Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Parenting Styles...is there one "right" choice?

By: Alexandra Holmes

I am always interested in learning about different parenting techniques and schools of thought on the best way to bring up kids. So far, in my parenting adventure I have pretty much just followed what I feel is right at the time. I don't like to feel like I am stifling my children's personal growth but I also want to be sure to instill an appropriate respect for rules, authority, and boundaries. I try to give them opportunities to make their own decisions and offer guidance when needed. I ask "What do you want to eat for dinner?". When the answer is Hot Dogs and pancakes, I will offer another option so that they still get to decide for themselves. "Hot dogs are a good idea but pancakes are normally for breakfast, how about hot dogs and salad?". Then from there if a meltdown ensues I assert my authority by standing by the decision and not apologizing.

I heard a tip one time that I liked and I remind myself of it often. "If you mean no, then say No with a smile and don't apologize." This way your kids understand your position but don't feel belittled or hurt. I never like to hurt my kids feelings because I am not here to bully them but to teach them how to be good people. It kills me when I hear parents tell their children "Boy! shut your mouth you don't know anything." or something like that. Parents always want their kids to respect them but often times don't have any respect for their kids in return.

As far as parenting styles, there seems to be a lot of discussion lately about this topic. We hear about attachment parenting, helicopter parents, tiger moms,  indulgent parenting...it seems like the newest parenting trend is to make up new parenting styles. It is generally accepted that there are four main styles of parenting that sit on a sliding scale and for the most part the trendy parenting styles above each fall into one of them somewhere. Below is a pretty clear representation of the four main styles of parenting.

I don't really like to put a label on the type of parent that I am because not only do I fail to be completely consistent in my parenting but I also have four toddlers which makes the situation a little bit different.

Over the next few weeks, I am going to take a personal journey to explore all parenting styles whether I agree with them or not and hopefully at the end I will be better prepared to continue the parenting adventure with my children as they grow and get older and more complex.

I prescribe to parts of what is generally called attachment parenting because I want my kids to above all know that they have a safe person to always depend on. I have a close connection with all of my kids and definitely feel that a certain amount of physical connection at this age is appropriate and has been proven to build more secure and balanced adults. With that said, I am not talking about breastfeeding my kids until they are five or sharing a family bed. I mean my kids are always welcome to snuggle with me, we give plenty of kisses and hugs, and I give them foot rubs and back rubs sometimes not only to reinforce our connection but also to ease growing pains that my little giraffe boys get from time to time.

There is, however, a common sentiment among self proclaimed attachment parents that I do not agree with. I don't believe that if you had a c-section or epidural that you are somehow less of a woman than those who didn't. I do believe that women's bodies were built to deliver babies and that most people could have a baby with no medical intervention but the fact is that obstetric advances have not only made parenthood possible for some woman who in the past would never have been able to have children but has also DRAMATICALLY reduced the number of mothers that die during childbirth as well as infant death and injury. Another thing that I disagree with is the glorification of breastfeeding...I did it and I believe it is best but only because it  is natural and its the only reason I have these ta-tas in the first place. I don't think I need a badge of honor or that I am more womanly or a better mother than those that didn't do it. When I hear people acting high and mighty for breastfeeding it sounds the same to me as if they were bragging about being able to digest food...it's natural and it is no big deal as far as I'm concerned.

When it comes to rules and discipline in our house I have mixed feelings. I believe in setting rules and boundaries but not over doing it. I don't have a rule or guideline for every single activity or situation and I prefer to teach my kids basic rules that allow them to apply to most situations. I want to give my boys every opportunity to make the right decision on their own with help from me. I not only don't want to be the drill sergeant but I also don't have the time or energy for it. I tend to use the phrase "pick your battles" often because I want to focus on issues that shape the future adult not just pick at every single mistake. Aidan (my oldest) isn't going to get in trouble for spilling milk on the floor while filling up a cup because I appreciate his intent and want to encourage his independence. In this situation, instead of punishing, I will let him know that he did a good job trying and that in the future if he tells me he wants to get a drink to tell me and I can help him get the milk down and hold the cup for him. I also make him help me clean up so that I am not just letting him get out without taking responsibility for the mess. The main things in our house that our kids really get punished for are doing dangerous things, being cruel, and hurting their brothers or the animals. Aside from that we prefer to teach them the right way to do something and be clear about what is expected.

When it comes to character building this is an area of my parenting that I think is the MOST important. Without a good foundation a house will never be strong enough to weather the storms that life can bring. For my children, I personally believe that the adult they become is the result of a recipe that has to be tweaked and perfected for the best results. The recipe that I like right now is a mix of structure, lots of love and affection, respect both ways from me to my children and from then to the world around them, community, exposure to different things like religion, food, culture, dancing, music, art, and of course sports (my husbands favorite part). I will work on this recipe as they grow and I can't wait to see how it turns out.

With all of this there are a few things to remember. There is a difference sometimes in what I believe in and what I actually do, I am not perfect and my four boys can be pretty stressful. I make mistakes and I try and learn from them. I don't have it all figured out yet (shocking, I know) and I am not an expert but I try every day to learn and get better so that my children can grow into caring, respectful, fun, successful, contributing citizens of the World.

Over the next few weeks look out for more from me on parenting styles and other research I will be doing on raising kids.
Thanks for Reading,


Me using the very effective parenting style of human nap chair for Payton and Aidan. (Dec. '11)

 PS. I write these late at night so forgive me for any crazy mistakes, I am usually a stickler for spelling and grammar but past about 9pm my brain starts shutting down :)


  1. I sometimes find that no technique is working for us, so we just go with what we think its best for us and usually that means improvising most of the times :)
    Following your instincts is the best, i believe.
    Great post, Alex!


  2. Thanks Petro, I totally agree. As long as you do your best with your kiddos you usually can't go wrong.