Choosing a Parenting Style

I was browsing through a blog by Casia Talbert called Healthy Moms recently and came across one of her older posts about the topic of Parenting in which she asked her readers to share their thoughts.  With Gavin demonstrating a more willful nature of late and melting down into more frequent temper tantrums, I find my mind dwelling quite considerably on this topic of late.

What do I think?  Probably too much but I would still like to share what little experience I have gained since I officially became a mother some eighteen months ago (well, technically twenty-seven months ago if you include the pregnancy).

When the hubby and I decided that we wanted to have a baby, one of my biggest concerns was not knowing how to be a good parent.  I’m not talking so much about the basic stuff like bathing, feeding, changing diapers, etc, because those are things that are easily learned.  Neither am I talking about the areas of parenting which I feel are quite clear-cut regarding what is the best option for your child.  For instance, there is plenty of evidence substantiating breastmilk as the best source of nutrition for a baby.

For me, the part of parenting that concerned me most was discipline.  How do you raise your child so that you can take comfort in knowing that when he is at school, he will make the right choices to stay away from drugs? How can you build a bond with your child so that when he is in trouble, the first person he comes to is you? How can you give your child the best start in life so that he doesn’t end up a juvenile deliquent?

When you read so many terrible stories in the papers about individuals who open up fire on innocent bystanders you have to wonder what happened in their lives that brought them to do such horrific acts.  I think the most horrifying article I have ever read in the papers was about two ten year old boys who tortured a six year old boy.  It really makes you wonder.

Well, it made me wonder anyway.

When Martha Sears was criticised for having 8 children and contributing to the world’s over-population, she answered, “The world needs my children.”

What can I do as a parent to raise my children so that I too might be able to say, “The world needs my children”?

When the hubby and I started talking about having a baby, I admit I didn’t know the first thing about parenting books – who were the good authors, what were the different parenting philosophies and which ones should I rely on as a resource for raising Gavin.  In some ways, I feel like I missed out on doing a lot of things “right” for Gavin, especially in his first year, because I was too overwhelmed with being a new parent and all the things I had to learn to cope with.  I was too receptive to advice – good and bad.

When it comes to parenting, I find that there is plenty of advice floating around. Being a health science student, I find that I have always tended to look for evidence to substantiate theories rather than to follow the advice of heresay even if it comes from “experienced” parents who know better than me.  Perhaps that makes me annoying, but I would rather work with theories substantiated by studies of hundreds or thousands of children rather than advice that came from a single parent whose experience is limited to one, two or even ten children.

As a first time parent, there is often a lot of trial and error with your first child as you try to navigate your way through the wealth of parenting resource and advice available out there.  Even with all my efforts to educate myself, there are many things I feel I would do differently with my second child that I regret doing or not doing with Gavin.  And if I could go back to the days when I was still pregnant with Gavin, I would read these books in preparation for parenting Gavin:

  1. The Science of Parenting by Margot Sunderland
  2. The Baby Book by William and Martha Sears

I have been criticised for being too much of a textbook parent and for relying too heavily upon what I read as opposed to “what works”.  For instance, since having Gavin, I have developed a stance against “smacking” and corporal punishment.  To be honest, I haven’t always felt this way.  I used to believe in the credo “spare the rod, spoil the child”.  What changed my views was when I read The Science of Parenting – which is a book I believe every parent should read before deciding that it is okay to smack their kids.  It was then reaffirmed when I read the parenting philosophy of Dr Sears.

I have heard the argument, “Well, my parents smacked me and I turned out okay.”  True, a child who has been smacked may turn out okay, but why would you persist with such archaic forms of discipline when you know scientifically what it can do to a child’s fragile and developing mind? Our parents may have used these methods because they didn’t know better.  They didn’t have the benefit of science and parenting textbooks to guide them.  Heck!  Even the so-called experts in their day were leading them up the garden path (albeit with good intentions) – consider the numerous doctors who used to promote infant formula over breastmilk!

Why The Science of Parenting?

