Thursday, July 15, 2010

On Parenting Philosophies

Lately I've seen a number of parents on the web discussing the pros and cons of several different types of parenting philosophies. So I thought that I would put my two cents in as well.

First of all, I don't subscribe to one philosophy entirely and here is my reasoning.
1) Publishing books, cds, dvds, etc. is a money making business. Regardless of the persons credentials or intentions, the green back is the bottom line.
2) Babies and children are not one size fit all. Even within the same family, children have different needs and will behave differently.
3) Many parenting books are against other styles and they let you know. It's really annoying to me that the writers of these books won't concede that there is some truth to another author's ideas. To me this just screams "money."
4) It's a philosophy, but as mentioned in number 3, they will try to use everything in the power to convince a reader that what their saying is best. For example: Dr. Sears uses phrases like "scientists conclude" and "doctors agree" without citing his sources. The Ezzos like to use God in the rhetoric. They quote many verses from the Bible but many of these verses are controversial and open to several ways of interpretation.
5) They scare new parents into believing that if they don't follow a particular philosophy that the children will turn out "bad" or with some sort of physical or psychological damage. The Ezzos, for example, are notorious for comparing children of one couple who follow their parenting style against children whose parents are AP.

Having said all the above, I plan on writing a different post comparing AP and Ezzos since both parenting styles are hell bent on discrediting the other. This post is more about how I've gleaned information and used it.

Here's my take on parenting styles: read them all, try what you think might work, and throw out what definitely will not work. So basically use a little bit of everything. Prescribing to one philosophy can potentially make your short sighted and in some cases, arrogant. I've been researching the Ezzos, largely because a friend of mine uses their style and lent me the materials. In my research, a number of parents described themselves as being arrogant and judgmental of parents who used AP or another parenting style. Why? Because the Ezzos made these parents out to be as awful or un-Christian, which is ridiculous. (I have read a few pages of the text that I was lent and so far what I've seen on the net has been confirmed.) All parents want what is best for their family and their children. It's absurd to automatically label parents as being "bad" because they don't subscribe to your methodology. And unfortunately this is what the Ezzos and the Sears do.

So what do I use? A number of things in different ways and for different reasons.

I like the idea of having a good marriage relationship. The Ezzos promote this. Sears doesn't really delve into the family dynamic as far as just the marriage or relationship.

For feeding, we are on demand parents (Sears as well as AAP). The reason is because breastfeeding works as supply and demand. This is also the reason why I think HB stopped thriving. My supply went low and he stopped demanding so I stopped worrying about supplying. I wasn't offering him the breast any less number of times for any less number of minutes than he wanted. Now that his appetite is back so is my supply (at least judging by the pumping I had early today). Breastfeeding is endorsed by Sears, Ezzo, and the AAP. I don't follow a set schedule for feeding. It revolves around the very loose sleep schedule. If HB is hungry, he gets fed. As I said this is not an Ezzo belief, but Sears and the AAP tell parents to use on-demand feeding.

For sleeping, we are a loose schedule. Sears doesn't suggest scheduling. Ferber does, but in a more rigid sense. Children grow in spirts and as they age their sleeping patterns change. We implemented a schedule of three naps when HB was three months old because he was tired in the evenings but couldn't sleep. So we helped him split up his second nap. Now that he's older, he's starting to show signs of being able to handle two naps. I haven't pushed the issue because of the feeding stuff, but I probably will once his weight is back to snuff. When I say push, I mean see how well he can handle two naps instead of three. I don't plan on forcing him to do anything if it makes him tired and cranky. And the reason for two naps instead of three is because children grow when the sleep and actually need the longer stretches of sleep.

That being said, we also follow Ferber's advice for "sleep training." Sears advices parents to watch out for baby trainers and the Ezzos use the "cry-it-out" method. We do neither. We have a three part sleep routine: diaper change, rocking and singing, and laying down in the crib with the night night song. Hubby gets a fussy baby. When I do it, HB fusses until I close the door and then not a peep. It took a little while to do this so during the first couple of months we would poke our heads in and say something to him at different intervals that Ferber advised. Now he doesn't cry and he's happy. Plus if he wakes up in the middle of the night, he falls back to sleep if everything is okay. And yes, he still wakes up for feedings. Twice a night. The Ezzos expect parents to be able to get their children to sleep through the night by eight weeks. This is unreasonable in my view because as I said children grow at different rates and have different needs. I don't mind getting up for HB. Sure I'm a little sleepy, but it's not the big deal the Ezzos make it out to be.

