Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Welcome to the July Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Philosophy

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared their parenting practices and how they fit in with their parenting purpose. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


I talk a lot about my parenting philosophy on here, talking about natural birth, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and homeschooling, but I've never gone really big-picture. So today, I'm going to sum up what I consider to be my "parenting philosophy," and what my goals are for my son.

I can do it in one word: responsiveness. I define responsiveness as figuring out what my son needs and giving him that.

Yeah, I know. Kind of obvious, right?

It's responsiveness that gets me into all these other notions: attachment parenting and free-range parenting and homeschooling. These things are useful to me, but as soon as they're not what my son needs, I'm willing to abandon them.Link

A lot of people have the notion that attachment parenting is about rules. You must cosleep even if you both hate it, and you have to keep that baby in a sling all day even if he squirms to get down, and if you can't breastfeed, forget about it! So they say, "Forget all that. I'm just going to go with my instincts."

Guess what? That's what attachment parenting is all about!

When Marko was tiny, I was a little perplexed. He was supposed to cry if I put him down, and want to be held all the time. But he didn't. In fact, from a very young age he often preferred to be on the floor. So that's what I did. 75% of his waking hours were spent on the floor. But occasionally there were days where he wanted to be held all day and sleep in my arms, so I responded to that too.

We soon were in need of a strong connection, as we suffered through a lot of trouble with nursing. I had to be able to almost read his mind and get him nursing before he had even realized he wanted it -- because he could go from slightly hungry to screaming in an instant. It was a chance to fine-tune our connection and figure things out. I followed his lead as well on things like co-sleeping and elimination communication -- both things that have sometimes been the right thing for us, and sometimes not.

Now, as he gets older, things are changing. While he once needed me and only me, all the time, he's now willing to play with someone else for awhile, or with Dad all day long. I didn't push that separation, but he's been growing in independence -- not despite his strong attachment as an infant, but because of it.

Now that he's a toddler, responsiveness often means staying sitting on the park bench while he explores the playground. He isn't calling me or anxious for me, so unless he might be in some danger, I don't hover. Responsiveness means listening to the sounds he makes at night and letting him resettle back to sleep when I know he's not really awake. I know the difference between a half-asleep whimper and an "I-need-Mommy" cry.

Responsiveness means letting him show me when he's ready for something. When he was two months old, I tried to read him books. He could care less. He would stare at something else or squirm to go do something. I tried at six months -- he wanted to eat the books. I tried at nine months -- he wanted to point at the pictures, but he didn't want me to read. Now, he suddenly wants me to read to him all day. It's been a struggle against my new-mom eagerness not to push him and flood him with things he isn't ready for, but it always seems to pay off as he comes to new experiences and milestones in his own time. I can't wait to see him reach readiness to read and write, to watch as he discovers his own way of learning and his own pace.

Being responsive doesn't mean giving him whatever he wants. While writing this post, he had a tremendous meltdown over a tub of cocoa butter that he wanted me to take the lid off of. I didn't take the lid off -- but I did realize he needed a bit more attention and a snack. Yes, it meant I couldn't finish my post when I wanted to, but parenting and sacrifice aren't exactly strangers. And when Marko is wild and out of control, bouncing off the walls and running into things, I know it's time to set a few limits, to help him settle down and maybe take a nap. I can see that he needs it, even if he doesn't want it at the moment.

I think being responsive is the best way to achieve all the goals I have for him: having a close relationship with his parents, becoming independent, and hopefully becoming a virtuous person. If I wanted to sum up the kind of person I want him to grow up to be, that's easy -- I'd like him to be as much like his dad as possible: a man of character and quiet faith, someone who helps others without really thinking about it, an unselfish person, an independent thinker. And of course, there are a couple things I'd like him to get from me: my love for nature, my creativity, my ability to be happy in almost any situation.

So far, I feel it's working out well. A couple of times in the past 15 months, people have told me, "You have a great rapport with your baby; you seem to know what he wants and needs." I can't imagine a better compliment on my mothering. And as I watch my child learn, grow, and move slowly away toward a greater independence, I'm glad I have been letting him set the pace. It's amazing to watch what he can do, all by himself.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon July 12 with all the carnival links.)

  • Between Love and Fear: On Raising our Children Sensibly — Mamma Earthly at Give an Earthly discusses the fear factor in parenting and how she overcame it, despite societal pressures.

  • really, when do i get my cape? — Sarah at small bird on fire is a working city mama trying to learn how to set aside her expectations of perfection and embrace the reality of modern parenting.

  • Baby, Infant, and Toddler Wearing — Child wearing is part of Sarah at Nourished and Nurtured's parenting philosophy. In this post, Sarah describes benefits of child-wearing and gives tips for wearing babies, infants, and toddlers (even while pregnant).

  • First Year Reflections — As her daughter's first birthday approaches, Holly at First Year Reflections reflects on how she and her husband settled into attachment parenting after initially doing what they thought everyone else did.

