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Monday, June 16, 2014

15 minutes on parenting

Before I had Isabella, I thought that there was one right way to parent, and all of the others were some type of compromise. You know, strict discipline, establish who the boss is. It kind of sounds like I was planning on training a dog, come to think of it.

Then, I was introduced to attachment parenting. It had never occurred to me that some parents might want to sleep with the kids in the bed, also known as "family bed". Terms like "positive discipline" and "self-regulated feeding" fascinated me, and a lot of it resonated with me. I felt like there were two types of parents, and I had to choose which camp I fell into. Oh, and a big one is the "schedule" or "no schedule" debate. I hate living by a schedule, so I fought tooth and nail to keep my kids routines fluid.

Turns out, we don't like family bed so much, positive discipline works great - most of the time- and self regulated feeding is the only way I stay sane. Also, I'm sad to say, that everyone in our family (except me) thrives on a schedule. I've learned to live with it.

Now, 3 kids and 4 years later, I have seen that there are a lot of fine lines when it comes to parenting. We want to spend enough time with our kids without giving up everything and destroying our sense of self in the process. We want to be encouraging without giving them a falsely inflated sense of self. We want to give them structure, but we want them to have room to express themselves and take some initiative.

I have decided, in my family, there should be as many parenting approaches as there are children, with one general set of rules that applies across the board. Each parent is different, and each child is different, so why did I ever think I had to stick to one parenting ideology?

Izzy, for example, has a very strong will. She needs to be put in her place once in a while - on occasion, a nice butt chewing is the only thing that gets through to her. Most of the time, though, positive reinforcement is our best bet for keeping the peace and preventing said butt chewing. Korban, on the other hand, is a very sensitive soul. If he makes a mistake or trips over a toy, it embarrasses him like mad and he's thrown off for the next half hour. Yelling at him scares the living daylights out of him. On the other hand, time out works pretty well with him.

I know it is important to realize that, as a parent, I am not supposed to be my child's friend. Someone has to set the structure and enforce the rules to keep everyone as safe and happy as possible. We are responsible for guiding and correcting our little future adults. Still, I realized, how many of us go into a friend or dating relationship with an entire system in place as to how to best interact with that person? I suppose some do, but I generally start by getting to know said person, and then decide from there how to best proceed. I think we should do the same for our kids. Instead of creating a mold to squish them into, we should probably do a lot more watching and listening to see what fires them up, what gets through to them, and what makes them feel secure. What type of discipline makes them want to behave well? What type of quality time makes them feel important to me?

The truth is, I'm just getting to know these little rascals. I've got 18 years or so to trial and error my way through this.

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