As Sharla watched her 2-year-old fling spaghetti at the dog (scoring a bulls-eye on his nose), she had a flashback. She was a teenager, sitting at the dinner table surrounded by siblings with her soon-to-be married aunt and her aunt's fiance. The fiance, Mark, was a college senior, and frankly, a know-it-all. Sharla's 3-year-old brother tossed a biscuit to the family dog, who caught it from the far side of the table in a spectacular 4-foot jump. Mark looked at his bride-to-be and announced, "Our children will never do that." A few years later Sharla had the good fortune to watch now-uncle Mark's 2-year-old daughter smear ketchup on the wall, toss fish sticks to the cat, and throw unwanted peas at Grandpa's backside. All at the same meal. Ah, yes. Promised parenthood versus parenthood-in-practice. Many factors affect a parent's child rearing philosophy, including an appreciation of the value of humility.
1. Influence of Transferred Parenting Characteristics
For better or worse, the parenting philosophy your parents raised you with often bears great influence on your own parenting style. Did your parents believe in "spare the rod, spoil the child?" Did they feel that the family that plays together stays together? Were children to be seen and not heard? Were your parents avid that you develop musical skills? Grab the good and incorporate those practices you grew up with into your own parenting philosophy. When you find yourself repeating a parenting practice that you found repugnant when you were growing up, it's time to step back and review how that particular practice fits in with your long-term parenting philosophy. Establishing new parenting habits is possible; remember the 21 times adage for replacing an unwanted behavior with a new one. Consciously engage in the desired parenting practice 21 times in a short period and you're on your way to bettering any ingrained parenting practices transferred from your childhood.
2. Formal Parenting Training Influences on Philosophy
Mariah is a work-at-home mom dealing with a hyperactive toddler. She was incredibly frustrated with her son; his impulsivity and tantrums often made daily life a nightmare. A friend told her about a community parenting class focusing on challenging children. The training Mariah received through this class, and her subsequent membership in a parent support group, helped her modify her parenting style. Her adjusted parenting philosophy resulted in a much happier home--for both her and her toddler. While giving birth may be instinctual, parenting is, for the most part, not. Check out parenting books at your local library. Look for parenting classes. Take parenting courses at the community college. Join a parenting support group. Invest in formal parenting training. As you integrate new knowledge into parenting practices on the home front, your philosophy will become more refined and effective.
3. Peer-Influenced Parenting Philosophy
Sarah's 3-year-old daughter was petrified of doctor visits. On one visit, she noticed another mother sitting calmly with three little ones. The children were playing happily, interacting with staff, and asking when it would be their turn with the doctor. Sarah asked the other mother, Laraine, what she did to help her children look forward to medical visits. Laraine explained that from the time her children were young enough to understand, they role-played the upcoming visit at home. With toy figures and cardboard, they'd set up the clinic and walk through what would happen. Including shots. Sarah committed to trying this out with her daughter before their next visit. When you see a family who radiates happiness, who handle difficult situations with aplomb, who seem to have a parenting philosophy or particular strategy in place that is working, take time to analyze what it is they're doing right. Engage them in conversation, and pick their brains!
4. Religious Influence on Parenting Philosophy
Whatever your personal belief set, including spiritual elements in your parenting philosophy will accomplish many things. Regular participation with your chosen spiritual organization provides a support system for you and your children, often counseling, care when a crisis hits, a broadened education, and a set of values that helps families to think long-term and pro-actively rather than short-term and reactively. Most importantly, if you live the spiritual parenting philosophy that you preach, you'll provide your children with an invaluable family experience.