A Question About Parenting Styles
“A couple of years ago, during a conversation with a few parents at school drop off, I had someone ask me what my parenting style was. It caught me off guard.
Parenting Style. Is that an actual thing? What does that even mean? How am I supposed to answer that?
I looked at them with a big, brown, blank stare because with almost five years of parenting under my belt, I had literally never heard this term before.
Judging from the nature of the conversation, I assumed they were not referring to the messy bun and yoga pants type of style, but rather something relating to ‘how’ I parent.
Naturally, I did what every good parent does when they feel clueless and curious about something — I googled it while trying to fight my anxiety insomnia late one night.
Researching Parenting Styles
Not only did I find out ‘parenting styles’ were in fact a real thing, but I proceeded to fall down a rabbit hole of articles, blogs, videos, and research all devoted to the seemingly hundreds of different types of ways to ‘parent’ your child. I had heard of a few of them before, but I didn’t realize people actually believed one way worked over the others. The amount of information out there regarding this topic was mind blowing to me.
Y’all, I was completely dumbfounded. After reflecting upon and digesting all this information, I basically came to one clear conclusion. As parents, my husband and I are expected to choose a specific way to raise our children that is based upon research and input from strangers. Strangers with PhDs, but still strangers. They don’t know me. They’ve never spent a minute with my kids.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
To me, parenting style translates to parenting labels. All of this ‘research-based’ information was telling me to smack a big fat label on my forehead that tells the whole world what type of parent I am. Are you kidding me? Labels are for mason jars and designer jeans, they have no business in the world of parenting small humans.
So many of the articles I read led me to believe there was only one type of parent I could be. That’s it. I had to choose, and once I did, there was no looking back. Sure, I could be a little more one style over the others, but in the end, one of them was best suited to how I raise my children and sticking to that style was detrimental to their future. You know, because kids need consistency and all. This whole one-size fits all mentality related to parenting wasn’t working for me. Why should I have to choose a specific style? Why should I have to confine the way I discipline, make decisions, and interact with my kids into one box?
One size fits all doesn’t work for my Spanx and it certainly doesn’t work for parenting either.
To be honest, I think labeling ourselves with a specific parenting style is basically a one-way ticket to Judgment Town. If you claim you are a helicopter parent because you need to look out for your child in this big, scary world, someone is going to be right there to shoot your helicopter down. They will be ready with a plethora of reasons why your parenting style is wrong and why their parenting style is right. Putting labels on parenting fosters a toxic environment in which parents will find themselves questioning their own judgment, feeling immense pressure to stick to one specific way of dealing with their kids, and worrying others might judge them for doing what they feel is best for their children.
I Am The Expert On My Children
I know there is endless research on parenting and parenting styles. I know experiments and studies have been done for decades upon decades. I know there are so called experts on this subject, and I know the methods and strategies presented for every parenting style have been proven to be effective. I just don’t believe in my heart that this is the way it works. I don’t believe anyone can call themselves an expert on parenting because does such a thing really exist? There is no such thing as a perfect parent. There isn’t one style that’s stronger over another. There isn’t a right way and there isn’t a wrong way. We have triumphs and we have failures. We learn from what doesn’t work, and we adapt and change as our kiddos grow up.
Thank goodness I hadn’t heard of specific parenting styles before I actually had children. I would have been terrified and completely overwhelmed. It’s scary enough with a newborn, just trying to survive every day, much less worrying about whether picking them up when they cry is too permissive and not authoritarian enough. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with reading articles or books to learn more about different ways to discipline, or how to sleep train, or the different ways to potty train. It never hurts to know what your options are. I just don’t believe it’s right to stick a label on how we are supposed to raise our children and expect us to choose one style and stick with it forever.
In the end, as a parent, there is one thing I hold true to my heart. Nobody is an expert on my children but my husband and I. Nobody will ever convince me there is one specific way I should parent. We are the experts. We created them, I grew them, I birthed them, and we will inevitably decide how to raise them. It’s going to be messy. We are going to second guess ourselves and most of the time we won’t have a clue what we are doing.
We’ll Do What Feels Right In The Moment
Sometimes, we will yell because we don’t know what else to do.
Sometimes, we will pick them up and hold them close when they are crying because they are our babies and they won’t be little forever.
Sometimes, we will pull back and let them fight their own battles because they need to learn how to believe in themselves and find their courage.
Sometimes, we will fight those battles with them or for them because it’s nice to know someone has your back.
Sometimes, we will punish them when they make bad choices because they need to learn from their mistakes.
Sometimes, we will let them get away with murder because they’re so stinkin’ cute and give us big, toothy smiles that melt us into a puddle.
Sometimes, we will let them eat ice cream for dinner because at least it’s something.
Sometimes, we won’t let them leave the table until they eat the green stuff because the green stuff is good for them and helps them grow big and strong.
Sometimes, we will let them watch movies all day because we just need a break.
Sometimes, we will limit or take away screen time because they need to play outside and get some fresh air.
Sometimes, we will say, ‘Because I told you so,’ because they don’t always need a reason when they ask why.
Sometimes, we will kiss the boo boos because it makes them feel better.
Sometimes, we will tell them to get up, shake it off, and move on because we all know kids love to fake it till they make it.
Sometimes, we will pull away because they are strong enough to stand on their own two feet.
Sometimes, we will pull them close because they will never stop needing us.
The beauty of being a parent is that we have the freedom to raise our children however we want to. We know them best. We are the experts. We don’t have to put a label on it or conform to a specific style. We can create our own style, for our own families, that adapts and grows as our children do.
Next time someone asks me what my parenting style is, I will be prepared.
I will simply respond with, ‘Messy buns and yoga pants.’
It’s the only parenting style that makes sense to me.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Mari Ebert. You can follow her journey on Instagram, Facebook, and her website. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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