Sears prefers to have babies co-sleep. We did that until HB was three months. But we wanted privacy and we wanted to be able to get into our bedroom later at night without waking up HB. So we moved him into his own crib and his own room at three months because that is when children's sleep patterns become similar to an adults (but not exact). Sears also prefers to "wear a baby down." Meaning let them fall asleep in a sling and then put them to bed. HB wakes up if we do that.

I like baby wearing for all the reasons Sears suggests it. I also like listening and responding to HB's cries. I can tell when he's upset about something or hungry or tired and I can respond. If I can't figure it out, I'll try feeding him, engaging him, etc. The Ezzos think this is bad because a child doesn't learn "delayed gratification" and sets them up to have trouble later when parents have more children. A baby is a baby. They aren't trying to control you. They have needs that need to be met and they are incapable of doing a lot of things. Otherwise a baby would do the stuff that they want themselves. Babies who take care of themselves entirely, in my opinion, are called adults.

Speaking of the AAP, that is one organization that I follow the advice of. First of all, most of what they say is based on safety. There's very little rigidity, ideology, or philosophy to it. Secondly, they are a conglomeration of doctors, not a single doctor or a small group of people. And they also tell you if they disagree. In their book they make sure to inform parents that some doctors will start solids at four months and some at six, but that the consensus is not before four months. The AAP isn't driven by money or fame (at least not compared to other parenting styles). They are driven by science and reasoning.

And so that's it in a nutshell. Do what works best for your family. If co-sleeping works, great! If putting your child on a schedule keeps you sane, great! But lets all be adults here. These are parenting philosophies, not the Bible. Ezzo, Ferber, Sears, and Brazelton are not gods. So please, be kind to someone who you don't agree with. Let them parent how they want to as long as the children are healthy and happy. If something seems amiss, a good suggestion of what works for you is totally appropriate. I love BSG for that very reason. We discuss scheduling, sleep, slings, etc. And there's no pressure. It's a question and answer. No one expects you to come baby wearing, but if you want to try it out, many of us will show you how.


  1. Informative post. I liked it. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. :-)

    I'm definitely more towards AP, but like you its not a 110% thing. I don't think it's an all or nothing thing. I have seen groups online w/ members who think so, but I've become a part of a few that are more like me taking what works for us from it. What's kind of funny is I find myself becoming more AP as we go. Its not something I'm setting out to do, its just happening.

    Gonna try not to babble here. There are a lot of those sections that I agree with you on, or do things similarly. Very similarly lol. Not all (we love our cosleeping and I think we have a looser schedule)but still.

    I love hte last part of your post btw... Parenting is not so black and white, we don't know what goes into a parents decision to do things differently. And if you really disagree with a decision jumping on that person is so not the way to get them to see why its wrong (if it is.. there are a few absolutes lol).

    Unfortunately if you do things that are against the mainstream (at least in my experience) anything you do/say is taken as bashing the other side. Two examples (one not so much parenting): My SIL asked me why we don't do the flu vax. I explained why we don't, nothing about it being wrong to do or anything like that.. just that this is what our pedi said, this is what we found, we decided we aren't comfortable with it. She starts yelling that she researched it to and doesn't think she's a bad mom for doing it. Now did I say that? Oh no... The other's a little sillier, one of my inlaws knows we make laundry detergent. One of Kalila's pair of shorts stayed at her house outside. When she returned it she made a big deal about how she didn't wash it because she knows we have special detergent that we like to use as if I have issues with any other kind. If it'd been a diaper I'd have appreciated that, but as is I was just confused. Apparently I'm an anti-detergent activist? LOL - Anyways that's why I put so many disclaimers on my blog. Yeah I have opinions, sometimes very strongly, but that doesn't mean I'm bashing someone else or think we're any better for doing something one way. I may not understand theirs. I may be very uncomfortable with it even... but their choice. I don't want theirs pushed on me in that way (although it often is) so I wouldn't.

