When you decide to embark on that journey to become a parent, or it ends up happening out of the blue whatever may be the case – at some point you are probably going to think – am I ready for this? How will I know what to do? And the answer is you won’t but parenting is something we have been doing for millennia. Although the concept of childhood only came to exist in the 1600s in Europe (until then children were thought of as sort of useless adults), these children still had parents none the less. Here are a few parenting methods and studies that have been used over the years with varying results. I don’t necessarily subscribe to any one method but believe that a combination of them will achieve the best results of a healthy balanced child. • Baumrind’s Parenting Typology • Mind-Minded Parenting • Attachment Parenting • Dolphin Parenting • Positive Parenting • Slow Parenting • Alloparenting I will now explore some of these below. Baumrind’s Parenting Typology The Baumrind parenting typology was developed by Diana Baumrind, and is a method that is still used today to classify parenting styles. The four basic elements go on to identify three different parenting styles. This has been expanded over the years by other psychologists into an additional style:
The styles above are variations of what can happen if you go towards any of the extremes, and good parenting should involve a balance of the four factors (Demanding, Undemanding, Responsive, Unresponsive). Here is a closer look at Baumrind’s three parenting styles:
• Authoritative Parenting (Demanding and Responsive) – Authoritative parents will set clear standards for their children, have high expectations and establish rules. However they will also be open to negotiating rules and consequences and believe the child to have a high standard of maturity to make their own decisions based on their own reasons. Children of such parents are more likely to be successful, happy and capable of choosing their own path in life. • Authoritarian parenting is focused on preparing the child for the harsh reality of an adult world and is punishment heavy and restrictive. The parent usually gives no explanation or feedback for directions but expects total obedience to try to enforce a set of behaviours that they believe are appropriate for the ‘real world’. The parent is highly focused on the child’s achievement of short term goals and the family’s perception and status. The children of such parents are likely to lack social competence, and may experience anger and resentment due to their lack of self-sufficiency and high self-blame. However some cultures have a higher incidence of Authoritarian parents such as Indian and Asian cultures where respect for parents is a strong cultural trait, and in some cases, these negative effects of the parenting style may be mitigated by the cultural acceptance of this being the parent’s role. • Indulgent or Permissive Parenting – These parents will have low behavioural expectations for the child and are seen to be lenient. We’ve all seen the parents who let their kid run around in a busy shopping centre throwing a temper tantrum and calmly watch without attempting to address their behaviour. Parents will try to be friends with their children and give them advice as a friend would but largely let them do as they please. Such children may not be able to exhibit self-control, are more impulsive, and where there is low accountability but high warmth on the part of a parent, are more likely to be at risk of heavy drinking.
Mind-Minded Parenting Mind-Mindedness is about a parent putting themselves in their child’s shoes and treating the infant as an individual with a mind, and trying to work out what is going on for him or her. The mothers mind-mindness was an important predictor of how secure the babies were and their attachment to the mother even at one year of age. This in turn is can predict the child’s aptitude at social understanding later in life. Check out Gwen Dewar’s parenting science site if you want more information on this. What’s interesting is that this is a skill that parents can actively work on to consciously be more empathetic to what their infant is thinking and feeling and attributing a thought and mental state to their infant. For example, saying ‘Oh you want your Teddy don’t you?” or “You want your dinner now don’t you?”. Sometimes though, psychologists find that parents have very low mind-mindedness, ascribing thoughts to their children that are not aligned to their reactions and reflect the parent’s own desire for what their child wants. E.g. If you’re feeling rushed and your child is continuing to play with a toy whilst you need to get out the door, put them in the car and drive to kindy on the way to work, you might say “you don’t want to play with that anymore do you, you want to go to kindy and play with the other kids”. As your child continues to cry having been hurriedly snatched up and the toy thrown into the heap of toys on the floor, you might say “There we go, you’re just tired now aren’t you?” even though you are aware that they just want to stay where they are and play with a toy. As a child begins to understand the meaning behind your words and the meaning you are attributing to their own thoughts, it is increasingly important that as parents, you attribute the correct mental state to your child to show that you understand their own individual mind and value their thought, thereby leading to a more emotionally secure child. Attachment Parenting Attachment Parenting is a parenting philosophy that focusses on being child-centred (as opposed to parent centred). It’s been infamously associated over the years with misnomers like helicopter parenting, and breastfeeding your child well into their toddler years. However at its core, parents try to read verbal and non-verbal cues from their baby and respond to their physical and emotional needs, building a bond of trust and a safe haven that assures them that their needs will be met. Parents operating under this philosophy will be responsive to their children, and in the case of infants, the four key elements include Co-sleeping, Feeding on demand, constant physical contact and responsiveness to crying.
What does this mean for parents who are working and trying to establish a sleep routine for their child? You may be wondering can we co-sleep but still sleep – is that even possible? If your child sleeps with its head in your neck and its legs in your partners face and frequently kicks through the night this may be difficult. However there are ways to establish safe co-sleeping if that’s what you want to do, that I will discuss in in following post on co-sleeping (include link). The main question parents often have is how is attachment parenting manageable considering the demands of modern life, the stress it places on the mother and lack of extended family help? Whilst these are all issues to consider, you can adopt aspects of attachment parenting that fit your own lifestyle and child. The evidence based on studies of attachment parenting in infants shows many different physical and mental benefits to each of the four components over a period of time such as lower stress levels, crying less frequently, better connections to people as they get older and higher levels of empathy. Additionally, if the links between infant stress and the immune system is accurate, they may have a better functioning immune system and get sick less often – which is a win win for you and your kids. Dolphin Parenting Dolphin Parenting is term used to describe parenting behaviour that is similar in nature to Dolphins in that they are playful and highly intelligent. Dolphin parenting provides a balance rules and structure and freedom to choose with autonomy gradually increasing with each. It is distinguished by parents who guide and nurture their children’s nature, and whilst still being authoritative, provide collaborative conversations about rules and consequences. If we want to stretch this analogy further, tiger parenting is strict over bearing parenting whilst jellyfish parents let their children be impulsive and out of control. The Dolphin parent on the other hand are a balance of the two and their focus is on their children’s long term goals, and leading a life that is healthy, full of meaning and purpose. Slow Parenting Slow parenting on the other hand is when parents let their children enjoy their childhood and develop their own interests, supported with lots of family time and opportunities to make their own decisions. Slow parenting is also characterised by the restrictions of electronics, and limiting children’s toys to simple toys to encourage them to exercise their imagination. Slow parents believe that children need to work out who they are in their own time rather than what parents want them to be, and they refrain from overscheduling activities and sports, music lessons etc, to put undue pressure on a child to compete. Instead, letting them figure out where their interests lie and exploring these more naturally.
Whilst there are many different types of parenting out there, it’s important to note that no one particular style is better than the other and it will be important for you to use a common sense approach that you and your partners values, using these parenting styles as a bit of inspiration to think about the kind of balance you want to have in your home to offer your child a healthy nurturing environment. It may also be useful to think about your own childhood – what parenting practices helped you develop the qualities about yourself that you like, and were there any practices that contributed to the qualities about yourself you don’t like. It will be useful to be conscious of this role-modelling so that you can make a conscious decision whether or not to replicate the parenting you have seen as a child and has probably already been embedded in your consciousness as a your idea of how to be a good parent.
Cover Image from Skalekar1992 on Pixabay
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