Parenting Philosophies – The Two Extremes

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If you have been reading up on parenting, or parent craft, you may realise by now that there are so many different views on the same subjects. For example, some people tell you it’s ok to let your baby cry while others tell you to ‘block’ your baby from crying as much as possible; some tell you to feed on demand, others tell you to fix a routine.

Contrasting viewpoints each have their own merits. I am not surprised if you are overwhelmed by the ‘confusion’. Actually, it all boils down to different parenting philosophies.

At one extreme, is what is loosely termed as ‘child-centred’ parenting. At the other extreme, is what is loosely termed as ‘family-centred’ parenting. Most parents fall somewhere in between, some closer to one end, some the other end.

Loosely defined, child-centred parenting in the extreme puts the child above everything. The child is the king, even over the parents. Family-centred parenting, in the extreme, may ‘sacrifice’ the interest of the child for the sake of the ‘greater good’. Nothing taken to the extreme is good.

The child-centred parenting camp will have you believe that family-centred parents are potential child abusers, living in homes filled with family violence and their children all grow up to be violent adults, child abusers, or people with serious psychological problem.

On the other hand, the family-centred parenting camp will have you believe that child-centred parents are super indulgent nitwit parents raising a bunch of self-centred, spoiled brats, who will grow up to be a liability to society or nuisance to all around them.

Neither picture is true. The world is not made up of just black and white. It does not mean that one love their children while the other don’t. If you ask me, I think both (in the extreme) don’t love their children – the family-centred parent may neglect to meet the needs of the child and put their needs above the child; the child-centred parent ‘hate’ his child by not preparing him for life, by not instilling discipline, and not correcting his wrongs.

Most of the time, people from one camp attack the people from the other camp, citing horror examples to discredit the other party. In actually fact, I think in reality, hardly anyone falls into the extreme. However, understanding these two extremes, will help you to understand why there are all these confusing and conflicting information about parenting. You will know why there is a difference. You should be able to differentiate parenting techniques of one ‘camp’ from the other.

So which is the right one to adopt? I know this sounds cliché but a balance of both will be best. Balance is the key.

Once you understand the two different philosophies, you will probably know roughly where you stand. Once you know that, you will be able to decide for yourself what kind of parenting technique you think will work for you. Hopefully now you will be less confused by varieties of parenting technique.

I want to stress that all ‘normal’ parents love their children and only want to do what is best for them. As I said right from the beginning, every baby is different, every parent is different, every family is different. You just got to find something that works for you, your child and your family. No point adopting some practices that are supposedly ‘in vogue’ but difficult to work out for your family situation and get all stressed out and guilty about it. It will only impede on your ability to be a good parent.

Sometimes, the child-centred parenting camp may make the family-centred parenting camp feel guilty by insinuating that they do not love their children. Likewise, the family-centred camp make it sound like the child-centred camp is over-indulgent. Well, both camps have their merits and you really have to strike a balance somewhere. Just don’t let anyone make you feel bad about your choice.

Also, if you come across any method or philosophy that claims to work for every child, you know that there must be something wrong with it because every individual is unique and whoever proposes a one-size-fit-all solution obviously don’t know much at all.

Know What Kind of Person You Are

I went through a period of ‘blood, sweat and tears’ with demand feeding. Obviously, it is the wrong method for me. It is, therefore, important for you to know what kind of person you are, the kind of family you wish to build. If you adopt a particular parenting technique which is contrary to your fundamental philosophy and personality, you may end up with a lot of frustrations. The method may not be wrong per se, but it could be wrong for you and your family.

Long Term Consequence

Whatever practice you want to adopt, do consider the long term consequence of it. It is sometimes very easy to succumb to temptation to take the easy way out, but the easy way now may pose a big problem later on. Do not establish habits that you only have to break later on when your child is not ready. It can be more traumatic than what you are going through now and it is certainly more cruel to the child to forcefully break a habit that was established through no fault of the child. E.g. It is so tempting to nurse your baby to sleep when you have a difficult to soothe baby. However, if your baby has to depend on nursing to fall asleep, it also means that nobody else can put your baby to sleep except you. If you think that this is something you can live with, by all means, do what you think best. But if you established that practice and later on put your child through a cold-turkey because you want some sleep, then this is more cruel than finding other means of putting your baby to sleep in the first place.