Because The Science of Parenting is not based on some doctor’s theory of what she thinks is right, but practical findings from scientific studies of groups of children and how the developing brain works.

Why The Baby Book?

Because William Sears has been a paediatrician for thirty over years, and Martha Sears is a registered nurse and together they have raised eight children of their own.  As health professionals in the field, they have shared the experience of thousands of patients and conducted numerous studies of their own. Being parents of eight children of their own with very different personalities, they are no longer just scientists looking down a microscope and making observations, instead they have first hand experience of what it is like to to practice what they preach.

Had I read these books while I was still pregnant, I would have practiced Attachment Parenting right from day one.  I would have carried Gavin more and not taken so long to accept co-sleeping.  I would have spent more time playing with Gavin and gazing into his eyes instead of watching TV or reading books.  This is because discipline doesn’t begin when your child is old enough to understand you – it begins from day one of your child’s life.

Although the difficulties I currently face with Gavin may have occurred regardless of whether or not I had practiced attachment from day one, there is always going to be a part of me that wonders if he might have been “easier” to handle if I had.  Perhaps he is difficult to manage just because he is like Hayden – the Sears’ fourth child – spirited and determined.  I will never really know.  But just knowing there is another way means I will always keep trying to be a better parent and all I can do is hope that what I do is enough.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

20 thoughts on “Choosing a Parenting Style

  1. When Gavin is about two years old, if he does wrong, tap his hand or legs.
    When he is coming up to five, if he does wrong, hit him harder on his bottom.
    And if he is still naughty at ten, use a belt or slipper across his bottom.
    And if he is still haughgty when he is twelve, cane him
    It is a natural things to do, it has been done for generations and it is still the best way.
    Ignore the do-gooders. It is still legal.

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  2. Hi,
    I wish there were more parents like you. I’m sure that you’ll find your way with your child. The results of research haven’t trickled down to parents and its a great pity. People are still abusing their children in a “normative” way and the results are dismal. I also didn’t know about attachment parenting but now I do and me and my daughter raise my grandchildren that way and the results are wonderful – open, cooperative happy children. Don’t listen to anyone and keep reading and learning like you’re doing is my advice.
    Gina

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  3. Hi Bob. Thanks for your feedback, but here’s my question: what about when he’s fifteen, bigger than me and still misbehaving? What happens then?

    If it is okay for me to hit him because he was misbehaving, then doesn’t it mean it is okay for him to hit me back if he thinks I’m wrong? After all, if I’m allowed to hit him for doing wrong, can’t he do the same back?

    I think there is already plenty of evidence linking children who are smacked for misbehaving who then go on to hit or bully other children. Now that’s not to say that if I smacked Gavin, he would go on to hit or bully others, then again, I’d rather not take the risk.

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  4. Hi Gina – thanks for sharing. I’m glad to hear such positive results of attachment parenting with your grandchildren. Althought I’ve read plenty of evidence about its positive effects, it’s still great to hear from parents and grandparents who have real-life experiences to share.

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  5. Hi — If you smack Gavin when he is young, with just the right amount of force, and with fairness, he will come to accept that, when he has done wrong, he will be punished.
    And he will accept his punishment without question.
    And when he is 15, and does wrong, he will still accept having his bottom tanned by his Dad.
    Sorry, Dear, but you will have to get hubby to take-over the spankings when Gavin is about eleven or twelve!

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  6. Hi Bob, I’m sure you have your reasons for your views, but I still believe that violence begets more violence. Smacking may be the way some parents choose to go, but not for me.

    I certainly hope Daddy’s been paying attention because I don’t want him smacking our son either.

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  7. OK — if you want Gavin to grow-up just like all the other obese punks, don’t discipline him.
    And when he goes off the rails, don’t say to all and sundry who might be within earshot, “I don’t know what has gone wrong!” like all the other parents do; remember this: IT WILL be YOUR fault.

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  8. Wow… wow… wow. Bob Miles.
    Calm down there.

    You sound like you are drawing very quick and sharp conclusions. Does spanking keep a child from being obese? Are they any studies to co-relate spanking with a physically fit child? (I guess running away from the belt or cane does help in burning those calories, is that what you mean?)

