A friend of mine with a newly solid-eating toddler asked me if we did baby-led weaning with our kids. She is doing it, but as she told me, she won’t hear the end of it from both her parents and in-laws. This is all too common. Well-meaning, loving friends and family sometimes oppose what we are doing, and despite explanations, new research, theories and changing parenting styles, they are still not satisfied with our actions.
As you know I am not big into parenting philosophies, but I do think that we should respect different styles of parenting because what works for me may not for you. My best advice to deal with outspoken friends and family is to be open and explain why we do certain things, then go on with your parenting style with confidence. You are your child’s parent, and as another mom taught me when my son was little, we are their advocates.
Here are a few of the things that we do in our family that may seem bad, rude or wrong to others:
My Kids don’t have to Kiss and Hug if they don’t want to: Even if it is loved ones, we never want to push our kids to show physical affection if they don’t want to, nor do we want to pressure them or make them feel that if they don’t hug or kiss someone they will be hurting their feelings. We want our children to feel empowered and know that they own their bodies. If they want to give friends and family members a kiss or hug goodbye, that’s fine, but if they don’t, that is fine as well. We do this because should they be in a situation, now or later in life, where they are being pushed into sex or anything else that doesn’t make them feel comfortable, they need to know that no means no, even if you are a child and the other person is an adult. While I know it can hurt to be denied a kiss, I have often been on the receiving end of a “no kiss day”, in the long-run, this is giving my children important tools to deal with difficult and dangerous situations. We do ask that they verbally say hello and goodbye.
My Kids are Wild: They sometimes take their shoes off and run on the street barefoot. We let them try to climb things on the playground that are above their skill level and they have a certain amount of freedom appropriate to their age. We do this so they have fun, learn their limits and take responsibility for their actions. This one is a little hard for me, though, because my mom was always telling me to be careful. I always complied, and still do. Being safe, in general, has led to some regrets.
My Babies Feed Themselves: With both our kids we’ve done a version of baby-led weaning. Little to no puree, no pushing spoons into mouths and no making their food intake the source of our happiness (or sadness). This means that for a while there is often more food on the ground than in their bellies, but I am O.K. with it. In part because of this, they eat a great variety of foods, have healthy appetites–even the one who could add several extra lbs.–and know when they are hungry and when they are full.
My Kids don’t have to Share: If they are playing with something, they don’t have to give it to another kid who wants it. If they want something someone else is playing with, they need to wait until the other child is done playing. We don’t allow to hoard or taking toys away from others, and we promote playing together and remind them that being together is usually more fun than being alone. However, we respect that sometimes we all want to play alone.
We are OK with boys in Pink and Girls with Trucks: We have all kinds of toys in our house, and I’ve written about how my kids usually go for the more gender stereotypical ones, but we are OK with our kids playing with whatever they want. My son requested his sister’s flowery, pink pj’s last night and that is what he wore–even if it was super tight and short on him– he also wears a pink, one-piece bathing suit and looks adorable in it, although in a picture my friend thought that was his sister. Earlier this week, I saw my friend’s son wearing the same blue bathing suit my daughter looks really cute on, and because she wears her brother’s hand-me-downs, I don’t like to put bows on her head, and does not have her ears pierced, she is often confused with a boy. Oh well. However, even if I know that in other cultures men wear skirts, I am not sure how I will/would handle my son wanting to wear a dress to school, for example. I want to give him freedom to choose and to know that social conventions are exactly that, but I also don’t want to put him in a situation where he’ll be laughed at. Ugh! Parenting is hard.
I don’t always play with my kids: My kids do a lot of independent play where, unless they ask for help or they want me to actively participate, I stay away. I don’t correct, I don’t praise and sometimes I don’t even look at what they are doing so long as we are in a safe environment. This teaches them independence, but also to figure things out on their own, something I believe to be a very important life skill. It also lets me be present when I do play with them because I’ve had time to do things that need to get done.
Some of this comes naturally to me, some I learned from my own parents and some I take from Janet Lansbury’s blog, which I follow, and her book, which I am reading. Her theories often seem to be unrealistic, but when I implement them, I am always amazed at how well my children react to them.
Is there something you do that to an outsider may seem rude or wrong? How do you react to other’s letting you know they don’t agree with your parenting?
Doing things my way is easy at home, but I have yet to muster the confidence to stand up for my parenting choices without loosing my cool.