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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Skeptical About Positive Parenting?



To all of you lovely mamas and papas out there who have embraced this philosophy, shifted paradigms, and parent positively, I want to give a warm hug and a hello. But I'm writing this post tonight for the rest of you who may have stumbled here by accident, or who are here intentionally because you are curious but skeptical about this whole positive parenting thing.

I get it. I was skeptical, too.

Sit and have a virtual cup of tea (or whatever you prefer) with me. No judgments. No criticisms. Just open minds and tender hearts.

I'm a 33 year old mommy of 2 young boys.. They are my world. The day my first was born, I felt a whole new kind of love. Amazing, isn't it? I experienced it again with my second baby. Love in its purest and strongest form. Their laughter makes the world feel alright. And yes, sometimes they make me want to run around in circles screaming.

I want what's best for them, you know. I want them to grow up healthy and happy. I want them to have a good self-concept. I want them to make good choices, use good manners, not succumb to peer pressure, bad influences, or the words of a bully.  I want them to be successful, follow their dreams, aim high, and be surrounded by love. I want them to have joy and hold onto it. I want them to be able to bounce back from adversity. I want them to be satisfied with their lives.

I bet those hopes are not far off from what you want for your child(ren) too?

It might surprise you to know that I didn't start out a positive parent. I got some things right; I got some things wrong. I took parenting advice from popular parenting magazines and my doctors. They knew it all, right? I did form a strong attachment, always responded to their cries, met their needs, but as far as attachment parenting or positive parenting...never heard of it.

It wasn't until my baby became a toddler and I had to figure out how to "make him mind" that I stumbled across this philosophy. I didn't buy into it overnight, either. I didn't use physical punishment because that felt instinctively wrong to me, even though I'd experienced it in my own childhood, but I certainly dished out the time outs, the threats, the bribes, the withdrawal of toys. And it wasn't working.

That's why I started Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond. Not because I had the answers, but because I was looking for them, and I figured if I was looking them, others were probably looking too, and I could share what I was finding.

And I found a lot.

My reaction at first to this philosophy was skepticism. "Yeah, that's going to work" I thought. *sarcasm* Yet, something I read struck a cord with me.

I was drawn to read more, and it started resonating with me, this idea that I could raise respectful, happy, well-rounded human beings without the punishments, adversities, constant power struggles, and rebellion, but through connection, attachment, relationship. I began to strip away the layers of ideals and misconceptions that my upbringing, my family, my culture had driven into me about how children should be raised.

It was a long process. I'm still working on it, to be honest. I'm still working on me.

There are a couple of things that skeptics or people resistant to positive parenting always say. One is that we are permissive and don't discipline our kids, and the other is that we are raising entitled brats who will either end up in prison or ruin society.

I want to make it clear that this is not, in any way, permissive parenting. We teach our children right from wrong.  We set boundaries and have age-appropriate expectations. We go to great lengths to instill discipline in our children. We have full understanding of the impact our parenting makes on society. In fact, that is why we parent the way we do. We are educated in early childhood development and the importance of attachment and how that shapes the brain. We know the value of empathy, of teaching emotional intelligence, and of setting an example. 

As for raising entitled brats? Well, my kids are only 7 and 5, like I said, but so far, so good. I know people who have raised children this way, and I don't think any of them are in prison. On the contrary, they seem to be doing pretty excellent. You can read some of their stories here. 

I mentioned this was a long process for me. Let me elaborate just a bit. At first I was skeptical. Then I began to understand the concept behind it and embrace that, but had no idea how to put it into practice. I thought it was all about what I couldn't do to my kids. With more reading and self-reflection, I began to realize it wasn't about what I couldn't do, but more about what I could do in terms of relationship. Then I got all caught up in focusing *only* on our relationship and wasn't doing much teaching. Teaching is essential, I soon learned, and so I began to find tools I could use, like time-in, games for teaching, problem-solving.  More recently, I've had another epiphany.

Positive parenting, at the very core of it, isn't about what you can and can't do in terms of disciplining, teaching, and guiding your kids. It isn't even about having the perfect relationship (as there will always be breaks and repairs; such is life). It's not about techniques or tools, whether or not to use time outs or time ins, consequences or problem-solving. All of those things stem from the practice of what is at the very core of this philosophy, but they are not THE philosophy itself. What it's really about is the way we view children, their emotions, their needs, their motives. It's about seeing them as human beings, worthy of respect and unconditional love, delicate, impressionable, who have as much to teach us as we have to teach them. When THIS sinks into your heart, the practice of positive parenting naturally flows from it. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. 

