Friday, October 7, 2011

My Parenting Style

Before I had children, I imagined that I would be a rather strict parent, with clear, firm rules, who was overprotective but affectionate (since my parents were this way). I also imagined that I would be the disciplinarian, since my mother was, and B was raised by parents who didn't believe in rules for children (they were psychoanalysts). It's a little early to say for sure, but so far I have surprised myself by doing none of this.

Little R doesn't really have rules of course, because she is only 8 months old. She does have a pretty firm sleep schedule (for my sanity), but other than that I basically let her do whatever she wants.

Eating: she eats milk whenever she's hungry, and since we do baby-led weaning, she feeds herself solids, as much or as little as she feels like. If she wants to throw all the food on the floor, or ignore it, I don't worry about it. For solids, she just eats whatever I'm eating, whether it's pork dumplings, french fries or Cheerios. I also feed her all my beverages except alcohol and caffeine (so she has already drunk ginger soda, lemon juice, guava juice, soy milk, tonic water and many other things). I didn't do the wait 4 days between each food thing, and she eats all kinds of flavored and spicy food (like curry).

Exploration: I let her put pretty much whatever she wants into her mouth unless it's sharp or poisonous (to the horror of the clean freak Singaporeans). She eats food that's fallen on our apartment floor; she chews on my house slippers and phone; if her toy has fallen on the ground, I just pick it up and give it back to her (not even wiping). I also let her wander freely around the apartment, and try to pull herself up into all sorts of positions. As a result, she often sports bruises on her head from falling (she has one right now on her forehead above the eyebrow).

Discipline: I don't like telling her "no" because I feel that she is supposed to explore: that's her mission in life. So I try to arrange things so that I never have to: if there's something she can't have, I hide it from her. The only time I tell her no is when she tries to play with the contents of her dirty diapers. Sometimes she has to do things she dislikes (like get her diaper changed, or go on an airplane). But this is the exception: if she doesn't like being at the store, then we leave; if she doesn't like her stroller, then I will carry her; if she wants to walk around, then that's what we do.

Positive Reinforcement: I am really affectionate, always petting and kissing and hugging her (though not really in response to anything she does, it's just sort of a constant state). I try not to praise her though, since that's supposed to have a bad effect on children (see: Nurture Shock or Unconditional Parenting). So I just say something like "Look at you standing so tall!" if I want to notice something she's done. I also try not to shape her behavior, like by offering her certain toys or suggesting she do certain things, because I want her to do her own thing, whatever that is. I used to offer her a pacifier whenever she was upset, but she's basically lost all interest in them over the last month or so, in favor of her thumb (which she controls).

Soothing: I did sleep training with her (because I like my sleep and free time). But other than that, I pretty much never let her fuss. If she starts to express unhappiness about something, I respond right away (at the minimum with soothing words, if there's nothing else to be done).

I am not sure if these practices are the best (I have particular doubts about the soothing one, since shouldn't she be learning to deal with frustration? Luckily her father is more impervious to whining), but right now that's what I feel most comfortable with.

It has definitely been a surprise to me that my preferred tendency is to be a go with the flow hippie parent. I wonder if it will change when she gets older and begins to test her boundaries? I guess I will see.

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