I’ve been thinking about this topic for some time…. how do we know what is the “right” thing to do as a parent, but I never seem to get my thoughts down here. Either I don’t have time or some other topic seems more pressing.
This morning I ran across a blog post on the Attachment Parenting Blog by dad Dave Taylor. I think this blog post does a beautiful job of articulating some of his thoughts about doing the “right” thing.
One of his key points is that doing the “right” thing is more than just applying a set of rules, no matter how well thought through and sensible those rules seem. This is one of the core principles Heart of the Matter Seminars was founded upon and one of those topics that continually pops up in my conversations with Julie.
Julie started to address this idea of parenting beyond applying a set of rules or techniques in her white paper “The Fix for Adoptive Parent Education”. In it, she talks about the differences between throwing out information at a person, training someone to do something and educating a person.
The second–training someone to do something–is a lot like parenting that blindly applies some set of rules to every situation. This may end up being pretty good parenting most of the time, but it will never be the best sort of parenting because there is no way that any one set of rules or technique will fit every situation throughout a child’s life.
This holds true even with attachment style parenting–a type of parenting we espouse here at Heart of the Matter Seminars. If key techniques are just blindly applied without a deeper understanding of why those techniques are suggested as a part of this style of parenting, sooner or later we parent in a way that is not “best” for that specific moment or situation.
Here’s an example from my own life: One of the techniques in attachment style parenting is to be responsive and meet the child’s needs at night time. For our family, this meant co-sleeping with Olivia. It’s ebbed and flowed according to her lead. Sometimes she would be in her own bed for part of the night, sometimes all night and sometimes she was in our bed all night. For the most part my husband and I have been okay with it.
Recently, though, we both felt like her need for responsive parenting at night had turned into a habit and quite frankly, we were tired of little feet in our ribs and being “snuggled” to the edge of the bed!
So, we let her know that we let her know that we have new expectations for night time and that the rule was that she was to stay in her bed. The first couple of nights weren’t pretty. Not only was she still in the habit of calling out for us if she woke in the middle of the night, but she had to see if we really meant what we said….
We did and we followed through because we recognized that at this point, it wasn’t about her having a need for nurturing through co-sleeping. It was about her having a need to see us as competent parents! If we had allowed her back in our bed during this transition time we actually would not have been parenting in an attachment promoting way because a want (sleeping w/mom & dad) would have been fulfilled, but a need (to have competent, believable parents) would have been unfulfilled.
Just to be clear…. I believe there are 5 year olds who absolutely should be night time parented whether that’s co-sleeping, a parent responding, the child on a pallet or couch in the parent’s rooms, etc… I also know that there will be times when our Olivia will also need to co-sleep again. Like when she is sick or it’s storming outside, etc…
Anyway, it gets tricky. While it’s much easier to make edicts and apply techniques, the best parenting comes from understanding what is happening behind the child’s behavior and then choosing a technique that makes sense for that particular child, the stage they are in. The best parenting requires education, not just training or information about parenting techniques.