Parenting Wars

Found a really good article from the Irish times (found below):

“A COUPLE OF months ago in the UK there was a furore over parents who allowed their children, aged six and eight, to cycle the short journey to school each day unaccompanied. Parents of other children were so upset at this that they made official complaints to social services, which escalated when the parents refused to change their behaviour. The case caught the attention of the national media and opened a polar debate about the rights and wrongs of the parents’ decision. Whatever the risks of cycling to school at a young age, the case certainly highlights the increased scrutiny that modern parents are under and the pressure to conform to certain child-rearing practices. Whereas in the past, parenting differently was tolerated, there is now a belief that there is only one “right” way to parent, and parents seem to be quicker to judge rather than support one another.

Parenting is embroiled in major controversies such as the issue of stay-at-home versus working mothers or the tug of war between following your babies’ demands and getting them into a sleep routine at an early age. Rather than being polite debates, these discussions often become more like “parenting wars”, and are driven by very strongly held views with little tolerance for differences. This trend represents the emergence of “competitive parenting” as a feature of modern child-rearing. More than ever, parents feel under pressure and are anxious about getting their parenting right. They labour under the false idea that there is a single “best way” to bring up children, and they therefore can easily become defensive and be quick to judge anyone who parents differently. At the heart of this competition is insecurity. If someone is doing something different, this makes us question whether what we are doing is wrong, so we can either become insecure in our parenting or rush to defend it at all costs. Parenting brings out strong feelings, and we feel we must defend our way of parenting at the expense of accepting other people’s. A more balanced view is to realise that most differences in parenting are not right or wrong but reflections of different values and culture, as well as of the different needs of parents and children.

 

While not the choice for every parent, allowing young children to cycle to school reflects a respect for independence and could be a boost to a child’s self-esteem if it suits their needs and what they are able for. At the heart of this is the fact that parents, children and families are different, and that these differences are okay – there is no one-size-fits-all approach in parenting. Parents come with their own specific needs and personalities. For example, some parents seek to establish their children’s early independence as a means of achieving the right balance for themselves, while others value a closely connected relationship with their children as a means of making the sacrifice of parenting bearable.

As a clinician, I see many parents in difficulty who have been pushed into choices that don’t suit their own needs or values. These can include mothers who feel pressured to achieve a routine with their child when they would be much happier responding to demand, or mothers who are worn out by their babies’ demands and would be better to prioritise their own needs more. It also includes mothers who become depressed when they stay at home to mind children and neglect their need to work outside the home, as well as fathers who, driven by the pressure to be “a provider”, become depressed in work when they would more naturally fit the nurturing role of caring for their children at home.

 

The first principle of good parenting is to be aware of your own needs as a parent and as a person, so you can then more freely attend to your children. In addition, children are different and come with their own personalities and temperaments. Good parents tune into their own needs and those of their individual children, and try to find a match between them. In my work, parents often come to see me when there is a mismatch between their needs and those of their children – for example, an independent parent bringing up a fussy child who needs much more reassurance than the parent naturally gives, or a very self- reliant child who battles for independence from a parent who prefers to be much more connected. In those cases, my work focuses on helping the parent to reflect, and to tune into their child’s different perspective, so they can find a way to meet both their needs. There are many different ways to parent that are “good enough” and allow children to grow into happy, well- adjusted adults.

The key is to find a synergy between your own needs as a parent and those of your children. This is very important, as the biggest gift we can give our children is that we enjoy being with them and we enjoy being their parent. If we choose parenting practices that leave us resentful, depressed or unfulfilled, then we serve neither their interests nor our own. As a result, an overly competitive approach to parenting that makes mothers and fathers judgmental or insecure in their own parenting should have no place in society. My hope is that we will establish a more compassionate culture of parenting. We need to call a truce in the parenting wars and see the different sides of the debate as both contributing a valued perspective. Then we can begin to create a more supportive culture of parenting that values diversity and gives parents the space and support to make the right choices for themselves and their children.”

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Financial Affordability & Children

Had a great weekend, and loved spending Halloween taking my God Children trick or treating(I wish I could put up pictures).  On Halloween(before I took my God Children trick or treating) I had deep discussion with a friend of mine who is engaged to be married and who is really anxious about having children.  The conversation centered around how much she believes she needs to make in order to have children ASAP.  She believes that all you need is love, a steady paycheck(even if it’s slightly above minimum wage), shelter, and supportive family and friends. I agreed but also stated that she should at least make enough to afford the basics, and to also provide a good solid foundation for the child. This was a hard pill to swallow for her because admittingly she isn’t at all financially prepared for a child–like most young twenty somethings she has student loans, debt, and a below-median salary which doesn’t really afford her many luxuries and also barely keeps her afloat. Her fiance is in a similar position. Needless to say when she found out I was taking my God Children trick or treating I could sense in her voice that the topic was a very sensitive point for her–knowing that she wants to have children, hearing about me spending time with children, but also being aware that she isn’t in the position(realistically) to have children. She claims that at 24 her biological clock is ticking and that it depresses her that she isn’t able to have a child(sooner rather than later).

