Welcome to May edition of the Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival, hosted by Authentic Parenting and Mudpiemama. This month’s topic is “Parenting Practices and Criticism”. Please scroll down to the end of this post to find a list of links to the entries of the other participants. Enjoy!
These notes are bits of advice Mike and I received from loving extended family members at our first baby shower. As I read the first note, I laughed and showed him. I knew that we would be going against decades of parenting traditions, but wasn’t expecting to encounter this kind of advice for a while. At least, not until our daughter was born.
As if figuring out who our daughter was and what she was telling us was not enough, Mike and I were also challenged by figuring out how to defend our parenting choices.
Soon enough, I noticed that some of our parenting decisions were easier to accept than others. Cloth diapering, whole healthy foods instead of jarred, sleeping with our babies – these decisions reflected our love for our daughter and were most easily digestible by those closest to us.
At the other end of this parenting decision spectrum were the choices that were considered most extreme, the ones which evoked alarm and defensiveness. Most often, these parenting decisions are ignored and chalked up to the “they’ll change their minds” category.
Then there is a third group. The parenting choices that cause us to do the most explaining are those that cause others to want to participate in our parenting. When loving adults want to teach or help our daughters develop and we oppose their efforts, our intentions collide. It’s probably best summed up by the question: Why wouldn’t Mike and I want to do everything possible to help our daughters be everything they can be?
From the battery-free toys we choose to the decision to a walker/bouncer-free home, these choices seem to invite the most passionate arguments from our family. After going into a full explanation as to why we do not praise our daughter, I’m asked, “How will she know she did a good job?”
The back and forth has gone a little like this . . .
It often starts with a question. “Is she walking yet?” These questions are most often rhetorical. I think, she’s right in front of you. Is she walking?
The demonstration: My daughter is walked around by her arms by someone visiting. Just is case I didn’t understand the potential of their idea, they give a small demo for my benefit. Thanks.
Sharing their perspective: “Look, she likes it!” (My daughter grins from ear to ear as she dangles by her arms from the adults walking her around).
Que the gift: “We bought her a gift!” (Daughter opens walker) Didn’t we already go over this?
While we have been so fortunate to not have been outright unkindly criticized or judged for our choices, we find the environment that we try to envelope our daughters in slowly eroding as we watch our choices being disregarded bit by bit.
Walking our daughters around by their arms is, for me, tantamount to saying that what their bodies are currently capable of doing is not enough. It’s simply against our parenting practices and beliefs.
On the other hand, the relationships between our daughters and her grandparents, our family, and extended family are incredibly important; so much so that when we learned about our first pregnancy, we decided to leave Los Angeles and move in order to live closer to our family.
The Image of the Child
Our different parenting approach is a reflection of who we know our daughters to be and what we believe them to be capable of. Others, apparently, may see my daughters as incapable loving people. This one difference impacts countless choices, and ultimately our parenting practices.
Keeping in mind that every individual may hold a different image of the child has helped me respond to their critiques of my parenting decisions.
- Accepting – We parent differently than others parents. We refer to our parenting decisions as being “deliberate.” Right or wrong, we put lots of thought into the choices we make for our daughters given the circumstances at hand, who they are, and what we are capable of helping them achieve. We do not subscribe to any one particular way of parenting, yet identify with parents who respect their children and make respectful, loving decisions that support their children’s needs. Just as others may see our parenting practices as different, I accept that my parents parented differently using methods that worked for them.
- Understanding – I can not imagine my daughters raising their children in ways different than the way we are supporting them, but it’s possible they will. I think about how my parents feel when we choose to treat our daughters differently than I was treated. I try to understand that their approach reflects not necessarily different values, but different resources.
- Communicating – At first all I did was teach, or “preach” depending on who you ask. I wanted everyone to know that what we were doing was something we thought long and hard about. I spoke to be heard. Two years later, I talk about parenting to learn. Talking about our decisions helps me sorts out my thoughts and gives me a reason to reflect upon our parenting.
Learning how to balance our parenting instincts with our deliberate parenting is an ever-evolving process.
The upside of down – When nearly every parenting practice you make is against the grain, your family and friends come to expect if of you. Out of respect for me as a parent and love for me as their child, my parents have developed the habit of asking me about most every gift and gesture they make for our daughters.
From the myriad of conversations – some intense, some defensive, and some even dismissive – we have come to a place of understanding. We all love the girls and want what’s best for them. Taking the time to explain why parenting choices are important to me, not just for their outcome but for the sake of our relationship, has helped us all to put aside our ways and work together to make sure the girls are heard and know that they are loved.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
- Stepping out of the box and dealing with criticism — Stoneageparent shares how she deals with criticism over her parenting choices
- BEWARE of Sanctimommy — Amanda at Blinded by the Light talks about how recognizing your own inner-sanctimommy and how it will facilitate ways to deal with other criticism in your life.
- We’re on the same team — Brittany from The Pistachio Project shares about how we should support and respect each other because we already get enough criticism from the outside world.
- True Confessions of a Real Mommy.
- I Could Never… — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children discusses how the phrase “I could never” really means “I would never want to” and how owning our words and actions can lead to understanding and empathy.
- Admiration For A Parent’s Strength— Jennifer at Our Muddy Boots shares her admiration for parents who continue to make parenting choices in the best interest of their child even when those closest to them disagree.
- Assumption Free Zone — Paige @ Baby Dust Diaries challenges us to cultivate kindness for everyone; even if you disagree with them.
- Perfection, Criticism, Parenting and The Sock Police — Ariadne @ The Positive Parenting Connection is sharing how parenting has been an excercise in overcoming perfectionism and handling criticism.
- Silencing the Voices In My Head — At Authentic Parenting, Laura writes about fighting her inner critic.
- Tackled from the Sidelines — Marisa from Deliberate Parenting reveals what parenting choices she makes that are most often questioned and how she is coming peacefully to the defense of her decisions.
- Different Strokes — Justine from The Lone Home Ranger shares the method she uses to explain her family’s “crunchy” differences to her preschooler.