You Are a Good Parent

By Rita Brhel, managing editor of Attached Family, API’s Publications Coordinator, API Leader (Hastings API, Nebraska)

There are many ways of raising children. Of course.

Photo: (c) Helene Souza
Photo: (c) Helene Souza

Some parents breastfeed, some don’t, and for the most part, kids turn out fine. Some parents stay at home with their kids, some parents put their kids in daycare, and for the most part, kids turn out fine. Some parents enroll their children in public school, others homeschool, and for the most part, kids turn out fine. There certainly are parenting styles that are in need of improvement, to say it lightly, such as those that tend to be so strict that they could be labeled as abusive or those that are permissive enough to border on neglectful. But there is no one right way to parent, if your goal is to raise children who are functioning members of society.

That said, there are certain parenting goals—and therefore, strategies—that can give a child an edge as a functioning member of society, and secure parent-child attachment is one of them. Secure attachment, the wholesome and strong bond between a parent and a child, offers an advantage to a person by helping him handle stress more easily, from everyday garden-variety stress to major adversity. Essentially, secure attachment lends itself to good self-esteem. Couple this with problem-solving skills and a general knowledge of healthy versus unhealthy coping skills, and you’ve got an excellent set of stress management skills. Good stress management is helpful not only for mental health but also for physical health and overall well-being.

Parents who are passionate enough about a certain approach to parenting to try to spread the message, either through advocacy or through parent education, tend to come from two schools of thought. They may have found a certain approach to parenting to work well for their family, and they want to share the good news, so to speak; or they may believe that their approach to parenting, which obviously worked well for their family, is the one right way for all parents and children, and they then pass judgment on families who are different than they are. Most parents, though, I believe and hope, understand that all families are different, that  parents are doing what works best for themselves with the knowledge they have at the time, that sometimes we are all just trying to keep our heads above water, and that, at other times, we have wonderful moments of clarity and child rearing ease.

It is true that I practice Attachment Parenting, but I do not believe any formula to parenting—even the particular parenting choices I use—to be “the” way to parent. I breastfeed, but I do not think that if a child was not breastfed, that the child was neglected. I use positive discipline, but I recognize that all parents are at different places in their parenting journeys and that struggling with spanking and a culture that supports it does not make them bad people. Working to change habits doesn’t always happen quickly, and parents may regress. I use daycare sparingly, but I do not think that parents who use daycare regularly are shirking their responsibility as parents. I see us as all on the same side. We’re all trying to do the best we can with what we have. And every family is different. Certainly I cannot judge anyone unless I have literally walked in his or her shoes.

Yet my views of inclusive parenting certainly don’t mean anyone shares this idea. I have encountered both friends and family, as well as strangers, who try to persuade me that my parenting approach is wrong, with arguments that, during the conversation, increasingly “reach the realm of the ridiculous,” as I like to call it. One woman, in trying to convince me that I was holding my baby too much, told me that most infant injuries come when the caregiver holding the baby falls down. Somehow I doubt this to be true. Could be the lack of statistics or reference.

In another example, when I revealed that my dates with my husband happen after the kids go to bed, my banker told me that having a date outside the house is a requirement for a healthy marriage. I said that we don’t go anywhere anyway, because we try to be frugal, plus I have so many food allergies that there is literally nowhere I can eat, and also our nightly date in-home (during which we eat dessert or have a glass of wine, watch a movie, play games, take walks, or just talk) seems to be working better for us than trying to plan a weekly date to do the same. She suggested that we bring the kids to her house so we can, as she phrased it, “go back home and you two can just sit there looking at each other,” because apparently having a date is only a date, even if at home, if the kids are elsewhere. And, no, she wasn’t kidding or sarcastic—she seemed genuinely interested in arranging this for me.

These comments usually leave me chuckling, though sometimes a bit annoyed if I’ve had one of those days where things just don’t seem to be working in my favor. But I do try to take some time to consider the other person’s point of view. And it always comes down to a completely different family situation and a corresponding philosophy. The “don’t hold your baby too much” lady—she is of an older generation where cry-it-out sleep training and scheduled infant feedings were the norm, and so was the old misguided adage that holding a baby too much would spoil it. That’s how she parented; that’s how everyone probably parented in her generation. And now, decades later, even as times and parenting trends have changed and more research reveals what parenting strategies work or don’t work, her experience is in those parenting practices that she used.

