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Parenting Philosophies, Approaches: How did you decide?

When it comes to parenting, so much of it is "what feels right".  When our first daughter was born, it seemed that our approach to parenting was one that would distort our young-adult lifestyle as little as possible.  While we certainly adapted some of our interests and hobbies to her needs, we did not slow in our galavanting around town, gallery hopping, visiting with friends at happy hour, walking tours, hiking, adventuring, dining out, hosting rambunctious gatherings of friends.  She sort of went with our flow, always.  We were lucky that she was so easy going.  At the time, none of our friends had children of their own.  At the time, parenting felt organic and natural, though we had not read books on parenting philosophies per se.  It felt like parenting mean that we exposed our child to our lifestyle, and she would absorb it all.  We would model, and she would follow.

By the time we had our second daughter, we were making more friends with children.  Perhaps due pressure to subscribe to a parenting philosophy and perhaps with the proliferation of websites like our own where we could discuss every minutia of parenting to such a fine degree of detail, we began to try to gravitate toward  an approach, a discipline, a philosophy.  Our daughters went to Montessori preschools that we loved.  There, we were exposed to the Love and Logic approach, and it resonated.  Then, the girls went on to a public charter school, which is one of only a few schools nationwide to be a demonstration school in Positive Discipline, an parenting approach to new to us as new parents at the school.  Over time, we read the books, subscribed to the approach, and even attended workshops on the topic as recently as a couple of weeks ago.

When I was a child, my parents never went to any parenting workshops.  Now, I see on the urbanMamas exchange an assortment of parenting workshops and classes, featuring a variety of approaches and philosophies.  There are books and books; I can’t keep up with them.

A newer urbanMama recently asked me:

How do you find out about these parenting approaches, and how do you find the one that works for you?  Did you stumble upon them, sort of how I did, learning about approaches through our school communities?  Did you more deliberately research techniques and disciplines?

Comments

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I became a parent at the beginning-of-the-end of my marriage and it became apparent very quickly that I'd mostly be parenting alone. And working full-time plus. I didn't have the time or the luxury of researching others' philosophies or approaches, or overthinking what I was doing. It's been very much listening to my gut, observing others in our lives, and flying by the seat of my pants at times. Almost 14 years into parenting, this has served us well. I've definitely made mistakes and wish I could have a couple of do-overs. I'm not a perfect parent, nor do I have a perfect child, but we're pretty darn good together. I have a teenager who confides in me and still enjoys spending time with me. And she has a mom who is most definitely a parent (not her buddy), but that can be trusted with her confidences.

My advice? Listen to your gut. Trust that your instincts are good. Present a united front with your co-parent (if you have one.) Do what you know/feel is right and don't let others pressure you into subscribing to the latest-and-greatest in parenting approaches.

We thought we had a 'philosophy' with our first child but when we had our second we realized that what we had a set of strategies, etc that worked with her personality/temperament etc and that child two was a completely different human who would (and still does) require a completely different style of parenting. Live and learn.

"Live and learn", that pretty much sums it up. I happen to feel that parenting philosophies are the opiate of parenthood, to paraphrase. There is no rule book, right answer or stranger with an advanced degree and all the answers. If you think you've got it all figured out, then go ahead and duck, because without fail, that's when the s#!t will fly. And anyone else claiming to have it all figured out is probably selling something.

My experience has fallen between "live and learn" and "adopt a philosophy." I draw on my own instincts, models of how my parents responded to their children, a couple recommended books I've read, tips/comments from other parents via parenting blogs, remarks from my daughter's nanny and later her preschool teachers, and so on. It can be useful to go to other sources when I'm feeling frustrated that my strategies aren't producing results, or when I find myself parenting in a way I don't like (e.g., too much yelling). Seeking ideas elsewhere expands my thinking.

I have a teaching degree, so I learned about all the approaches in a college classroom. The hubby and borrowed some of the best of Montessori and Waldorf and put them into our own parenting rituals and traditions at home because we couldn't bite the bullet when it came to choosing those schools for our kids. And "live and learn" is right here.. sometimes you have it laid out in your head to do things a certain way and your child won't tolerate it for an instant. So you adapt and change to serve your child the best you can without spoiling them.

I agree with the others who suggest using your gut and live and learn... I also just finished a 3 week Love and Logic course with my husband that has had a profoundly positive impact on our household. Unlike other philosophies, L&L is more about the parents than the kids. It encouraged us to really think about what we want our family life to feel like, what we wanted more or less of, and it gave us the tools to set the tone that we want for our household. There were not any swooping changes to make, just subtle shifts in our own perspectives and some different wording to use with our children. Its the kind of parent I want to be--a leader more than an authority figure--to encourage my kids to evaluate their choices, make their own decisions, and learn consequences. We're laughing more, yelling less. I know we'll come back to L&L many times throughout our parenting career...

I think one thing all of these insightful posts and the 'live and learn' notion share is that parenting is a humbling experience and that journey can help us to become more empathetic and loving and less controlling and judgmental humans in general. One of the dangers in an overly scripted parenting path along another's philosophy is that I think it short circuits that process of growth along with your children and gets into a 'they're supposed to be' or 'your supposed to be' something idea that is not realistic. I think that gaining help in your weak areas or learning methods or strategies is one thing, I think accepting a philosophy, lock, stock and barrel is another and ultimately cuts you off from the creative process of parenthood and family life, some of which includes growing pains.

Our son did not leave us the option to take the live and learn approach. From birth he was anything but laid back. I've read several books and participated in a few parenting workshops. I pick and choose what feels right to me and world well for him. We are very different personality types, so I really have to work at that balance. Probably the most important thing I have learned is about personality types in children. Learning the roots of my sons behavior has really helped me empathize with him instead of battle against his behaviors. We work together much better and I have a frame work from which to pick and choose peices of parenting philosophies that will work for us.

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