A little while back I asked you to think about your own parenting philosophy and to start keeping an eye out for parenting behavior you observe, both good and bad, to help develop a concept of what kind of parent you want to be. Here’s my global view of parenting: There is no one perfect parenting style but rather doing what works best for you and your child. This means a different approach for every family and within each family, a different approach for every child. The approach that works for me and for my 4 munchkins merges several somewhat dichotomous parenting styles: I’m pro-baby carrying, pro-breastfeeding and start my kids later in preschool than most Americans yet I favor a structured household and use a cry-it-out approach to sleep training at 6 months. Before getting into specifics, though, I think I can summarize my parenting style into 3 overarching principles.
First, I place great emphasis on how I interact with my children on a daily basis. In their first few years of life, parents (especially stay-at-home parents) have a tremendous ability to shape their child’s development. There are lots of hugs and kisses at our house and there is a great deal of attention to the words that I say. Everything that you do and say to your children every day adds up over time and develops into their view of you and the world. I want my children to know that they are unconditionally loved and to become warm and happy people. As part of this, I always try to speak to them in a loving, kind, and supportive way and react to them in a calm and appropriate manner. This may sound simple but it is certainly not easy and often requires an incredible amount of patience (especially since the household chaos level jumped up a notch after having our third child) but I think it’s critical to being a good parent. Remember, this is a goal, not a constant reality. We all get upset sometimes and overreact sometimes but having this image of amazing parenting in my mind always helps me to get back to that behavior as quickly as possible when I encounter obstacles.
Loving your children does not mean that you should cater to their every request and indulge their every desire. Children need a tremendous amount of guidance in their early years and I provide clear and consistent expectations for my children’s behavior. My influence is greatest in the first 5 years. Once they start full-time school, there are so many other influences in their life and your daily interaction time is so greatly diminished, you have to hope that you have instilled a solid foundation of good behavior in your children. While loving them unconditionally, each day, I work on molding them into the kind and respectful adults they one day will become. Children are a work in progress; you have to pick and choose your battles, tackling just a few behaviors at a time. So this second part of my parenting approach is about balance – balancing your child’s behavior today with the behavior you hope they’ll have when their 5 years old and later 18 years old.
The third part of my approach is using problem-solving skills to tackle all my parenting dilemmas because training children is not easy and we often find ourselves stumped by our children’s behavior. Rather than getting frustrated and overwhelmed, I like to think of parenting as an exciting challenge and attempt to solve the problems we encounter together. This is where a problem-solving approach to parenting comes in really handy; if your technique isn’t working, search for another and keep searching until you find one that works for both you and your child. I’ll lay-out the problem-solving approach in my next post. For now, the emphasis is on realizing that parents have a myriad of tools in their arsenal and with some perseverance and patience, you can help your children through any challenging phases.