If you're truly interested in positive parenting, if the idea of this tugs at your heart, then I urge you to peel back your layers as well. It takes courage, and it's not easy. It can be scary, even. But what's the worst that could happen? You could find truth. You could find healing. You could find a peace that you never thought was possible. You could find contentment. You could cultivate a relationship with your kids that brings a great amount of joy to everyone. Or you could decide that it's all hogwash and go back to what you were doing before, but you never know until you open your heart and give it a chance.

We're not raising kids who run wild. We're raising kids who we are wild about, and they know it. And that feels pretty good, for all of us. <3

Have a lovely day. xx
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For more information:
Positive Parenting: What? Why? How?
Positive Parenting is NOT Permissive Parenting
Changing Your Mindset

Visit my book store for The Newbie's Guide to Positive Parenting and Positive Parenting in Action: The How-To Guide for Putting Positive Parenting Principles into Action in Early Childhood.

8 comments:

  1. What a great post! I too was very skeptical at first.

    It really IS scary to change years - even generations - of parenting ideas. And I thank from the bottom of my heart, the guidance from Positive Parenting to help me and my husband replace the "old tapes" of the past with new ones filled with love.

    In my family, male children were treated very poorly. I saw the pattern repeat itself from my grandfather, to father to brother. Each generation endured strict discipline, withheld love and wildly unrealistic expectations. And-no surprise - each generation grew up to be drug addicts. The expectations from boys was nothing short of horrific. I remember hearing a story that my brother had been beaten by my father for not tying his shoes properly. And one time when my father left my brother to cry it out for the entire night despite the pleas from my mother. In the morning he went in and broke the bars off his crib in anger while he was still in it. Really horrible stuff. Thankfully, I was mostly ignored.

    When I found out I was expecting a boy - I was terrified for him to be around my father or brother. I was terrified about what I had absorbed. My model of parenting was damaged.

    When I had my son I swore that I was going to break the cycle. I read so much about parenting and childhood development... and even something as simple as "liking" Positive Parenting on Facebook reminds me every day that my little boy will never be treated as they were.

    Thank you for the links and encouragement. My little guy - now two and half - will never repeat the horrors of the past. Me and my husband utilize positive parenting. And guess what - IT WORKS! One of the greatest lessons is understanding age appropriate techniques and expectations.

    And something else I'd like for other readers to understand... you don't have to enlist every A.P. technique. I'm a terrible co-sleeper and (since I'm really small) I had trouble wearing him all the time past 6 months... but the core principles and attitude are the heart of the topic.

    Thanks - I'm not a skeptic anymore!

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  2. "Then I got all caught up in focusing *only* on our relationship and wasn't doing much teaching."

    This line really touched me as I feel that I am at this stage. As a teacher, I was always ridiculed for being "too nice" and "too caring". Wouldn't this world be so different if we took just two minutes to listen to a child.

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  3. I really want to start practicing positive parenting, but my husband definately comes from a different background and thinks that our children don't listen to me, cause I don't MAKE them. How does this worth with parents who see this philosophy differently?

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  4. "Then I got all caught up in focusing *only* on our relationship and wasn't doing much teaching."

    I'm slowly coming out of this stage. We had a rough year last year within our family and our four year old witnessed things she never should have so I've been a little more permissive, and people notice and I don't like it. I've just been more worried about how those things affected her than other people around me have been. I understand child development and how deeply those things can affect her. They just think, "Kids are resilient, she's fine, she just knows how to work you." Drives me nuts. I just really appreciate this post and that particular sentence stuck out, as I have to stop living in the past with her. If it affected her, it affected her, I can't change it but I can make her life better NOW and not by being so super permissive. :)

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  5. Garbanzo: What an encouraging comment. I applaud you for breaking the cycle! And you're definitely right; you don't have to follow to a T the A.P. principles. They're lovely, but not necessary. The main thing is what is in your heart, and flowing from it. :)

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  6. Miss Melissa, it's easy to get caught up in that stage, and I find myself wanting to slip back into it every so often. Connection is the most vital thing in PP, but when we focus on *only* that, we tend to slide into permissiveness. It's a balancing act. Best wishes.

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  7. Christina,
    I think your child can benefit from even one parent practicing PP, but of course it would be most beneficial if your husband would get on board as well. Perhaps you can share some information with him and have an open discussion about what PP means and why you want to go this route. Best of luck to you.

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  8. Ladyshepp07,
    I'm sorry for the difficulties your daughter had to encounter. It may be encouraging to know that, while things do make an impact, healing is absolutely possible. So you can't change that it happened, but you CAN change the affect. See Lu at Parent2ParentU. She is expert in that area.

    Best wishes.

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