    Now I am babbling. Sorry. I need to go wash diapers lol.

  3. Personally, and this is just a thought, but I think the reasons why people get so defensive about their parenting style is thus 1)they feel that they are being attacked whether its real or imagined 2)they are insecure in their own parenting style, it's not working for them but their unwilling to admit it 3)they are short sighted or arrogant and feel that whatever you are doing is "wrong." maybe because of number 2 or what they have observed about the other parenting style or what they have been told.

    If they ask about flu vax and you give the reasons, she might regret getting her kids vaxed but is unwilling to admit it. It maybe also that she has heard the other side, that vaxing against the flu is vital and she's a little taken aback that it's not.

    As far as detergent, I get the impression that your family has issues with allergies and are unwilling to admit that there is a problem. It's real common that people can't use certain detergents if detergent at all. My dad is allergic to Tyde. I have a cousin who can't wash with any other soap beside Ivory or Dove. To admit an allergy can be like admitting a weakness. And people hate admitting weakness.

    In other words, the hang-ups are within themselves. If they were more secure, they wouldn't automatically become defensive. I'm not there so I can't definitely say for sure and I can't tell you want to do or say. My family has it's own hang ups and the more I try to figure out why, the more defensive they become. I've decided to ignore a lot of it. And if it becomes a problem, I've decided to simply ask why it is such a problem for them that I have a different view. Why would they care so much? Is it because I'm a family member and therefore somehow a reflection on them? Or is it because they think I'm out of line and need correcting? What's the motivation? What's the insecurity? I feel confident in how I parent and it works.

    Yeah, it wears me down too. That's why I'm glad that I don't live very close to anyone. It would drive me a little nutty if they scrutinized everything that I did. I think people love their family and want to stay close to them. I love my family and want to stay far away so there is less bickering all around. Sad but true.

  4. I had this great response and it totally lost it. Sucks. Anyway. The point was not to worry about their hang ups. My family does the same sorts of things but not just over parenting. I live too far away for them to critique my style and I'm glad that I live far away. I get less bickering and interference that way. Most people like to live close to their family because things are more homogeneous. I consider myself to be the black sheep. I NIP, don't spank, baby wear, etc. While my in-laws aren't bothered by any of this, my own family, I don't think, is all that receptive. My parents are okay, but the extended family already thinks that I'm strange.

    Usually I ignore the "support the troops" e-mails that my mother sends etc. I think she's trying to convert me, but whatever. That's another post entirely. I also get upset that people try to get me to buy a stroller or some electronic toy after I've tried to politely tell them "no." I know that Christmas is not going to be fun. But I'm ready to give out a wish list to avoid some of those things and whatever I don't want in my house is being returned. My mom absolutely hates that. One year I got too many scarves from her and I ended up returning one for a hat which I needed. She wasn't too thrilled despite me explaining that I needed a hat more. I'm hoping this year won't turn into a war after I tell her that we aren't welcoming any plastic toys from China. My MIL would shrug her shoulders and say that she could return it for me. She probably thinks it's nutty but she's too nice to say anything.

    Anyway...don't let it get to you. I don't think there's any family that doesn't have something to say about how someone else is parenting.

  5. Oh it did post. Stupid computer.

  6. :-) That happened to me too lol. It went to some odd page after I commented. I was so relieved when I saw it went through.

    I agree those could easily be the reasons.

