What is the end goal for parenting? Have you ever stopped to ask yourself that question? There will be an outcome at the end of all this hard work, so why not take a moment to think about what you want that outcome to be?
When I was a new mom, completely overwhelmed and trying my best to stay afloat, I had no real structure, no real direction in the way I parented. I just wanted my baby to behave and most of all, to SLEEP. But after a while of feeling stressed out, insecure and completely overwhelmed, I decided I needed to change.
I started by doing a ton of research: books, podcasts, other mom friends. I dove in head first to find what was right for us. At the conclusion of this extensive process, and after several discussions with my husband, we came up with a Parenting Philosophy welove. It’s not perfect, and it will likely need to be polished some more, but for now, it’s our blueprint.
1. The RIE Method
First, I really like the majority of the ideas taught in the RIE parenting method. If you’re not familiar with RIE., I suggest reading the book Baby Knows Best: Raising a Confident and Resourceful Child, the RIE Way.
What I love about RIE is that it is respectful at its core. I don’t know about you, but when I was a child the parenting philosophy was “Because I said so.” There wasn’t much communication, and respect was a one way street. But how can a child learn to respect their parent if respect is not modeled for them? With RIE, parents and “educarers” are taught to respect the child, communicate clearly the boundaries and expectations and provide a safe atmosphere for the child’s physical and emotional well being so that the child can feel free to learn and explore.
This includes creating a physically safe space in your home where the child can be left unattended with absolutely no chance of injury. This means no heavy objects, no sharp corners and all furniture is child-proofed. Basically if you got locked out of this space for hours your child would be hungry, frustrated or have a dirty diaper, but not be injured in any way.
RIE also creates a safe emotional space. This means staying close and communicating clearly. One of the major staples in the RIE philosophy is “observing the child.” It’s not your job to entertain the child or teach them how to do something. You simply provide objects for them to explore and you let them guide the play as you quietly observe and occasionally narrate what they’re doing. This method is slow, patient and so loving. There’s so much more to it, and I highly suggest looking into it or signing up for a RIE class in your area.
2. Limit Rules
Speaker and Pastor Andy Stanley, did his own research with his wife, Sandra, and after interviewing countless "successful" parents, they found one common denominator: very few rules. Stanley defines "successful" parents as those who raise good people who choose a relationship with their parents long after they've left the nest. We've seen this model work in other friends of ours who have adult children, and we loved the idea of parenting toward relationship not rules.
So, we only have two rules. Number 1: Respect Your Mother and number 2: Don’t lie. The core of our philosophy comes down to relationship. Everything we do comes from a place of nurturing our relationship with our kids and their relationships with us and others. Rule #1 teaches them respect for their mother, which in turn, we hope will trickle down into respect for all women and other relationships. Rule #2 is important because lying fractures the relationship. Stanley asserts that rules for the sake of rules is an endless rabbit hole, but rules directed toward empathy allow your kids to choose love.
So any “consequences” for breaking our two rules are relationship based. You yelled at mom? You’re going to use a portion of your allowance to buy her flowers, write her a letter telling her why you love her. Whenever a relationship is broken, we use a consequence that helps repair it while building empathy.
3. Side with your child
Stanley also talks a lot about siding with your child. When they do something wrong, don’t have a consequence ready and waiting. This tells them, “I knew you’d mess up!” Rather, act surprised and take your time to think of a thoughtful, unique consequence, even involving the kids in the process. Your kids will have their whole lives to realize their faults and be berated and knocked down by life. You shouldn’t be one to add to the pileup, rather you should be the one to lift them up. Siding with them, especially during a consequence, speaks volumes. Unfortunately, so do generic punishments that just make them feel bad or even worse, that they are “bad.”
In the end, your kids will eventually leave your house. So where do you want them, and your family, to be when you get there? It’s definitely worth thinking about. After all, a rudder is only a fraction of the size of a large ship, but move the rudder even just a degree or two and you can send the ship to an entirely new country!
Take the time to really think about what you want and make a plan to get there. You can do it. And as always, reach out if you need support!