    What I am trying to say is that, while I do agree to spanking unruly kids to a certain extent, your scenario is way too apocalytic to say the least.

    To say children whose parents don’t believe in spanking risk the slippery slide of being punkishly-obese is like saying, “Driving to work make you lazy and thus lead you to the highway called obesity, increase the size of your carbon footprint (and belt size), AND all hell will break loose from the death and destruction of the world.”

    A little melodramatic? Saying that not spanking a child will lead to obesity and social delinquency sounds pretty extreme too.

    At no point does figur8 say that she has no plans on being a firm disciplinarian. Perhaps you are overlooking other methods of discipline. Spanking might be tried and true, but it doesn’t rule out other methods of discipline that parents are willing to try.

    Just out of curiousity Bob Miles, are you a parent? How old are your kids?

    Perhaps you should be so quick to judge the outcome of a situation. Also, you should recognize the fact that social delinquency is a formula of many different factors.

    Who’s to say that kids who get DO get spanked wouldn’t turn out as social delinquents themselves? At the point that they do…. remember this: IT WILL be YOUR fault. You chose to belt or cane him.

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  9. Heya Bob – at least I’ll know he won’t be a social deliquent because I physically abused him and whacked him silly as a child…

    Anyway, who said I wasn’t going to discipline him? I just said I wasn’t going to smack him. There’s a difference.

    Oh! Whoops! It didn’t occur to me that you might be too near-sighted to realise that there ARE other methods of disciplining a child that don’t involve hitting.

    And I agree with IntelliRuff – what’s being obese got to do with whether you were or weren’t smacked in the name of discipline?

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  10. Nice post. This was my top worry as well when we decided to have a baby. I was concerned that I would not raise my child right, that he would not know right from wrong and I hadn’t a clue how to go about doing it.

    I’ve also been thinking it over about spanking as a means of punishment. While I certainly deserved the spanks I got as a child and no, they never harmed me, I’m considering other methods of discipline for my own child.

    So thanks for posting the links for the books, I’ll be looking out for them.

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  11. Parents who do not discipline their kids also allow them to eat what the kids want, not what they should have. Therefore, the chances of undisciplined kids being obese is high.
    I am 78 years old, I am not married — but I used to be a sports coach.
    If the kids did wrong, they had their backsides tanned. It was not at school, it was a voluntary thing — and a sore backside didn’t put them off coming again.

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  12. Miles – I must say, you draw very strong generalizations.

    How is having a kid’s bum spanked a voluntary thing? I don’t know about you, but when I got my “backside tanned” when I was growing up, I wasn’t about about to stick my arm up high and say…. “Pick me! pick me! Spank my bum!”.

    I doubt parents would voluntarily spank their kids unless they see that it is a means to an end. Parents hurt when their child wails in pain from being spanked, it is not something that they’d volunteer to do.

    A child’s inability to rationalize the way an adult wishes, and the way an adult forgets what it was like when he or she was a child, is a large challenge to any parent. That being said, I conclude that spanking is never a voluntary thing.

    When you say that parents who don’t DISCIPLINE their kids, allow kids to eat what they wish, I find myself agreeing with you.

    HOWEVER, how about kids or adults who resort to over-eating, drugs, alcohol, become sociopaths because their parents employed “backside tanning” a little too seriously?

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  13. When I said it “was a voluntary thing” I meant that the organisation was voluntary — not an obligation, like school.
    As there was a small amount of danger, it was made quite plain to them, the first time they came, that they would get their bums tanned if they did not adhere to safety rules — or if they misbehaved in any other way.
    They signed-up, they came and took part, week in, week-out. They got their backsides tanned sometimes — and they still came back.

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  14. I agree with you that books can be helpful. Although I do not rely on everything that I learn from books when parenting my three children. Visit Healthy Moms to read my complete reply to your post. Thank you for participating in this post exchange!

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  15. Miles. I have 2 words for you. Off Topic!

    The point of figur8’s post is to address THE CHOICE OF PARENTING STYLES. NOT the choice of COACHING styles.

