Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Welcome to the July Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Philosophy
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared their parenting practices and how they fit in with their parenting purpose. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

Girl ScoutsParenting isn't outcomes based.  That's the long and the short of it, really.  There is simply no way to guarantee any particular objective and frankly I'm beginning to wonder if there is any way to tilt the odds much past even chance.  There are the goals that are obviously based on externalities.
  • I want my child to be successful
  • I want my child to think, look, behave in some specific way
Often parents who study attachment parenting or consensual living will roundly reject those explicit goals.  Instead they are often replaced with
  • I want my child to be happy.
  • I want us to be connected.
And parents then strive to behave in such a way that the child will be happy and the family will be connected.

The challenge with this line of thinking is that children are not blank slates - not even a little bit. At the moment of birth (and many would argue before) there are aspects to the personality that are already in existence.  These aspects also do not guarantee any particular outcome, but they do make it quite difficult, if not impossible, to predict how a specific child will react to a specific behavior on the part of the parent.  Additionally, as much as we would want to, we do not control the world in which our children live.  And again, though we may strive to create a specific type of world that we deem best (at least for our small children), we cannot predict how that world will interact with the unique individual who is our child.

If this all sounds a little hopeless it is probably a pretty good representation of how I am feeling at the moment. Actually hopeless is less accurate than helpless. I have one child ready to launch into adulthood and the next entering adolescence with more difficulty than the first.  I've spent the last decade watching the children of acquaintances and friends go from young teenagers into young adulthood. These are families who breastfed, baby wore, respected their children, practiced gentle discipline, homeschooled, whatever it is that we've all put into practice thinking that somehow our parenting "method" would protect our children from LIFE. But just as even those who eat vegan, Western Price, take our vitamins will someday succumb to our own mortality so too will our children be human in a world full of humans.

Swedish school

Some of it is truly tragic.  The story of Henry, son of Attachment Parenting author Katie Allison Granju, is one such example. My heart breaks for the family on a regular basis. Some of it is letting go of those things that we really thought our children would never do... the son who marries a girl who Ezzos your grandbabies or the daughter who thinks that breastfeeding will hold her back as a woman.  And that doesn't even get into the differences in religion, politics, lifestyle, values that can surface. Sometimes it is having an ordinary life when we had hoped for or expected the extraordinary.  Or maybe there are a series of decisions that are made that lead to a place where our child truly is not happy.  A relationship, a friendship, a decision made at a party one night that has consequences, either short or long term, that are difficult to walk away from. This is when parenting dilemmas go from night weaning and biting toddlers to advice on choosing sex partners based on your willingness to tolerate that person as a coparent and really no you shouldn't text your friend a picture of your butt because seriously, kids go to jail for that.  And by the way if someone pulls out drugs in public get the hell out of Dodge because if you all get busted that's it for your college federal financial aid and frankly I don't have money set aside for a lawyer.

What does that all mean for my personal parenting philosophy at this point?  I'm not sure.  A friend who I very much respect said to me years ago "does it help to know that no matter what your children are going to do things that you don't like?" She was speaking to my need desire for control.  We are told with regards to our romantic relationships that the only thing we can "control" is ourselves - we cannot control our partners.  This is equally true for our children, even if our desires are to control for happiness, hopefulness, goodness.  The fates do not differentiate. We do not get to control another. We do not get to define the outcome objectives for another.

In practical terms parenting must also then turn inward.  We can only control ourselves.  We can only live by our own guiding value systems.  This might be WWJD or the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child. Personally I find platitudes to be rather helpful here - you know "do unto others", "be the change", and all the stuff.  So that's where I try to start. What is it that my child wants or needs right here in this moment?  If I can't do that what is the least wrong thing I can do instead? Sometimes the next part is easy - I know what to do and I do it.  Usually it isn't.  Often I don't know what to do, even with that because I don't really know what they want/need and often they don't seem to either (or they can't articulate it).  Do they need someone to push them out of their comfort zone or someone to hold them tight? Challenge or security?  Change or stability? And let's say that I do have some idea generally what my ideal response would be - doesn't mean that I'm able to pull it off.  After being unloaded on I may not be able to offer the empathy or support my child is looking for - at least not right away.  But I try to put my  stuff (insert significant stronger language here) aside and barring that I try to go back later after I've had to time to process it a bit and reengage.

Family Enjoys a Fourth of July Holiday in a Park at Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, Which Is 12 Miles West of New Ulm...
So I guess my parenting philosophy is to try.  To try really, really hard to be okay with the fact that I have no control.  To try really, really hard to do the thing that will best meet both the needs of myself and my child in that moment. And to accept with love, humility and respect my own humanness and the humanness of my child.  Because ultimately, what else can we really do?