    Mostly it doesn't bother me. I can't say completely because my SIL does... It didn't help that the week before (or within the week) she got online and vented to me about how everyone was giving her grief about a choice that I don't necessarily agree with (using a bottle well after a year old) and I was supportive and told her not to worry about it/do what she thought was best for her daughter. A few minutes later she asked when I was gonna wean Kalila (she wasn't even a year old yet) and when I said we were starting to lean towards going until 2 years she started in on me about how I should pump and put it in a cup if I wanted to go past a year. It just hit me as very rude considering the whole conversation before it (and the fact she kept insisting it was wrong to EBF). Then her jumping on me about the vax thing and all that, esp saying I was bashing her (literally said the bad mom thing) was the last straw. That really hurt... I'm sure there has to be some reason she's so touchy about it, but doesn't really make me feel any better. We barely talk anymore. Pretty much just ask how the families are and say bye if we talk at all (I try, but...). When we met up for my sisters graduation it was better. I think we both bit our tongues a lot lol. Nothing like this came up, but I did feed Zavier and Kalila's a little terror sometimes.

    The detergent thing just made me laugh. We all have sensitive skin so that's a good point, but there are normal ones we can use and have done so before. Usually when I talk about what we do use its in relation to cost, I don't think I've brought up anything else (beyond diaper issues lol).

    Good luck w/ Christmas. It got out of control with Kalila... Wasn't as bad last Christmas as the one before, but still. We have way too much of that stuff and saying no to a particular type of toy is just out here. I wish it wasn't, but I can just see the fight that would break out. On top of that we've been bad about it ourselves too. I think we need to work on us first on that too and once we're not buying anymore junk we can hint around and try to fix it overall.

  7. Sometimes people are looking for sympathy and end up not realizing they are hurting someone.

    I've said that I'm really opposed to spanking and a lot of it stems from my own childhood experiences. My mom has a nasty temper and one of her brothers used to spank my cousin for not using the toilet. I was a child and viewed that and knew it was wrong. As an adult, it saddens me. I also know that I have a temper so for personal reasons I don't want to spank. I don't want to have my children growing up fearful of me loosing my cool and taking it out on them whether or not its abusive. I know that many family members aren't sympathetic and don't see it from the child's perspective. Sure I turned out okay, but I've lost a lot of respect for parents who spank and for my own mother because of it. I'm not going to stop it if it doesn't appear abusive, but I'm also not going to do it. Even when babysitting a few parents gave me permission to spank, but I refused. I've never had to spank a child.

    So I totally get the whole SIL and disrespect thing. It's my number one fear that my wishes against spanking are going to be disobeyed and that's totally where I draw the line. Send us crazy toys from China but don't ever hit my child.

    The good thing about HB's birthday is if we go overboard with the toys, we can save them for his birthday. We can also give them away. He needs to learn to not get so attached to stuff that he doesn't play with.

  8. I really, really don't like the "us vs. them" mentality about parents that is especially promoted by Gary Ezzo. I see it less with Dr. Sears. . . but do see it among some AP advocates. The world really ISN'T divided into those two groups.

    After many years, I'll finally use the term AP to describe our general style of parenting -- but it is a style, not a philosophy. I totally understand that other parents do things differently -- they should! Each family is different, each child is different. It sounds like what you've done with your child is what is needed -- build a relationship, learn what is needed and go with it, sometimes by trial and error.

    And that points to one of my great concerns about Babywise and other Ezzo info. He presents things as a "philosophy" and leaves very little room for parents to deviate based on what their family needs. Sure, they do have a "if it isn't working for you" disclaimer, but then the text points to failure on the parent's part if it isn't "working." Sigh. Who needs that?

    Anyway. . . I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. (And I really like your blog background pic!)

  9. Tulipgirl, you've actually inspired the post. I wasn't comfortable with following Ezzo in the first place, but once I read some of the public comments that he made I was really shocked. At least Sears says for parents to do what feels natural for them. I will say that is the possitive thing about his style.

    My only complaint as I have said before is that Sears, Ezzo, and a number of parenting books will not cite their sources or case studies. Not even in footnotes. My husband is a scientist, although not in the field of child psycology, and he will tell you that any good scientist or doctor will cite their sources. It's just good science. You can't say that babies thrive from say demand-feeding (although I know they do I've seen the studies) without stating the evidence from a case study and naming the case study.

    And that's my big complaint. Give me a child rearing philosophy based on hard core facts as well as parents who are happy using it and I will actually get off my soap box and stand behind it.

  10. oh and the pic is from blogger


I love to read your thoughts. Thanks for sharing!