Should You Choose a Parenting Philosophy?

Should you pick a parenting philosophy, or a baby care “method?” There are many popular schools of thought when it comes to raising children. Some of them have labels, like “attachment parenting.” Others are just thought to go together, like “cry it out” and harsh discipline. It’s easy to find books that cover a wide range of parenting opinions, so you can pick a method to follow – but should you?

The Benefit of Finding a Method

There are benefits to having a parenting method you can identify with. You often have hopes and dreams for your child, and a picture of what life with your little one will look like. Parenting methods often offer structure and hints on how to get that picture to become reality, and do so in a way that appeals to you.

Having a method that you rely on may also help you to stay consistent with your child. It’s important to present a consistent front with your child. Interestingly, that may not always mean you do the same thing or use the same “method” – but you have ground rules and standards that you stick to. Children feel insecure when there’s inconsistency. (Note that this doesn’t mean you can never change your mind about something – you can, just be consistent with your new choice and expect a little tension as your child gets used to the new norm).

It’s also easy to find resources when you’ve picked a particular method – you can simply search for what experts on that method recommend, or look for what other parents have done.

The Problems with Choosing a Method

That point also brings up a problem, though. What if you realize that your chosen method is not fitting in well with your family? Many parents get idealistic when they choose a parenting method, but quickly realize that it’s not going as smoothly as the books promised. Then they feel reluctant to change or switch to another method. Either they’ve come to view other alternatives as “wrong” or they feel like they’re doing “something wrong.”

Another problem is that sometimes methods are developed by “gurus” who aren’t spending every day with your child. I do feel that there are some things we can reasonably expect of any child. But each child is still unique and there may need to be variation here and there in how you parent a child.

Plus, choosing a method can feel really complicated. You’re always anxious to make sure that you’re doing it “by the book” and that you’re not somehow harming your child if you don’t! It can make for “wishy-washy” parenting, or overly harsh parenting, neither of which are very good.

Finding Balance

The real key is to find balance. First, understand that you’re the parent, and that’s a good thing. You make the decisions for your child. The gurus and “experts” and doctors don’t. You do. And your child doesn’t (nor the experts who tell you your child should).

You are the parent. You make the decisions.

Everyone feels a lot more secure with this arrangement – especially your little ones. It can be intimidating to think of the responsibility that goes with this (which is why I recommend using proven helpers, like rhythm and routine, and streamlining household management – that frees more energy for parenting). But it is a gift we’re given: the gift to guide our children, and the gift of “growing up” even more ourselves as we guide them.

Where does that leave the methods?

There is value in exploring different parenting methods and philosophies. You can find ones that resonate with you, understand which don’t resonate with you, and use them to help you set goals for your family and your children. Surveying different methods also gives you ideas when something you’re trying isn’t working. It can help you seriously evaluate how you’re doing as a parent, and if you need to make changes. So looking a different methods is a good thing. And identifying strongly with one is also OK. Just don’t be rigid about it – and don’t let it undermine your confidence in yourself.

What your child really needs is a calm, confident parent. Choose the resources that support you in that 🙂