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
  • Between Love and Fear: On Raising our Children Sensibly — Mamma Earthly at Give an Earthly discusses the fear factor in parenting and how she overcame it, despite societal pressures.
  • really, when do i get my cape? — Sarah at small bird on fire is a working city mama trying to learn how to set aside her expectations of perfection and embrace the reality of modern parenting.
  • Baby, Infant, and Toddler Wearing — Child wearing is part of Sarah at Nourished and Nurtured's parenting philosophy. In this post, Sarah describes benefits of child-wearing and gives tips for wearing babies, infants, and toddlers (even while pregnant).
  • First Year Reflections — As her daughter's first birthday approaches, Holly at First Year Reflections reflects on how she and her husband settled into attachment parenting after initially doing what they thought everyone else did.
  • Making an allowance — Lauren at Hobo Mama welcomes a guest post from Sam about the unexpected lessons giving a four-year-old an allowance teaches the child — and the parent.
  • How to be a Lazy Parent and Still Raise Great Kids — Lisa at Granola Catholic talks about how being a Lazy Parent has helped her to raise Great Kids.
  • Philosophy in Practice — Laura at A Pug in the Kitchen shares how her heart shaped the parenting philosophy in her home.
  • What is Attachment Parenting Anyway? — Gaby at Tmuffin describes the challenges of putting a label on her parenting philosophy.
  • Of Parenting Styles — Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom talks about how she and her husband tailored various parenting styles to fit their own preferred parenting philosophy.
  • Moment by Moment Parenting — Amy at Peace 4 Parents encourages those who care for children (including herself) to explore and appreciate parenting moment-by-moment with clarity, intention, trust, and action.
  • Maintaining Spirituality in the Midst of Everyday Parenting, Marriage, and Life — Sarah at Nourished and Nurtured shares her perspective on finding opportunities for spiritual growth in every day life.
  • Parenting Philosophy — Lily, aka Witch Mom's parenting philosophy is to raise child(ren) to be compassionate, loving, inquisitive, and questioning adults who can be trusted to make decisions for themselves in a way that avoids harming others.
  • Long Term — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis thinks about who she would like to see her daughter become — and what she can do now to lay a strong foundation for those hopes.
  • Connection, Communication, Compassion — She's come a long way, baby! After dropping her career in favour of motherhood, Patti at Jazzy Mama discovered that building solid relationships was going to be her only parenting priority.
  • My Parenting Inspirations - Part 4 — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at her biggest parenting inspiration and how that translates into her long-term parenting philosophy.
  • A Parenting Philosophy in One Word: Respect — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction summarizes her parenting and relationship philosophy in one word: respect.
  • Knowledge and Instinct — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment believes that knowledge and instinct are super important … as are love, encouragement and respect. It's the ideal combo needed to raise happy and healthy children and in turn create meaningful relationships with them.
  • THRIVE!The Sparkle Mama wants to set a tone of confidence, abundance, and happiness in her home that will be the foundation for the rest of her daughter's life.
  • On Children — "Your children are not your children," say Kahlil Gibran and Hannah at Wild Parenting.
  • This One Life Together — Ariadne aka Mudpiemama shares her philosophy of parenting: living fully in the here and now and building the foundation for a happy and healthy life.
  • Enjoying life and planning for a bright future — Olivia at Write About Birth shares her most important parenting dilemmas and pours out her heart about past trauma and how healing made her a better parent.
  • My Parenting Philosophy: Unconditional and Natural Love — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares what she has learned about her parenting philosophy from a year of following her instincts as a mama.
  • An open letter to my children — Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine writes an open letter to her children.
  • My Starter Kit for Unconditional Parenting — Sylvia at MaMammalia discusses her wish to raise a good person and summarizes some of the nontraditional practices she's using with her toddler son in order to fulfill that wish.
  • Responsiveness — Sheila at A Gift Universe has many philosophies and goals, but what it all boils down to is responsiveness: listening to what her son wants and providing what he needs.
  • Tools for Creating Your Parenting Philosophy — Have you ever really thought about your parenting purpose? Knowing your long-term goals can help you parent with more intent in your daily interactions. Dionna at Code Name: Mama offers exercises and ideas to help you create your own parenting philosophy.
  • Be a Daisy — Becky at Old New Legacy philosophizes about individuality and how she thinks it's important for her daughter's growth.
  • What's a Mama to Do? — Amyables at Toddler in Tow hopes that her dedication to compassionate parenting will keep her children from becoming too self-critical as adults.
  • grown-up anxieties. — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life explains her lone worry concerning her babies growing up.
  • Why I Used Montessori Principles in My Parenting Philosophy — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells why she chose Montessori principles to help her now-adult children develop qualities she wanted to see in them as children and adults.
  • Parenting Philosophies & Planning for the FutureMomma Jorje considers that the future is maybe just a fringe benefit of doing what feels right now.
  • Not Just Getting Through — Rachael at The Variegated Life asks what truths she hopes to express even in the most commonplace interactions with her son.
  • Parenting Philosophy? Eh... — Ana at Pandamoly shares the philosophy (or lack thereof) being employed to (hopefully) raise a respectful, loving, and responsible child.
  • Parenting Philosophy: Being Present — Shannon at The Artful Mama discusses the changes her family has made to accommodate their parenting philosophy and to reflect their ideals as working parents.
  • Who They Will Be — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro shares a short list of some qualities she hopes she is instilling in her children at this very moment.
  • Short Term vs. Long Term — Sheryl at Little Snowflakes recounts how long term parenting goals often get lost in the details of everyday life with two kids.
  • Parenting Philosophy: Practicing and Nurturing Peace — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle sets personal goals for developing greater peace.
  • Yama Niyama & the Red Pajama Mama — Part 1: The Yamas — In part 1 of a set of posts by Zoie at TouchstoneZ, Zoie guest posts at Natural Parents Network about how the Yoga Sutras provide a framework for her parenting philosophy.
  • Yama Niyama & the Red Pajama Mama — Part 2: The Niyamas — In part 2 of a set of posts by Zoie at TouchstoneZ, Zoie explores how the Niyamas (one of the eight limbs in traditional Yoga) help her maintain her parenting and life focus.
  • Our Sample Parenting Plan — Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey shares hopes of who her children will become and parenting strategies she employs to get them there.
  • Philosophical Parenting: Letting Go — Jona at Life, Intertwined ponders the notion that there's no right answer when it comes to parenting.
  • Unphilosophizing? — jessica at instead of institutions wonders about the usefulness of navel gazing.
  • Parenting Sensitively — Amy at Anktangle uses her sensitivity to mother her child in ways that both nurture and affirm.
  • how to nurture your relationships — Mrs Green at Little Green Blog believes that sometimes all kids need is a jolly good listening to …
  • Philosophy Of An Unnatural Parent — Dr. Sarah at Good Enough Mum sees parenting as a process of guiding her children to develop the skills they'll need.
  • Life with a Challenging Kid: Hidden Blessings — Wendy at High Needs Attachment shares the challenges and joys of raising a high needs child.
  • Flying by the Seat of My Pants — Heather at Very Nearly Hippy has realized that she has no idea what she's doing.


Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

This is a welcome perspective to counter all our dreaminess this carnival. I agree with you that no one gets to predict or control what other people do, and that includes our children. Even our deepest love for them can't make everything turn out right. And I agree with the only possible course of action: to do what's (mostly) right, right now. To try. Thank you.

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

You obviously have so much more parenting experience than me, but I can already see how childhood is a slow but steady process that teaches parents to give up any notion of control. Even in Kieran's 3.5 yrs. I'm learning that it's not all about what I do, that many things are simply not my choice. Sounds like it would be helpful for me to get this firmly in my head early!

sithyogini said...

I don't have money set as side for a lawyer either. Hmmmm, I should set up a fund or something. :-)

Anonymous said...

There is little that we can control, as humans or as parents. I have observed correlations between my grown aunts and uncles and how they were raised. The aunts and uncles who lived in stable, secure, two-parent homes have a steady job and a family as adults. I'm not saying that those growing up in an unstable 1-parent home are doomed. There are always exceptions to the rules (including having an unadjusted adult stemmed from a stable home.) I'm just suggesting that we have more control of our environment than we may think. And yes, I do agree that as teenagers it's very important to choose your friends wisely-- something that's not up to the parent.

jessica said...

Well if it isn't a lawyer they'll probably need it for therapy ;-). I completely we agree that we (as parents) can do much to shape the home environment. My questioning has more to do with exactly how much impact that ultimately has on the child (short of extremes - I think that would need a different lens).

For a really simply example I think about the relative house cleaning prowess of parents in a given family. A house that was a little on the chaotic side as the children grew may produce either or both children who are quite fastidious and "blame" it on having grown up in a messy house or children who are also less into organization and again "blame" that one their childhood experience.

Choosing friends wisely can be difficult as well. Sometimes the child experiencing the challenge is someone who your child and your family has known since toddlerhood. Sometimes these friends aren't so much experiencing challenges as just more into risk-taking behaviors than you would wish your child to be. Sometimes it is your child who is "that friend". Choosing is an act of judgement on another human being. Sometimes it is necessary for our safety or sanity, but it doesn't come without costs to all parties involved.

jessica said...

I was sitting with a group of moms this weekend all with older kids (I think the youngest of the olders is getting ready to turn 16 this fall). We have been friends since our children were in the 7ish age range and we were lamenting the ease of infancy and childhood. How the whole world just felt so full of infinite possibilities and how the idealism just isn't what it used to be. Of course this is all laced with overt nostalgia so must be taken with a grain of salt (good grief am I mixing metaphors today). But there just is something dreamy and infinite about pregnancy and infancy and I love it :).

Jona said...

I love this. Especially the idea of searching for the "least wrong" thing to do next. It's so hard to let go of the idea that there's a "right" way to parent, that if we search enough or try different things we'll eventually land on THE WAY.

When things get rough around here, we sometimes remind each other "whatever choice you make will be the wrong one" - not that we're doomed to make terrible parenting choices, but that there are no RIGHT choices to be made. It's incredibly liberating, and not mean-spirited or pessimistic (as I fear it might come across on screen).

jessica said...

Jona - no I totally get it. It is difficult to explain, but it is really liberating to feel like there isn't a right answer or a right choice because then you can stop agonizing over finding it :)