parenting begins. It becomes more challenging, though still fun and exciting, but having a game plan or resources to pull from is definitely helpful. Everyone has their “favorite method”. I saw someone else recommended 1-2-3 Magic. My ped even recomended that. Love and Logic is also good. It’s easy, and practical, and has things you can use right away, and at every stage. (I got a 3 page handout from our preschool teaher on basic L&L principles, and implemented it successfullly in a weekend.)There’s video, podcasts, seminars, books, website etc so no shortage of resources to fit your style.

    Regardless of method, it’s still all about your family, and you will always encounter situations where you alone have to figure it out. One thing that helps me to “keep on task” with parenting, is to constantly be learning – even by reading the same book, over and over, a few pages hear, an email reminder here. Keeps it fresh and provides encouragement.

  24. Liz

    HI Katie ;). I have a confession: I read the books. I’m a bookworm and so it can’t be helped. But I’d have to say there are none I am 100% hooked on. I guess being in China, without the daily interactions with my friends and family back home – and with the parenting culture here being really dif’t – I’ve had to rely on my intuition more as a parent though than on any book or person. But, I really rely on the core idea that what I am trying to do, as a parent, is love my kids. And loving them means helping to form their hearts, minds, and wills to love the good, and help them to know how much I love them no matter what. I just try to think about life from their perspective, like you said re: teething. That really struck a chord with me. They are little people just trying to figure this whole new world out. And sometimes it’s not easy for them! Leo has recently discovered fear – and so I am learning how to help him cope with his new fears and anxieties.

    Being a mom is challenging for me. I feel like I am growing as much as the kids are in many ways. It really stretches me – my patience, my empathy, my energies, my heart, everything! But then again, we moms are implanted with this unstoppable love at birth that helps keep us going even when the baby gets up for the 4th time at night or the toddler makes the 10th mess of the day :).

    So my philosophy is basically to just try to keep loving my kids as best I can. And I’ve found I’m not as strict as I thought I would be, I’m actually kind of a sucker! But I work hard to maintain consistent discipline because life is more fun day to day with clear boundaries and a good routine.

    Anyway – the other thing – one book I really do like is called Parenting with Love and Logic.

    ;),
    Liz

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