Parenting styles – the curious nature of human beings to put themselves in boxes

Human beings love to categorise and organise, to arrange and seek order. Watch an adult idly play with their toddlers blocks – they’ll organise them by colour, size or shape. Perhaps they’ll lay them out in a pleasing repetitive pattern, or isolate one variety from the others.

We do this with concepts and ideas as well. Everyone is familiar with learning styles and personality types and have done the funny wee tests that tell you what type of person you are, and what category you fit into.

We feel pleased and contented when we know where we belong, and often are tempted to think that our category is superior to others.

Parenting is no different, and it’s both ridiculous and funny – because it is really only the extremists who will exclusively follow one trend. Here are some examples:

Attachment parenting: coined by William Sears, this is all about forming strong emotional bonds between parent and child. It advocates co sleeping, baby wearing, breastfeeding, and absolutely no crying-it-out (and preferably no crying).

RIE: Stands for ‘Resources for infant educarers’ and is based on the philosophy and childcare principles of Magda Gerber. RIE parents try to respect their child and treat them as they would like to be treated – asking before doing something, talking to them like an adult, not putting them somewhere they can’t get themselves (even avoiding tummy time as the baby can’t get there themselves), avoiding praise (perhaps saying ‘what great standing’ instead of ‘clever girl, standing up like that’) and letting them figure out conflicts and problems on their own.

Green parenting: Parenting in a way that is best for the environment, and minimising impact on the planet. Think cloth nappies, organic food, recycling and minimising toys and clutter.

Free range parenting: This is a reaction to ‘helicopter parenting’ and over protectiveness, and encourages children to become self reliant and figure things out themselves. So no rescuing or hovering when a toddler climbs on something precarious as a helicopter parent would do. It promotes moving away from the concern about bugs, dirt, and the million of other things that are out to get our children.

Baby wise parenting: Describes a strict routine to begin from day one, with the plan that baby will be sleeping through the night from about seven weeks old. The parent determines the sleep, eat, play schedule rather than the baby deciding – so feeding at certain intervals only, not feeding before sleeping. It’s all about parental control of training their baby. There are various other ‘routine’ style parenting styles.

Then of course there are the little categories: cry-it-out or never leave to cry, breast or bottle, cloth or disposable, work or stay at home, no sugar or no restriction… this is quite a neat article on this topic.

Parenting by instinct, which, at the risk of just adding another category, is perhaps the best way of all. Do what you feel is right, and everything will be a little easier. If you step back and analyse your parenting trends you may notice that you lean more towards attachment parenting than babywise, or towards RIE rather than helicopter – but just remember that everything is just a continuum. The danger comes when we decide that we are a *insert parenting style here* so start to do some things that don’t feel right, because that is what that parenting style dictates.

Whew. Anyone ever think being a parent was easy?

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