Years ago it wasn’t about approaches or paradigms. It wasn’t about labels.
There were simply expectations and common practices to “handle” kids.
Children were expected to do what they were told, listen when they were spoken to, behave themselves and stay out of trouble. There were imposed consequences when they stepped out of line (some harsher than others) because a parent was “in charge” with unquestionable authority.
Yes, there were a few parents who strayed from the beaten track. They followed their heart and unconventionally parented from an integral, inner knowing.
No one knew what to think of these free thinkers. Their intuitive style raised eyebrows, but it wasn’t an “approach.” Rather it was an individual choice which often had outsiders judging these parents for their lack of “control.”
But life moves forward. We evolve. We expand.
And as the children of free-thinking parents grew up and became successful, innovative and inspired, the world’s perception of children, childhood and the common parenting perspective began to shift.
Soon studies on the mental health of children and the damage inflicted by shaming, punishment, and control were starting to pop up through the cracks, like plants through the concrete.
There had to be another way.
So, the positive parenting movement was born, and with that came sections, approaches, and followings, which continued to evolve and expand with each generation.
New parents are often thrown into the chaos of parenting “styles” and can be surprised by the number of scant looks, judging glares and “Oh… you do THAT approach” comments.
So in this article let’s break down a few of the approaches which will pop up in google searches, articles and posts for the parent who is diving into the rabbit hole of the parenting world.
Please bear in mind these are general definitions and aren’t set in stone.
What one parent calls attachment parenting another will call gentle.
We are in the time of formation of these perspectives.
The first approach that often comes up is Attachment Parenting
This loving concept recognizes that after birth a baby still needs to feel the closeness of their parent. Wraps, slings, baby carriers, co-sleepers are encouraged to keep a child wrapped and intertwined in their parents’ arms and love. Attachment parenting has shown to have incredible benefits on a young child’s development as they have the security of having their needs met consistently.
They grow within a surrounding of love and validation.
Now, as these children grow into 3 or 4 and they start to form new opinions and their desire to explore the world around them is stronger than their need for security, attachment parenting often leaves a mom and dad feeling unprepared.
This then gives birth to…
Gentle Parenting/ Progressive Parenting/Child-led parenting
The understanding that a child needs love and gentle treatment flows effortlessly into supporting a child’s curiosity and experience. Connection is key, through eye contact and validation for a child’s feelings.
Their needs are the driving force, which helps a child feel empowered and listened to. Natural consequences are used, rather than punishment or discipline. (Natural consequences help children understand that everything has a consequence, like a ripple in a pond, so if you lie no one believes you, if you hit, someone gets hurt and might hit you back.)
One of the challenges with these approaches is that a parent can often feel drained out. That while their child’s needs are being met, their own are being sacrificed. That the balance of a family has been forsaken for a child, and if there is more than one child in a family this can fill with conflict quickly.
This lack of self care can then lead to disconnection. Often catchphrases are suggested, such as “I hear what you are saying,” or “I know that you are feeling sad,” which validate a child’s emotional journey and suggests a present parent, but if a parent is feeling drained and overwhelmed the words can feel empty and distracted.
The concerns of this turning into “Permissive Parenting” can often spark some heated discussion.
A child following their own instincts and curiosity is a beautiful thing, but it can also lead to dangerous situations and a parent has to be ready to prevent injury as well as explain, discuss and distract so that a child can grow with the tools of awareness and safety.
Which is focused on Not Punishing a child, but the parent still being in charge.
The parent is seen as the leader, the voice of reason and experience that needs to be respected and listened to. When it isn’t, positive parenting varies from Time-Ins (which are the positive, contemplative, often accompanied version of Time-outs) to reward charts, to chore lists.
The challenge here is that often it can still tilt in the balance between the parent feeling like they have a role to maintain and the child is the child that needs to obey. Good behaviour is rewarded, and Bad Behaviour is deemed as bad. There can be a tendency to still not dive deep into motivation, but to get results.
Which brings us to…
Conscious parenting understands that both parents and children are human beings.
As parents we have baggage, we bring with us our own childhood and how we were raised. We bring to our kids the beliefs we’ve been taught and the beliefs we wish to practice. We have good days, we have bad days. We are humans. Our children are human too. They have good days and bad days. They pick up on energy in a room and they know when someone is upset with them. They react to things, sometimes badly and as parents we can help them learn and navigate response.
The conscious parent movement embraces the opportunity for relationship and life tool building for kids. The idea of the Role of the parent is traded in for the relationship between people, so that a child can learn through experience how to treat others fairly, be kind, and know themselves. Conscious parents allow natural consequences except when it affects their child’s health or well-being, when they step in by holding loving limits to establish the child’s own healthy boundaries. Before any action, conscious parents pause to see if they reacting from fear, or making a choice from presence.
Challenges for this approach are usually only found in the parent being unwilling to do the self work so that they don’t project their own pain onto their child, and the need for balance. Don’t look within yourself as a parent and you’ll miss out on the true nature of the conscious parenting experience. Don’t find the balance by looking within your child and helping them develop the tools to do the same, and it can turn into a parent’s focus being more within themselves than balanced between themselves and their family.
We’ve been raised to see the parent as the one in charge and the child as needing to obey and listen.
Most of these parenting approaches ask us to step away from that belief and rather, see a child as someone who is learning, sometimes stumbling, but actively growing and learning how to live on planet earth.
Of course, as people we know that this is actually a lifetime lesson, but as parents we weren’t supposed to be vulnerable to our own lack of knowing.
There’s also the fear of other people’s reactions, the raised eyebrow and playground whispers.
We can see our child’s tantrum as overstimulation, but it doesn’t stop that preconception that our children are “making a scene”, which brings embarrassed pink to our checks.
Conscious parenting and some of these other approaches acknowledge the embarrassment, track down the source of it, and then hold space for our child, helping them find balance and offering them tools in their own self-knowledge.
When you look back at those “free thinking” parents who followed their hearts and charted their own paths for themselves and their children, they paved the way well. They stood their ground and didn’t look back. They didn’t have definition but they also didn’t have community or coaches and experts to help and support them.
No matter what “approach” you resonate with, be open to the fact that within you is your own path. You may be uncategorizable. You may be your own Free Thinker. Trust your heart. Trust your child.
Focus on the loving relationship of it all.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.