Later on that night, after I was done trick or treating I talked to my best friend(the mother of my God children) about the conversation I had with my other friend(the one who is engaged). She was on the side of my “engaged” friend. This is probably because she had her children with the idealist approach that all you need is: love, a steady paycheck, and support. Yet she is very much struggling right now and isn’t at all where she thought she would be financially. So listening to these two give their opinions about why you don’t need to be completely “stable” before having children was really intriguing to me. These were some of the reasons that they believed that having a kid even when one isn’t completely financially prepared is okay:

1. Babies don’t need very much(they only need love)

2. Hand-me-downs, used baby furniture, and baby showers are good enough for covering the basics (in other words, she won’t have as much out-of-pocket expenses by relying on these things).

3. She can build wealth later on(she already has her degree and is in the beginning of her career).

4. She can cut corners the first 4 years of the baby’s life(i.e. breast feeding instead of buying formula, using clothe diapers, living in an apartment, relying on family members to watch the child to avoid daycare costs, and so on).

5.  You can never be financially prepared for a child.

 

All of this sounds nice and I’m now on the fence. A part of me thinks that is possible for a financially unstable person to “wing” it by doing the things listed above though another part of me(the more cynical side) feels as though this sort of thinking is far too idealistic and does the parent and the child a disservice.

What is your opinion?

 

Parenting Style Influences the way a child eats

Have you ever wondered why certain children are overweight? Well according to experts a child’s weight has a lot to do with not only their genes, and what they eat, but HOW they eat, and the way their parent raises them. Read below to find out more:

“A child’s development is influenced in a number of ways. The same is true for eating behaviors.

Among these, research has suggested a connection between parenting styles and children’s eating behaviors, attitude toward food, and body weight. At about age 2, children move away from eating solely for reasons of hunger, to eating that is influenced by their environment and parental influences.

Although there are numerous ways to describe parenting, a body of research has proposed four general categories of parenting styles. These patterns of parenting are defined based on degrees of demandingness/behavioral control or responsiveness/warmth/supportiveness. They include authoritarian, permissive, uninvolved, and authoritative.

Authoritarian style, parents are extremely strict and controlling when it comes to behavioral issues, such as eating. They tend to be less sensitive to their child’s emotions and instead stress authority and obedience. There is little to no discussion between parent and child. Parents are more directive and demanding. They do not expect their child to disagree with them.

When it comes to feeding, authoritarian parents may focus on food restriction, or pressure the child to eat. They make decisions about the type and amounts of food the child eats. The child has little room for self-expression. Punishment may be involved if the child does not comply with the parent’s wishes. Interestingly, authoritarian parents are often not good role models when it comes to healthy eating and body weight.

Numerous studies suggest that this style of parenting results in a greater risk of the child being over- or underweight. The thought is that children raised in this fashion do not learn how to self-regulate eating. They have more trouble recognizing internal hunger and fullness cues. They may also demonstrate more food obsessions and cravings. Additionally, the stress of this parenting style can promote emotional eating.

The permissive style of parenting involves few rules. Parents tend to be more indulgent, accepting, and warm, while imposing little control and minimal limits. There are few demands on behavior by the parents. Children establish their own rules and schedules.

When it comes to eating, children with permissive parents have trouble with impulse control. They tend to be more immature and less likely to accept responsibility. In general, permissive parents also tend to be poor models of healthy eating. Their children are also at risk for being overweight or obese.

Uninvolved or disengaged parents are not demanding and respond minimally to their children. Healthy foods may not be as available in the home and mealtimes may not be planned. Extreme cases may include neglect and rejection of the child. Children raised in his manner may feel insecure about food/eating and may become overly focused on food. Such parents often have other issues taking up their time and focus besides attention to the quality and quantity of their child’s eating.

The authoritative or moderate style of parenting tends to be the most effective for promoting healthy eating behaviors and body sizes in children. Parents using this style set limits but take into consideration the feelings of the child even if they do not agree. They usually take the time to explain the reasons behind their rules around eating. They are firm with kindness and warmth. There are expected, age-appropriate standards and some structure around meal and snack times.

In this style, food intake is monitored and guided through reasonable limit-setting. There is consistency in reinforcement of known guidelines — meaning the rules do not change — so the child behaves accordingly. For the child, this promotes independent thinking and self-regulation. Parents are more likely to model healthy eating behaviors, consistent with their beliefs and expectations for their child.

So what are some guidelines for parents that increase the chance of raising a child with healthier eating behaviors and body weight? Setting clear, reasonable rules around eating that are consistently enforced helps the child learn self-control. It is important to listen to the child, respect his or her ideas, and share the reasons behind the rules. Parents should also model healthy eating behaviors.

It is the parent’s role to provide an inventory of healthy foods in the home. It is the child’s role to decide if, how much, and which foods he or she will eat at the designated meal and snack times. This allows the child to practice decision making within the boundaries of healthy eating choices. The child then feels independent and empowered.

A child’s body weight should not be compared to another’s, or the child demeaned because of body size. A parent should try to avoid making rules that are allowed to be broken at times — such as when the parent is tired, stressed, or falls prey to a child’s pleading — because the child receives mixed messages. This may also occur if healthy eating is promoted, but less healthy foods are used as a reward. Additionally, there may be confusion if there are multiple caregivers or if the parents have different parenting styles.

Obviously, parents are human and may exhibit each of the above parenting styles at one time or another. Based on the majority of research to date, however, the more closely they follow the authoritative style of parenting, the more likely they are to have children with healthier diets, a better body weight, and a more positive attitude toward food.”

Article found on seacoastline.com