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9.27.2010

What Kind of Parent Will You Be?

This is by no means something that you need to decide RIGHT NOW if you're pregnant with your first. But you should start thinking about it. Also, keep in mind that parenting style is a continuum- you don't need to subscribe to ALL the tenets of a particular parenting style. And, in the interest of fairness, I am going to describe these parenting styles in two different ways. One is how they were presented in my Early Childhood Education Class, and one how they have existed in my reality.

Interdependence (attachment parenting, or AP) versus Independence:

Interdependence: Children are more dependent on the parents. Parents who follow the interdependence model are most likely to co-sleep, elimination communicate (EC), baby wear, extended breastfeed, and use baby lead weaning. And, while the following practices have nothing to do with attachment, they are often practiced by AP parents: cloth diapering, abstaining from circumcision and vaccines, and any generally "crunchy" behavior.

Independence: Children are encouraged to be independent. This type of parent is most likely to, well, not do the things above, as well as use cry it out to get their baby to sleep, allow their child to spend time playing alone, involve others (besides dad) in the care of the child (ie use child care). This parenting model is practiced by most conventional parents.

As you can see, none of the traits of either is bad- neither is "right." The parenting method you most closely follow will evolve to meet the needs of your family (at least, that's the ideal). For example, after my babies are born I am a lot closer the the AP model. I co-sleep for the first 3-4 months, baby wear as needed (I do this indefinitely), and breastfeed as long as I can. However, beyond the first year I swing more towards independence. And I make sure to allow my children time to play by themselves from birth (and try really hard to get them to learn to fall asleep on their own from birth).

In my own experience, though, I relate the most to other parents who are more AP. That is because, in almost all cases, AP parents have done research and know why they are doing what they do. Conventional parents, who are either complete laissez-faire parents (see below) in all things or Independence parents, are usually doing what everyone else (their own parents, their friends, their pediatrician, etc) tells them they are "supposed" to do, often without reason. So while I don't choose some AP practices for my own family based on our needs, I respect AP parents for the amount of thought and research they have put into their parenting decisions. However, should you choose to be a more conventional parent you can still make educated decisions.

For further thought, there are three styles of discipline as well that are intertwined with parenting style. Check out the link below. BUT BEFORE YOU DO... I am not in any way promoting the parenting classes or books on the site I link to below. I have no knowledge of their effectiveness one way or the other. However, the description given on discipline styles is a better description than what I could have given. Also, the discipline styles you will read about aren't like the parenting styles listed above. One is effective, the other two are not. While one could still argue that the two "wrong" ones can be effective, it is pretty widely recognized that the most effective long term discipline is positive, cooperative, and respectful, not ruling through fear or giving in to whining. And by widely recognized, I mean that it is taught to child development and early childhood education students.

Parenting and Discipline

Whatever you decide about your parenting style, things will evolve. While it's important to be consistent as a parent, by nature change is unavoidable. You can't know right now, or even when the baby is born, what will work best for your family. I never planned on co-sleeping at all, but when Izzy was four weeks old and I was so sleep deprived I thought I was going to die I decided to try it. It's how I survived colic. Don't change on every whim you have, but when something isn't working, or when you've given something a lot of thought and think it might work well for your family, give change a try!

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