My Go-To Parenting Guru’s by Teresa Palmer
I am often asked what my parenting “philosophy” or “style” is. It’s always hard to define exactly how I parent, it’s an ever evolving process and I just try and be as open and present as I can. I love learning more about Bodhi and following his lead as to how I can best support his emotional and mental growth.
I really enjoy having as conscious, intuitive and loving interactions with Bodhi as possible. I strive to meet his needs as they arise and together we communicate about all the feelings that come up. I want to embrace and accept all that he throws at me emotionally. I create the safe space for him to know that my love is unconditional and that all of his feelings are welcome with me, despite how intense they can sometimes be, I want him to know that they’re never too big for me.
I’ve noticed a remarkable shift in Bodhi over the past year, he has a real grasp on how to use tools to self regulate, he more often than not will come to me to talk through his feelings rather than just impulsively acting them out. I’m loving observing his growth and it gets me so excited to learn even more tools to help him on his journey.
Meanwhile, I’m listening like a sponge to other parents as we share stories, experiences and knowledge with each other. Here are a few gems from my fav parenting guru’s that my friends and I use as go-to’s when looking for a little extra inspiration.
NOTE: I would like to reiterate that these are the ideas that resonate with OUR family, I use these ideas as a jumping off place and I also incorporate my own ways of doing things, which at times would be contrary to some of the things outlined in the below philosophies but that’s what works for us. Take what you like, leave the rest and find your own path.
Both Janet’s Website and her Podcast Janet Lansbury: Unruffled are beautiful collections of very mindful and positive ways of communicating and being with your child. Her philosophy is based on one established by Magda Gerber in the late 1970’s called RIE Parenting.
My take always from its main concepts are;
– Do less and observe your child more.
– Nature has a perfect plan. Your child is doing things at its own organic pace without the need to prompt, teach or direct them.
– Babies, toddlers and children have an innate competency, be respectful of their independence and abilities, despite how young they are.
– Have a very relaxed and gentle approach to parenting. Pause, slow down and be presently available to the child.
– Tell them what you’re doing before you do it e.g “I’m going to pick you up now” or “I’m going to bath you now” so that you’re respecting their space and including them in your choices.
Mark had tons of experience with RIE with his oldest son Isaac, so it’s one of the first philosophies I learnt about. I especially found its methods helpful during the first 2 years of Bodhi’s life. I loved sharing with Bodhi all that I was doing with him and treating him as a fully capable little being worthy of being looped in to our actions. I’m now starting to look at some other philosophies surrounding boundaries and communication in the older toddler to implement in conjunction with all I’ve learnt about RIE. In those early years, I found RIE really took the pressure off and I found myself being able to enjoy Bodhi more without the added pressure to DO things for him and show him the way. I also really responded to putting myself in his shoes and really seeing things from his perspective. That was and still is so valuable.
DR SHEFALI TSABARY
Oprah calls this woman “The best parenting expert I have ever heard” and I concur! Dr Shefali wrote a fabulous book called “The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering our Children” her main approach focuses on;
– Being present, attuned and authentic with our children through doing our own self work.
– By connecting with ourselves first and foremost that we will best connect with our children.
– That traditional discipline, in all forms, is about attempting to control a child; to get the child to conform. Instead we should facilitate their own learning through natural consequences (see below)
– Let there be natural consequences for a child’s behavior, this is where they learn (unless there is risk to life or limb!) consequences are cause and effect and this is much more conducive to raising thoughtful, self aware children than disciplining them.
– Parents need to have great personal self-confrontation to address the issues that the child is triggering within us that are causing us to react.
I LOVE this philosophy because I can recognize that when I’m doing the work on myself to remain present, calm and peaceful that it translates in to having much more connected, patient and loving interactions with Bodhi. We are also a family that don’t utilize the traditional ideas of discipline, instead we create organic boundaries and limits for our children, we apply this idea of natural consequences and use very open communication in the process. Read more up on her suggestions about natural consequences rather than discipline. I also wrote about my experience surrounding setting limits with Bodhi here.