Also, if you are going to have another caregiver taking care of your baby, do be a little considerate towards the caregiver. For instance, you may be ok with nursing your baby to sleep and have established the habit during your maternity leave. However, it will be a big problem for the caregiver when you eventually go back to work and she has to put your baby to sleep without the appropriate ‘tools’.

Both must agree

Very importantly, before your child arrives, you and your spouse must agree on the kind of parenting approach you will adopt. No matter how good a certain method is, it will not be good for you and your family if one of you cannot agree on it. E.g. Attachment parenting advocates the family bed, ie. your child sleeps in your bed with you. You may wish to adopt this method because you want to be really close to your child. But your spouse is against the idea. You will either have to convince him or find other ways. No matter how ‘good’ the family bed method is, it is bad if it affects your relationship with your spouse. Therefore, better discuss ahead to avoid conflict later on.

Which Camp do I belong to?

I think I am in-between, like most people are. Here’s what I believe:

Firstly of all, whenever humanly possible, we adjust our lives around the baby’s needs. E.g. we go out a lot less because the baby needs to nap. Whatever adjustments that need to be made, we know that they are only temporal. However, we are also mindful of the fact that a family first begins when two people come together in marriage. Children are a result of the love between the couple. They are the ‘fruits’ of the marriage. Hence, they are additions to the already existing family. In other words, the couple (or the parents) is the core of the family. The marriage is what holds the family together. When the marriage breaks down, the family breaks down with it.

The condition of the marriage directly affects the well-being of the children, which are the ‘subsidiaries’ of the marriage. Therefore, ensuring the well-being of the marriage is fundamental to ensuring the well-being of the children. If you have to spending time and energy dealing with a rocky marriage, you won’t have the time and energy, nor the right frame of mind, to take good care of your children.

To me, I am not just the mother of my child. I am a wife, as well as a daughter, a friend, a sister, etc. If my world revolves around my baby (which already it is, but you know the kind of extreme I am talking about, I trust), I will have little time and energy to perform my other roles. My relationship with my husband will probably deteriorate, and I probably won’t be much of a daughter or friend or sister…..This applies to the father of the baby as well, by the way.

And for the child, the best thing you can do for him is to give him the stability of your marriage. Nothing gives a child more security than to know that his parents are in love with each other and are always there (as one entity) for him.

Methods like scheduled feeding suits my personality as I prefer order, predictability, hate changes and uncertainty. I like to know what will happen at what time, and be able to make plans. With a child, your life will never be predictable. So that’s bad for me. I will be a total emotional basket case. Hence, I need to establish orderliness and predictability even in my parenting approach to minimise the ‘chaos’.

The bottomline is that we will adjust to the baby as much as humanly possible and within reasons and as long as it is not at the expense of our marriage.

What does the Bible say?

I search but cannot find much about actual practical parenting topics in the Bible, apart from some parts in the New Testament epistles and Proverbs, which talk about teaching your child the way of the Lord, teach your child to love wisdom, and disciplining your child.

Fundamentally, I believe that God gives us children for us to love and nurture and to understand Him and His love for us (Him being our Father in heaven).

But does that mean loving the child to the point of making the child the centre of our world? I think not. I draw this conclusion base on Proverbs 31, that superwoman in the Bible. Looking at the kind of things she did, I don’t think her children dictated how she ran her life. There must be some kind of prioritising and orderliness involved for her to be able to do so much.

Ah! Priorities. I think that whatever parenting methods we adopt, as long as we keep our priorities correct, it’s fine. What are my priorities in general? God, my husband, and children, etc…in that order. Of course, now and then, Dominic ‘usurps’ his father’s place but that’s because he is still a baby. And a lot of times, his father willingly let him take priority so that his baby needs, (which unlike adult needs, cannot wait) are met. In general, I try to keep to this. That is why, as much as I can, I want to make sure Richard has a nice, clean home to come back to and (if possible) dinner on the table. Sometimes, it is impossible and situation calls for me to concentrate on Dominic and leave the housework and cooking alone for days. But as soon as I can manage, I will try to get things in order again and pay some attention to the darling husband.