The “date nights” woman—she works full time at the bank and puts her kids in daycare, and her husband works full time and then goes to school part time in the evenings, and they just don’t see each other as much as my husband and I do. So planning a weekly date night is really important for her and her husband, because there is so much competing for their attention, including their children. Both examples are completely opposite of how I work and how my family works. My parenting ideas wouldn’t necessarily work for them, and theirs don’t work for me.

It would be wonderful to finally put the “Mommy wars” to rest. But it is human nature that we feel so vulnerable in this area of our lives—as parents—and therefore, so easily judged and able to so easily judge others, as we try to rectify in our minds that we are, indeed, doing this whole child rearing thing the right way. You probably are doing it the right way, for you and your child, but so is the mother down the street who is doing everything opposite of you. We have to remember to expand our minds, to understand that judging is a part of who we are naturally, but that we can overcome it by being consciously tolerant of differences.


12 thoughts on “You Are a Good Parent”

  1. Awesome article! Thank you, this is an area I have struggled with. I think you hit the nail on the head, I feel so vulnerable and judged that I turn around and do the same thing :/
    Definitely going to work on this!

  2. This is something I definitely struggle with myself. I was raised with spanking and I knew I never wanted to do this to my kids. As I grew older I realized it was more than spanking, I didn’t want to punish at all. I struggled for a long time with it, as everyone I knew did not share my views. I discovered Attachment Parenting and it helped me feel validated. Its easy for me to empathize with children. It’s a lot harder for me to do with adults. This article is a great reminder that everyone, children and adults, all struggle with the same things.

  3. That was a fantastic article. Boy do I need to hear that, for I to often think I am the only one I know doing it “right”. Thank you, Marinell

  4. This is one of the finest parenting articles I have ever read, and I have read gazillions! Succinct, crystal-clear and spot-on. I commend you for your patience and inclusive attitude when bombarded with unsolicited–and frequently misguided–advice.

    I am an AP mom myself and my struggle is not so much with explicit judgments but with the unspoken ones (pro-spanking neighbors whose glares say my daughter tantrums because I don’t whack her butt) and what seems like no support whatsoever from professionals (my pediatrician asking me when I plan to stop breastfeeding my toddlers and pointing out that they will be going to preschool soon!).

    I try not to judge, with varying degrees of success. Ironically, I find that the more judged I feel, the less inclined I am to do so myself. I agree with you 100% that, barring abuse/neglect, we should each do whatever we feel is best for our individual families.

  5. Awesome article… No 2 set of parents,no 2 children, no 2 situations can ever be the same. Everyone makes choices which are in tandem with their partner, child(ren) and situations.. the idea is just to be happy and content with what we are doing ….

  6. My daughter’s doc always told me “mother knows whats best for her child and can never go wrong if she thinks she is right”

    Good article. You have said things very right and brief.

  7. I have to disagree. Hitting aka spankin your children is wrong. It is abuse. There is no excuse for abuse. It some counties it’s illegal. If someone his their animals they can go to jail but spanking and hitting children is okay….

  8. Breast feeding so long that your child is starting preschool is strange and possibly borderline abusive. It is obviously selfish on your part at this point. How do you plan to handle it when your child wants to breastfeed when you pick them up or drop them off at school? Make them a target for teasing right from the start. Nice. Get some help.

  9. Surprised at the comment from Kelly above! Hope she/he reads more articles on this site and is inspired by them. But moving on…

    Great article! This is something most of us struggle with (both the judging and the being judged). It is hard not to judge when I’ve come to certain ways of seeing things and others (including my husband) are not at the same place. And guess who I judge most? Myself!

  10. I am also surprised by Kelly’s post above… Did u even read the article about not judging other peoples parents choices? In this country we have the lowest breastfeeding average at 4 months …. Where as the worldwide average is 5 years… And to say it is selfish to breastfeed is hilarious … It is a labour or love and not easy to do… It takes patience and effort but for me is worth the benefits ten fold so I continue to do it for my 15 month old. If he wanted to stop I would be totally fine with it but HE doesn’t so I will let him decide when he doesn’t need to anymore. There are more and more studies showing brain development is enhanced by breastfeeding till at least 22 months. I refinery think Kelly needs to read more articles about on this site and think before she posts.
    The article was lovely and very positive message. Thank you for that.

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