  • Making an allowance — Lauren at Hobo Mama welcomes a guest post from Sam about the unexpected lessons giving a four-year-old an allowance teaches the child — and the parent.

  • How to be a Lazy Parent and Still Raise Great Kids — Lisa at Granola Catholic talks about how being a Lazy Parent has helped her to raise Great Kids.

  • Philosophy in Practice — Laura at A Pug in the Kitchen shares how her heart shaped the parenting philosophy in her home.

  • What is Attachment Parenting Anyway? — Gaby at Tmuffin describes the challenges of putting a label on her parenting philosophy.

  • Of Parenting Styles — Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom talks about how she and her husband tailored various parenting styles to fit their own preferred parenting philosophy.

  • Moment by Moment Parenting — Amy at Peace 4 Parents encourages those who care for children (including herself) to explore and appreciate parenting moment-by-moment with clarity, intention, trust, and action.

  • Maintaining Spirituality in the Midst of Everyday Parenting, Marriage, and Life — Sarah at Nourished and Nurtured shares her perspective on finding opportunities for spiritual growth in every day life.

  • Parenting Philosophy — Lily, aka Witch Mom's parenting philosophy is to raise child(ren) to be compassionate, loving, inquisitive, and questioning adults who can be trusted to make decisions for themselves in a way that avoids harming others.

  • Long Term — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis thinks about who she would like to see her daughter become — and what she can do now to lay a strong foundation for those hopes.

  • Connection, Communication, Compassion — She's come a long way, baby! After dropping her career in favour of motherhood, Patti at Jazzy Mama discovered that building solid relationships was going to be her only parenting priority.

  • My Parenting Inspirations - Part 4 — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at her biggest parenting inspiration and how that translates into her long-term parenting philosophy.

  • A Parenting Philosophy in One Word: Respect — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction summarizes her parenting and relationship philosophy in one word: respect.

  • Knowledge and Instinct — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment believes that knowledge and instinct are super important … as are love, encouragement and respect. It's the ideal combo needed to raise happy and healthy children and in turn create meaningful relationships with them.

  • THRIVE!The Sparkle Mama wants to set a tone of confidence, abundance, and happiness in her home that will be the foundation for the rest of her daughter's life.

  • On Children — "Your children are not your children," say Kahlil Gibran and Hannah at Wild Parenting.

  • This One Life Together — Ariadne aka Mudpiemama shares her philosophy of parenting: living fully in the here and now and building the foundation for a happy and healthy life.

  • Enjoying life and planning for a bright future — Olivia at Write About Birth shares her most important parenting dilemmas and pours out her heart about past trauma and how healing made her a better parent.

  • My Parenting Philosophy: Unconditional and Natural Love — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares what she has learned about her parenting philosophy from a year of following her instincts as a mama.

  • An open letter to my children — Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine writes an open letter to her children.

  • My Starter Kit for Unconditional Parenting — Sylvia at MaMammalia discusses her wish to raise a good person and summarizes some of the nontraditional practices she's using with her toddler son in order to fulfill that wish.

  • Responsiveness — Sheila at A Gift Universe has many philosophies and goals, but what it all boils down to is responsiveness: listening to what her son wants and providing what he needs.

  • Tools for Creating Your Parenting Philosophy — Have you ever really thought about your parenting purpose? Knowing your long-term goals can help you parent with more intent in your daily interactions. Dionna at Code Name: Mama offers exercises and ideas to help you create your own parenting philosophy.

  • Be a Daisy — Becky at Old New Legacy philosophizes about individuality and how she thinks it's important for her daughter's growth.

  • What's a Mama to Do? — Amyables at Toddler in Tow hopes that her dedication to compassionate parenting will keep her children from becoming too self-critical as adults.

  • grown-up anxieties. — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life explains her lone worry concerning her babies growing up.

  • Why I Used Montessori Principles in My Parenting Philosophy — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells why she chose Montessori principles to help her now-adult children develop qualities she wanted to see in them as children and adults.

  • Parenting Philosophies & Planning for the FutureMomma Jorje considers that the future is maybe just a fringe benefit of doing what feels right now.

  • Not Just Getting Through — Rachael at The Variegated Life asks what truths she hopes to express even in the most commonplace interactions with her son.

  • Parenting Philosophy? Eh... — Ana at Pandamoly shares the philosophy (or lack thereof) being employed to (hopefully) raise a respectful, loving, and responsible child.

  • Parenting Philosophy: Being Present — Shannon at The Artful Mama discusses the changes her family has made to accommodate their parenting philosophy and to reflect their ideals as working parents.

  • Who They Will Be — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro shares a short list of some qualities she hopes she is instilling in her children at this very moment.

  • Short Term vs. Long Term — Sheryl at Little Snowflakes recounts how long term parenting goals often get lost in the details of everyday life with two kids.

  • Parenting Philosophy: Practicing and Nurturing Peace — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle sets personal goals for developing greater peace.