I read Jean’s 1975 published book “The Continuum Concept” when I was pregnant, in fact I first heard about it from an interview given by the world famous and much loved midwife Ina May Gaskin, she is a big fan of this book. I plowed through this book very quickly, and I often go back to re-read certain sections to remind myself of Jeans insights.
Here is her bio;
“Jean Liedloff, an American writer, spent two and a half years deep in the South American jungle with Stone Age Indians. The experience demolished her Western preconceptions of how we should live and led her to a radically different view of what human nature really is. She offers a new understanding of how we have lost much of our natural well-being and shows us practical ways to regain it for our children and for ourselves”
In the book, Jean Liedloff talks about;
– The importance of not centering your entire world around your children, keep on doing YOU but incorporate them in to your universe, let them come along with you on outings and observe the world, taking in all your interactions and experiences, immersing them in the normal life of adults and society.
– Practice baby-wearing and holding babe in arms until the baby shows interest in being out of your arms.
– Have less stuff like rockers, bouncers, electronic toys, walkers and strollers.
– Don’t implement a sleep/eat/play routine, which has become the norm in Western culture. She says by only allowing babies to eat, sleep and play when we dictate, we are in turn pacifying their own natural instincts. Babies will give us all the cues we need to feed them, play with them and help them sleep. They’ll fall in to their own natural rhythms and routines without it being imposed on them.
– Supports breastfeeding on demand and co-sleeping. Tells us to listen to our own finely tuned and well evolved instincts.
This book is a very radical approach to “Natural Parenting” radical in the sense that in our society it’s not the norm to practice a lot of what she discusses, even though in many many cultures everything she talks about isn’t given a second thought, it’s just how things are done. I completely loved the concept and whilst I couldn’t maintain all of her suggestions in our life, the basics of it really resonated.
We held Bodhi so much during those first few months (obviously I couldn’t do that 24/7) we didn’t even own a stroller until he was 6 months old as he never showed interest in being away from my arms (I used a sling or a baby carrier so I could be hands free) After 6 months he loved being in the stroller and bouncing in a bouncer, yup one of those flashing singing Fisher & Price ones! so we happily incorporated them too.
Mark and I also chose to bring Bodhi with us everywhere we went, it was easy for us, we wanted to and were able to. He still comes with me everywhere; on errands, to see friends, on hikes, we do “domestic duties” together (these are maybe his favorite things to do in the world, he made up a song about doing his “jobs” with Mama) the other day he even asked if he could do the dishes at preschool! (Who doesn’t love bubbles and water?) and when Bodhi was a baby he would come along to events, lunch meetings, dinners, catch ups etc. he was always just in a carrier, he slept when he wanted to and breastfed when he needed to. He was just with us and happily observed our world and our interactions.
The passages about the no-schedule was definitely my favorite take away from the book. We have never been a family that has tried to schedule Bodhi. From the first day home we were very fluid and in tune with what’s Bodhi’s needs were, we let him show us what his body was telling him and would meet his needs accordingly, he would sleep, eat, poop and play instinctively. He eventually fell in to an organic schedule which meant that we could enjoy him without placing any expectations on when he should and shouldn’t be doing things. It was the right fit for us, the same way implementing a schedule is a good fit for other families.
DR WILLIAM SEARS
Dr William Sears is the doctor that coined the term “Attachment Parenting” This was one of the first parenting books I ever read. His book “The Baby Book” is like a bible at our house, Sarah Olsen our YZM co-founder initially recommended this to me when she found out I was pregnant with Bodhi.
