Friday, September 4, 2009

Parenting: My Synthesis

When I first entered my parenting journey shortly after my son was born in 2003; I heard a lot of advice. Having a schedule is important. Naps should happen on regular times. Your should get your child to sleep on their own in their crib, etc.. But I found 2 very different fields of thought. Both stated that ultimately the path would lead to autonomy and independence, but each method was the complete opposite of the other.
Being a good parent is very important to me and I was torn. Should I continue to let my child sleep in my arms, in my bed, or should I let him cry it out?
My gut leaned towards the Dr. Sears approach of Attachment Parenting. Co-sleeping. Not crying it out. Nurturing the trust, the bond, the relationship..Yet, my son was still waking us up constantly at 8 months old! My husand and I were at our wits end with sleep deprivation. The more we "indulged" him with holding him, the more he woke up. He needed his sleep. We needed our sleep and a little time away from him too. But would crying it out teach him that we weren't there for him when he needed us?


We became desperate and many people we knew were having their kids "cry it out" and they were sleeping much better than us.. Sleep is important for all of our health. So, we tried having him cry it out and it was a horrible experience for me.. He cried for hours(?) But he did start to sleep better and on his own. However, it seemed, we couldn't let him cry it out when he was sick or teething, so we were inconsistent.. And truly our hearts were not into this method.


When he was about 1 1/2 years old, we got him his own bed and that was better for us. We made the compromise of holding his hand or snuggling him to sleep in his own bed. This worked much better. Cribs are not very good for this approach. Beds are much better for a middle-road.. When our son was 2 years old, he could go to sleep without needing us; however, I enjoy snuggling him still at night time. It is the only really quiet time of the day and it is a special time of closeness. I snuggle both my children at night, taking turns.


When my daughter reached a few months old, we also ran into the same problem and were faced with whether or not we should let her cry it out. I found a middle of the road way. I put a mattress down next to her crib and held her hand through the crib slats until she fell asleep. She was easier, because she sucked her thumb and that helped her "soothe herself"


All this being said, we are at a different stage now with more complex issues facing us as they are older. Now, we are faced with the "world" and teaching our children values is ever more important.


As a Baha'i, those values are of the UTMOST importance to us and it makes us a little "different"..not in that values are important, but what those values are. We do not drink alcohol, we are to remain chaste until married, and we are to show kindness to everyone..even people who are unkind to us. We are to be self-sacrificing and live a life of service. We are to love our neighbors more than ourselves. We are never to backbite/gossip against anyone..Whew! That is a tall order!! All that being said, I know many who are not Baha'is who practice this much much better than I do! I am not as self-sacrificing as I think I should be. I am not as forgiving. I am more "judgemental(in my mind)" than I think I should be. And if I lived in Iran and was sent to prison for being a Baha'i, would I have the strength to remain true to my faith even with faced with losing my life..or even being separated from my children? I also think that some values are more important than others to focus upon. For example, I think it is more important to be a kind, honest person than it is to abstain from alcohol. Most of our friends drink and I do not hold it against them at all. I make the choice not to drink because I chose to be a Baha'i. I do not hold my friends or anyone else for that matter accountable to that value choice. When I explain drinking to my children (when they see someone drinking) is that I say that it is okay for them to drink-They have a different value system, but we CHOOSE not to drink..because we believe it is not healthy for mind or spirit.. It is important to not hold other people accountable to our own value system, but to respect the different values of other people.. We all have different world-views and values and cultures...and in order to have "unity" we must respect people who believe differently from ourselves. That goes for liberal/conservative/democrat/republican...cry it out parents, and co-sleeping parents..


My own parents raised me as a Baha'i and they were very "protective" of me and had the highest of expectations. I was not allowed to "follow" in the path of many of my peers. At times I resented it. But, that guidance did keep me "mostly" in line. Even after "grew up" and went to college. I still chose not to drink, etc.. That "culture" did not even appeal to me.. It felt false. Not that I was completly "unfalse"..but drinking and sleeping around in particular were not behaviors that I identified with..


My children...I hope that they will stay true and live lives of honesty and integrity. At some point they may choose to be Baha'is or not.. It will be their choice and they have to follow their own conscience. (Baha'is believe in finding the truth for ourselves) They may or may not follow this path. They may or may not succumb to the alure the "world" But whether they do or not, I hope they are honest, kind people..and have INTEGRITY. I hope they live their lives in the "light" and not in the shadows of supersitition or materialism.. I wish for them to not get too distracted by what is false..and what I mean by that: I believe that what is "real" is our spirit-that transcends the physical reality...the part of us that is connected to God..the part of us that follows our "higher nature"-choosing honesty over falsehood.. (We all have a higher nature and a lower nature)..Not good or evil so much as levels of transcendence..freedom from our baser instincts..


So, how do I parent my children? What do I believe? What methods do I use? I am still in the experimental stage of this..and that is what the above references are about...

  • Love and Logic is about giving limited choices. Control is important and we should give our children chances to exercise their ability to that one day when they are on their own, they will know how to "choose" wisely.
  • Taking Charge is also about giving choices but it gets into more specifics. I think this is one of my favorites because it is so specific with techniques.
  • Unconditional Parenting is about using reason with our children and not using the relationship as leverage to get our kids to do what we want. It questions time out as a method and even punishment. It is about "doing with" our kids rather than "doing to" He argues that punishment does not work, but creates a situation where there is more anger and actually distracts from the "wrong act".. I'm not sure where I stand on that yet..It has impacted my thinking, but I don't know how to not use "time out" Still, I think he has some very valid points.
  • The Virtues Project is great. It is about teaching our children very specific concepts..of qualities -that if everyone worked on, we would be in a much happier planet!

  • How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk is also an excellent resource for "undertanding" our children from their perspective as well as how to communicate with them so that there will be a positive life-long relationship with them.

  • And Dr. Sears is all about attachment parenting. He believes that if we have positive relationships with our children, we can guide them through anything..They will be able to turn to us when they need guidance, etc.. And that relationship is like "good nutrition" for the development of our children.

Well, my children are currently needing my attention, so I will conclude this entry for now..


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