    Since you do not have kids of your own, you clearly cannot relate to the fact that kid’s act differently at home as they do at school or any extra-curricular activities. Thusly, your point of view is severely skewed. 🙂

    Cascia – Amazing post! It was a really good read. You sound like you are so on top of things. I do agree with the fact that while reading books can be useful. I am also a firm believer that children are individuals themselves and thus they are entitled to their quirks that can only be best handled by occasionally winging (I use this term loosely) it.

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  16. Bob – I must thank you for your very valuable comments. If it weren’t for you, I might not have been spurred on to research the facts on corporal punishment instead of relying on hearsay, beliefs and instincts.

    If you have been following my blog, I hope you have read my post on “The Stand Against Corporal Punishment” – https://figur8.net/baby/2008/08/15/the-stand-against-corporal-punishment/ – and that it might have altered your views somewhat.

    Had I raised my son in my parents’ day, I probably would have resorted to smacking as well, but knowing what I do know now, I cannot, in good conscience, smack my son in the name of it being for his “own good” because I know at the end of the day, it is not.

    If he does end up a juvenile deliquent, then I know it is because I failed to teach him adequately and not because I failed to smack him.

    Cheesy Poo – The Science of Parenting by Margot Sunderland is excellent. If you don’t read anything else, please read this one!

    Casia – I refer to myself as a text-book Mum because I read, but neither do I rely on everything I read in my parenting methods either. I use what I read as a guide and to supplement me when my parental instincts fail me.

    There are dangers of following books, too. Following the wrong books, for instance. I qualify the source of the books that I read before I trust their information. I studied health science and that training has led me to seek “evidence” rather than following age-old practices based on hearsay and “what’s done”.

    Ultimately, my goal is to raise children (yes, I am hoping for another) who are self-confident, socially well-adjusted with a moral conscience. The methods I choose to use are the ones that have been proven to yield the highest number of children that are exactly what I hope mine will become.

    Parenting may not be an exact science, but I still think there is a lot to learn from reliable parenting sources.

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  17. Miles. The best you could do is to refrain from exhibiting your narrowmindedness and inability to stay on topic.

    ALSO, realise that figur8 IS relying on her instincts. Her instincts tells her to adapt ideas from books to raise her child.

    Incase you have not realised, MATERNAL INSTINCT dictates for a mother to PROVIDE FOR THE BEST ENVIRONMENT for a CHILD TO DEVELOP IN.

    You are no longer finding ways to expand and rectify the reason to why spanking a child is beneficial.

    Spanking a child to put them in order through fear and not moral conscience? That is REALLLLLLLLLLLYYYY effective. (Incase you are not aware, the last sentence was doused with a LARGE helping of sarcasm)

    I have two things to say to you.

    1) The value of a good, intellectual opinion is based on solid facts and not, “It worked for me and thus it would work for someone else in a situation unlike mine”.

    (I maintain that coaching and parenting are each a league of their own. A child can escape the grips of a coach from hell in their eyes but not a parent of whom their supposed to find solace and trust in.)

    2) You are out of line to suggest for figur8 to throw away her books because this is a HER Blog and she is entitled to voice what she believes in (the reason why people blog).
    You, on the other hand, have the FREEDOM to STOP READING if you find that her parenting style is so severely inadequate despite her in depth research on raising a child correctly.

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  18. Bob – I AM relying on instinct. If you had bothered to read my post on Corporal Punishment, you would have realised that my God-given instinct is NOT to hit my son in the name of discipline. All the books have done is convinced me that my instincts are right.

    The difference between you and me is that I realise there is always scope for me to learn more. I am always open to hearing the other side of the argument – whether I choose to agree or disagree is another matter altogether.

    However, your comments are no longer offering me anything of value to take away and I find myself growing weary of your need to have the “last word”. I think IntelliRuff has stated quite succinctly what I am feeling right now and I see no reason to reiterate what has already been said.

    If you insist on continuing to comment, please offer something of value to read, otherwise, please refrain from commenting further.

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