Parenting is really hard work, and figuring out what is best when there are so many different theories out there, it’s pretty impossible to know what to do. I’ve struggled with how I wanted to parent ever since we found out we were expecting, but it wasn’t until V was turning 1 I realized we had found our parenting style and it was a complete respectful parenting paradigm shift.
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How we parent
We really wanted to raise our children with the knowledge that they are complete beings deserving of respect from the moment they are conceived. This is a combination of our strong pro-life stance and our interest in psychology. It wasn’t that we weren’t raised this way – we were both raised in households full of love – but a focus on not treating children like lesser citizens who can’t comprehend their world, always doing things to them instead of with them, not acknowledging their feelings, etc. was something that we felt very strongly about.
I’m working on a post now that will explain the differences between the three parenting styles we combined (attachment, RIE and Montessori) so I won’t go into the details here but here’s brief summary. Basically it all comes down to respectful parenting.
The first parenting style I was attracted to was attachment parenting as introduced by Dr. Sears. We fell into practicing bed sharing but the other tenets of attachment parenting like keeping baby close, breastfeeding, using baby carriers, being responsive to baby’s needs, etc. were all things we planned on and did use in those early days (and mostly still do). Early into parenting, I was introduced to the RIE style of parenting. RIE stands for “Resources for Infant Educarers”. Specifically, I was introduced to and fell in mommy-needs-help love with Janet Lansbury. While I don’t agree with 100% of what she teaches, I have found her to be an invaluable resource especially as V passed the 6 month mark. I own both her books, Elevating Child Care* and No Bad Kids*, and consistently turn to her blog and podcasts when I find myself in a tough parenting spot. Montessori is a parenting/teaching style I was introduced to when V got closer to 1 and we were trying to figure out the best ways to engage and teach her without stifling her unique toddlerness and personality.
Anyway, back to my respectful parenting paradigm shift. This is mostly thanks to Janet Lansbury’s teachings but I believe researching all three of these styles formed the foundation that has helped me gain the confidence I needed to make decisions without the crippling fear that I was messing V up permanently.
What triggered this realization?
There’s a really popular series of images/memes/whatever-you-call-it called “Why my kid is crying”. I know this is meant to be a harmless expression of parenting exasperation as we try to understand our children and handle the ups and downs of day-to-day parenting. I know it isn’t mean-spirited. I’ve even found them funny and relatable. I know it isn’t meant to be shame-y. But I think it kind of is.
If you are doing something to your children that you would be horrified if done to you, I think it’s probably time to reevaluate.
I get it if you think I’m taking some harmless fun too seriously. Really, I do. I sat with it for a while. As a toddler parent, I found a lot of them funny in that whole “this is totally my life, too” kind of way.
But it also felt wrong.
These are children having a hard time with something and instead of focusing on caring for them and being there, the focus is now “Oh I have got to get a picture of this so I can share it on Facebook and all my friends will have a great laugh”… at my child’s expense. I don’t know, it just feels icky to me. But that’s actually not where my paradigm shift came.
See the post that started me thinking all about this was when a friend in one of my favorite Facebook mommy communities shared a link to an album of “why my kid is crying” because she had been having some rough days with her toddler and wanted some commiserations. Totally get that!
But as I was looking at these images of toddlers just completely sobbing, tears and red face and all, often over something as seemingly trivial as having eaten the entire granola bar or having red socks on instead of blue, I thought to myself, V never gets upset over silly nothings. Man, I thought she was a high needs kid but maybe I don’t know how easy I have it.
The respectful parenting paradigm shift
I brought this up to my husband later and we sat with it, thinking for a bit, before we realized, she totally does get upset over things we would find silly, or even stupid. And sometimes we get frustrated with her and don’t react with compassion like we should.
But here’s the respectful parenting paradigm shift folks… because of the tenets of attachment parenting and RIE, we no longer viewed them as ridiculous annoyances. We had told ourselves “V isn’t giving us a hard time, she’s having a hard time” so often that it was our reality now.
When she screams because her teddy bear has disappeared and she hadn’t realized she wanted him until right this second, we respond compassionately and respectfully because we try to respond from her mindset, not ours. What if I lost my wedding ring? I would panic, cry, frantically search the house. To V, this teddy bear was of the same importance, so I sat with her until she calmed down and then helped her search for him.
V isn’t some magical tantrum-free toddler, but because of our respectful parenting paradigm shift, we view things in a way that eliminates most of our triggers, leading to much less yelling and frustration for us, and addresses her feelings and needs through the lens of a toddler. We aren’t projecting the expected reactions of adults onto our toddler, we’re respecting the big feelings she’s dealing with, the rapid changes her mind and body are undergoing, and the difference in perspective she has in a world substantially smaller and newer than ours.
In short, our respectful parenting paradigm shift has changed our lives for the better. We are by no means the perfect parents. We lose our tempers, rush V through things, appease her with the TV when we desperately need a break. But we are much closer to the best parents we can be because of it.
Have you had any “a-ha” moments during your parenting days?