Dr Sears’s philosophy’s below;
– Forming a secure attachment with your child from the first moments. (Skin on skin, baby to breast etc) Birth Bonding is something he discusses. From his website; “A close attachment after birth and beyond allows the natural, biological attachment-promoting behaviors of the infant and the intuitive, biological, care-giving qualities of the mother to come together”
– Beware of the Baby Trainers. Meeting the child’s needs as they arise without enforced schedules. Dr Sears says; “Attachment parenting teaches you how to be discerning of advice, especially those rigid and extreme parenting styles that teach you to watch a clock or a schedule instead of your baby. These more restrained styles of parenting create a distance between you and your baby and keep you from becoming an expert in your child.” In reference to listening to babies cries, Dr Sears says “Responding sensitively to your baby’s cries builds trust. Babies trust that their caregivers will be responsive to their needs. Parents gradually learn to trust in their ability to appropriately meet their baby’s needs”
– Dr Sears is an advocate for Breastfeeding “Breastfeeding is an exercise in baby reading. Breastfeeding helps you read your baby’s cues, her body language, which is the first step in getting to know your baby. Breastfeeding gives baby and mother a smart start in life. Breastmilk contains unique brain-building nutrients that cannot be manufactured or bought.”
– Co-sleeping or Bedding Close to Baby. “Since nighttime is a scary time for little people, sleeping within close touching and nursing distance minimizes nighttime separation anxiety and helps attachment parenting babies learn that sleep is a pleasant state to enter and a fearless state to remain in.”
– Baby Wearing and keeping baby close to you. “A baby learns a lot in the arms of a busy caregiver. Carried babies fuss less and spend more time in the state of quiet alertness, the behavior state in which babies learn most about their environment. Baby wearing improves the sensitivity of the parents because your baby is so close to you, you get to know baby better”
– He is an advocate for maintaining Balance. “In your zeal to give so much to your baby, it’s easy to neglect the needs of yourself and your marriage. As you will learn the key to putting balance in your parenting is being appropriately responsive to your baby – knowing when to say “yes” and when to say “no,” and having the wisdom to say “yes” to yourself when you need help.”
Attachment Parenting has been a really important part of our parenting journey. Dr Sears believes that by securing a very strong attachment from birth that it in turn creates a really independent and well adjusted child. Mark and I baby wore for the first 2 years (we also used a stroller after 6 months) I breastfeed, we co-slept and now room-share with Bodhi. It has often been commented to us how secure and self assured Bodhi is. I can see he has confidence to go out in to the world without me needing to be by his side, I know that a factor in this is that we created a very secure bond from the start applying these AP principles. I also think there are many ways to develop a strong bond with your children and that you can just try on different methods until something feels right for you.
This kind of parenting resonates with our family BUT most importantly what we really respond to Dr Sears’s philosophy of BALANCE. It’s not possible to be our very best with our children without treating ourselves respectfully first. We need to cultivate enough self care in order to be the types of parents we strive to be for our children. A lot of AP critics believe that it’s too much on the parent to perfectly fulfill the Attachment Parenting philosophies, but thats not taking in to account the Balance philosophy, I think it’s the most important one he writes about. Happy Mama= Happy Child.
I want to conclude this article with that very important word- BALANCE. Whilst all of these parenting “Guru’s” offer up some really sensational and thought provoking ideas and certainly ones that I personally implement in to my parenting philosophy, I also acknowledge that it’s important to take what works and leave what doesn’t in order to lead with your intuition. I’m certainly a mash up of all of these ideas and more and then I also utilize some of the more traditional forms of parenting too (e.g I’m big on manners, which is deemed a no-no in natural parenting circles!) It’s imperative for us to equip ourselves with the knowledge, learn about all styles and philosophies of parenting and then find our own groove with it all. No one way is best. Not everyone can breastfeed, not everyone wants to room share or co-sleep, carry their infants around all the time and for some parents functioning without a schedule would wreak havoc in their lives. I think the important thing here is be open to all ideas and suggestions and then make the best choices for you and your family. As I always say, let your Mama or Papa voice be the loudest one you listen to. No one knows your child like you do.