  • Yama Niyama & the Red Pajama Mama — Part 1: The Yamas — In part 1 of a set of posts by Zoie at TouchstoneZ, Zoie guest posts at Natural Parents Network about how the Yoga Sutras provide a framework for her parenting philosophy.

  • Yama Niyama & the Red Pajama Mama — Part 2: The Niyamas — In part 2 of a set of posts by Zoie at TouchstoneZ, Zoie explores how the Niyamas (one of the eight limbs in traditional Yoga) help her maintain her parenting and life focus.

  • Our Sample Parenting Plan — Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey shares hopes of who her children will become and parenting strategies she employs to get them there.

  • Philosophical Parenting: Letting Go — Jona at Life, Intertwined ponders the notion that there's no right answer when it comes to parenting.

  • Unphilosophizing? — jessica at instead of institutions wonders about the usefulness of navel gazing.

  • Parenting Sensitively — Amy at Anktangle uses her sensitivity to mother her child in ways that both nurture and affirm.

  • how to nurture your relationships — Mrs Green at Little Green Blog believes that sometimes all kids need is a jolly good listening to …

  • Philosophy Of An Unnatural Parent — Dr. Sarah at Good Enough Mum sees parenting as a process of guiding her children to develop the skills they'll need.

  • Life with a Challenging Kid: Hidden Blessings — Wendy at High Needs Attachment shares the challenges and joys of raising a high needs child.

  • Flying by the Seat of My Pants — Heather at Very Nearly Hippy has realized that she has no idea what she's doing.


Lauren Wayne said...

I love that word, and that philosophy. Attachment parenting really is about listening to what our kids need — each individual kid. Thanks for sharing!

The Sojourner said...

I like this philosophy a lot, and hope it serves you well for all of Mark's life. (Selfishly, because that's pretty much the philosophy I've come up with while I'm still single and childless and I don't want to have to change my ways later...)

Seriously, I think a lot of parents of teens and twentysomethings could benefit from having enough of a rapport with their "children" to realize what they need. I put "children" in quotes because 21, 22, 23 isn't a child anymore, but a lot of my peers have parents who try to get them to act like children still (really, there are long stories behind that I won't tell now). In their defense it seems to be a generational thing...people of my parents' generation got booted out the second they turned 18 (or before--my dad's parents signed off on him joining the Army at 17), whereas people of my generation have their parents welcome them with open arms when they move back home after college.

Okay, I'll stop soapboxing and finish my breakfast now.

The Sojourner said...

(Leaving another comment so I can subscribe to this thread.)

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

It's such a good point to make that AP isn't about a set of rules - it truly should be based on what works for every particular family. And what great examples of responsiveness with Marko - thanks so much for illustrating the concept beautifully :)

Laura @ Our Messy Messy Life said...

You definitely gave me something to think about. Parenting is terms of responsiveness is what it's all about...listening to your child's needs and putting aside your conventions of what he "should" be doing. Thanks for sharing!

Sheila said...

Sojourner -- that is something I haven't thought much about: mothering my adult children someday. And it's not a stage I'm particularly looking forward to! But I do hope that I remain responsive to the needs of my child even when he's not a child anymore. Since responsiveness is about the constant flux of a child's needs and the parent's response, leaving the nest hopefully will be just one more stage I adapt to.

But what a scary thought! Grown-up children are hard!

The Sojourner said...

I didn't mean to scare you! It's just a lot on my mind at the moment...

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post! This is also what I strive to do. I'm working on giving her boundaries, though. It's great that from the start you have been in-tune with his limits and haven't pushed him too quickly. (Something else that I'm working on, too!)

Isil Simsek said...

I like that you mention AP is not a set of rules. Every baby, every family need different things and if we respond to them with responsiveness as you say and do, it really pays off.

Sylvia@MaMammalia said...

I think you hit the nail on the head: so much of it centers on responsiveness, which looks different in different situations. I also like how you've put AP into perspective. I think a lot of people misunderstand AP, thinking it's just co-sleeping, BFing, and baby-wearing. It's so much more than that!

Salixbabylonica said...

I think this is beautifully articulated, Sheila. It's much more helpful to focus on reasons than on rules.

As far as adult children go, I'm quite looking forward to it. From my perspective (as an adult child) this is when my parents are really beginning to reap the benefits of all their years of hard work and sacrifice. I love the adult relationship I have with my parents. When I see them with adult eyes, I see their flaws and failings, yet as my understanding grows my love does not diminish.
Watching the house fill with growing love and joy as the children bring home spouses and grandchildren has been very encouraging, even though this is otherwise a very difficult season in their lives.

P.S. That picture of Marko is so perfect! To me it's an emblem of all that we AP mothers hope to accomplish: a child who can run off to play and explore the world with such confidence, freedom, and joy. Also, it's darn cute.

Sheila said...

Aw, that is so beautiful. I love your parents myself! :) It's been rougher for mine, who have had to part with their two adult children and see them go so far away. I guess I will keep hoping that my son will want to stay near me. It will be very hard for me otherwise.

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