Wednesday, June 10, 2009

My Parenting Philosophy

When I started thinking about this post, I thought I might call it "My Parenting Philosophy, In a Nutshell" but there's really nothing "nutshell" about this post. It's something I've put a lot of time and thought into. Some of my parenting ideas were formed before my first child was born. Other things have developed over time and after seeing how things worked in real life on my very real children.

The first thing I'll say about how I parent is that it's very heavily influenced by my faith. My ultimate example of a loving parent is God. And I learn about Him through His word, the scriptures. That said, I'm aware that as a fallible human being, my way is not the only way, nor even necessarily the right way. It's just the best way I know how with what I think, what I believe, and what I know to be true.

I believe that our children are not our own, but that we are only stewards of their persons. I believe that they are individuals from before birth and will come into this world with their own thoughts, beliefs, desires, dreams, goals, and personalities. My job is to mold their passions toward positive things, teach them about the God who made them, and help them develop their character. Some parents want their children to grow up happy. I want mine to grow up to be good people. I don't think happiness is a guarantee in life. But if you are a person of character who loves others, that will help see you through the worst that life can bring.

I believe that the best way to get to know who our children are, as people, is through near-constant contact with them beginning in infancy. I support things like babywearing, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, belief in baby's cries as a form of real communication (not manipulation), as excellent tools to foster that connection that will lay the foundation for all we do as parents. I also believe that balance is required between the many roles that we have in life as parents, spouses, and individuals and that we must respect that balance so that we don't burn out or neglect the other people in our lives who need us, besides our children. Much of what I believe in this area is summed up in the ideas espoused by Dr. Sears and his Attachment Parenting model.

I believe that the connections achieved through attachment parenting allow us the information through which to make decisions on how to discipline our children. When we know who they are and how they think, we will better understand why they do what they do, and how better to correct it if it's wrong, and encourage it if it's right. I think parenting without discipline is missing something vitally important. Our children are not born knowing how to function in the world and it's our guidance and correction that helps them to learn that.

I do not believe that Proverbs should be treated as law. Proverbs are bits of Jewish wisdom and are meant to teach us something vital. In the case of the "rod" verses, they are teaching us about the importance of disciplining our children. But just as "A stitch in time saves nine" doesn't promise that timely sewing means that our clothes will never fall apart, or, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" doesn't promise us that daily apple eating will keep us in perfect health, "Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die." (Proverbs 22:13) doesn't promise us that if we hit a child with a stick, they'll live. I believe that these verses are discussing spiritual truths, not stating that spanking is a necessity. After all, we read the books of law differently than we read the Psalms, differently than we read the gospels, and differently than we read the epistles. It is not that they are not just as true, but their truth is expressed differently. Just to be clear, I don't judge other parents for believing differently than I do. We're all trying to do the best we can with what we know and what we believe.

I don't believe that parents must spank to effectively discipline, but I believe they must effectively discipline if they're going to raise really good kids, and that can sometimes be very challenging. I believe consistency, clear boundaries, and firm consequences are a must no matter how one chooses to go about discipline in their home.

I love the idea of obedience the first time. But I don't expect it. It's not that it wouldn't be nice, or that I wouldn't love it as a goal. But, my ultimate parent, God, has shown a great deal of patience with me, His most disobedient child. There are things He has asked of me that I am still struggling with, as my children struggle with what they're asked to do, from time to time. Therefore, I think it's vital that I have a great deal of patience with them. When I ask them to do something, it must be done, and I will insist that it be done. But I try to understand why they struggle. And I don't expect that it will be easy for them to do something, like be obedient the first time, that I still struggle with as an adult. I know that obedience is a learned skill and I will probably spend most of my parenting career teaching it.

I believe in consequences for behavior. Both positive and negative. I believe in allowing my children to experience those consequences, so that they may learn that everything we do in life affects ourselves and others in both good and bad ways. But I don't punish. You see, my God allows me to live with the consequences of my actions. But when it came time to be punished, he placed himself on a cross in my stead. He took my punishment, and that of the whole world, that I might be spared. He disciplines me, certainly, but has shown me grace and mercy. Those are qualities that I believe I must emulate when parenting my own children.

I have found that there is great joy in learning who each of my children are. And I have been known to ask why they've done something, not so that I can get them in more trouble, but because if I can understand why they did it, I'll know better what it is I need to teach them. And for everything I've taught them, they've taught me so much in return.

My children are not perfect kids, nor am I a perfect mother. But with God's grace, we will persevere as individuals, and as a family. I pray that I will raise up good people to go out into the world to serve it, and to serve God. I pray that the love we have between us, and from God, will radiate out to those who know us, and bless us all. And I pray that God will continue to teach me to be a good mother. Because my children deserve it.

If anyone is interested, I wrote this post on why we stopped spanking and My Pearl's Experience which explains a lot about how I came to the place where I'm at now.

We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children.
1 Thessalonians 2:7

As a mother comforts her child,

so will I comfort you;
and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.
Isaiah 66:13


  1. I love your mind.

    This is a great post. you write with such clarity.

    I appreciate your parenting style.

    Thanks for sharing

  2. Anne, this is well thought out and all around lovely. I'm going to read your "why we stopped spanking" post now!


  3. Thanks, Sarah Mae. I decided to add the post "My Pearl's Experience" to further explain why I became wary of parenting experts who advocated corporal discipline.


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