I was browsing through a blog by Casia Talbert called Healthy Moms recently and came across one of her older posts about the topic of Parenting in which she asked her readers to share their thoughts. With Gavin demonstrating a more willful nature of late and melting down into more frequent temper tantrums, I find my mind dwelling quite considerably on this topic of late.
What do I think? Probably too much but I would still like to share what little experience I have gained since I officially became a mother some eighteen months ago (well, technically twenty-seven months ago if you include the pregnancy).
When the hubby and I decided that we wanted to have a baby, one of my biggest concerns was not knowing how to be a good parent. I’m not talking so much about the basic stuff like bathing, feeding, changing diapers, etc, because those are things that are easily learned. Neither am I talking about the areas of parenting which I feel are quite clear-cut regarding what is the best option for your child. For instance, there is plenty of evidence substantiating breastmilk as the best source of nutrition for a baby.
For me, the part of parenting that concerned me most was discipline. How do you raise your child so that you can take comfort in knowing that when he is at school, he will make the right choices to stay away from drugs? How can you build a bond with your child so that when he is in trouble, the first person he comes to is you? How can you give your child the best start in life so that he doesn’t end up a juvenile deliquent?
When you read so many terrible stories in the papers about individuals who open up fire on innocent bystanders you have to wonder what happened in their lives that brought them to do such horrific acts. I think the most horrifying article I have ever read in the papers was about two ten year old boys who tortured a six year old boy. It really makes you wonder.
Well, it made me wonder anyway.
When Martha Sears was criticised for having 8 children and contributing to the world’s over-population, she answered, “The world needs my children.”
What can I do as a parent to raise my children so that I too might be able to say, “The world needs my children”?
When the hubby and I started talking about having a baby, I admit I didn’t know the first thing about parenting books – who were the good authors, what were the different parenting philosophies and which ones should I rely on as a resource for raising Gavin. In some ways, I feel like I missed out on doing a lot of things “right” for Gavin, especially in his first year, because I was too overwhelmed with being a new parent and all the things I had to learn to cope with. I was too receptive to advice – good and bad.
When it comes to parenting, I find that there is plenty of advice floating around. Being a health science student, I find that I have always tended to look for evidence to substantiate theories rather than to follow the advice of heresay even if it comes from “experienced” parents who know better than me. Perhaps that makes me annoying, but I would rather work with theories substantiated by studies of hundreds or thousands of children rather than advice that came from a single parent whose experience is limited to one, two or even ten children.
As a first time parent, there is often a lot of trial and error with your first child as you try to navigate your way through the wealth of parenting resource and advice available out there. Even with all my efforts to educate myself, there are many things I feel I would do differently with my second child that I regret doing or not doing with Gavin. And if I could go back to the days when I was still pregnant with Gavin, I would read these books in preparation for parenting Gavin:
I have been criticised for being too much of a textbook parent and for relying too heavily upon what I read as opposed to “what works”. For instance, since having Gavin, I have developed a stance against “smacking” and corporal punishment. To be honest, I haven’t always felt this way. I used to believe in the credo “spare the rod, spoil the child”. What changed my views was when I read The Science of Parenting – which is a book I believe every parent should read before deciding that it is okay to smack their kids. It was then reaffirmed when I read the parenting philosophy of Dr Sears.
I have heard the argument, “Well, my parents smacked me and I turned out okay.” True, a child who has been smacked may turn out okay, but why would you persist with such archaic forms of discipline when you know scientifically what it can do to a child’s fragile and developing mind? Our parents may have used these methods because they didn’t know better. They didn’t have the benefit of science and parenting textbooks to guide them. Heck! Even the so-called experts in their day were leading them up the garden path (albeit with good intentions) – consider the numerous doctors who used to promote infant formula over breastmilk!
Why The Science of Parenting?
Because The Science of Parenting is not based on some doctor’s theory of what she thinks is right, but practical findings from scientific studies of groups of children and how the developing brain works.
Why The Baby Book?
Because William Sears has been a paediatrician for thirty over years, and Martha Sears is a registered nurse and together they have raised eight children of their own. As health professionals in the field, they have shared the experience of thousands of patients and conducted numerous studies of their own. Being parents of eight children of their own with very different personalities, they are no longer just scientists looking down a microscope and making observations, instead they have first hand experience of what it is like to to practice what they preach.
Had I read these books while I was still pregnant, I would have practiced Attachment Parenting right from day one. I would have carried Gavin more and not taken so long to accept co-sleeping. I would have spent more time playing with Gavin and gazing into his eyes instead of watching TV or reading books. This is because discipline doesn’t begin when your child is old enough to understand you – it begins from day one of your child’s life.
Although the difficulties I currently face with Gavin may have occurred regardless of whether or not I had practiced attachment from day one, there is always going to be a part of me that wonders if he might have been “easier” to handle if I had. Perhaps he is difficult to manage just because he is like Hayden – the Sears’ fourth child – spirited and determined. I will never really know. But just knowing there is another way means I will always keep trying to be a better parent and all I can do is hope that what I do is enough.