It often frustrates me how many misconceptions there are in regards to the way I parent.
It became even more obvious when my in-laws were here this summer. We spent much of their visit travelling, which meant two long days in the car with a little boy who isn't terribly fond of long car rides. He had an even harder time of it because there were two people in the backseat with him the whole time, keeping him awake in their attempts to keep him happy. At the end of a very long day, back at home at last, my MIL - the most patient and kind lady I know - snapped at me something along the lines of "as if you would have let us leave him to cry anyway."
And yet that was exactly what I had wished she had done! Just leave the poor boy alone so he could fall asleep, even if it meant a few minutes of fussing with someone sitting right next to him holding his hand. Obviously getting out of his carseat was not an option, and a full day in the car with a baby who has not had his nap is, well, less than fun.
(To be clear - this is not a rant about my MIL, whom I love dearly. I simply mention this incident because it was the one that made me realize just how misconstrued my parenting was.)
We don't leave our son to cry himself to sleep at night. We have a good many reasons for this, most centering on the psychological and emotional impact of doing so. I'll save a more detailed explanation of why for another day.
This does not, however, mean that our child never cries. It does not me that we avoid sad, angry, or upset feelings at all costs. It does not mean we are constantly seeking to placate our child. It does not mean we are scared of our child's feelings.
Along those same lines, the fact that we parent our child to sleep, co-sleep, and continue to breastfeed him does not mean that we are "spoiling" him, allowing him to control things, or preventing him from gaining independence. Quite the contrary - physical contact, reassurance, and prompt responses to distress in infancy and childhood provide a secure foundation that leads to secure and confident adults who are better able to form healthy and functional relationships.
I frequently hear equally incorrect assumptions about our discipline techniques. We do not spank, slap, or otherwise hit our son as a form of "discipline". We have many reasons for this, generally relating to the ineffectiveness and the negative long-term effects of spanking (again, another post for another day).
Upon hearing this, the typical response is to launch into a long and wholly unnecessary diatribe on the evils of permissiveness and the necessity of discipline. Alternatively, you get brushed off as having embraced some "newfangled pop psychology" where everything is sunshine and roses 24/7 and your child can do no wrong.
We are not a permissive family. We are fully aware of the necessity of discipline. We simply do not choose to hit our children as a method of such.
But on the other end of the spectrum, neither are we an adversarial family. We do not look at our child as something to be conquered, as an enemy to be fought against, or as a strong will to be broken.
PhD in Parenting wrote an excellent post on discipline that summed up my feelings on the matter exactly. I couldn't say it any better than she already has.
It just frustrates me to no end when people jump to these assumptions upon hearing that we don't leave our child to cry-it-out or use spanking as a method of "discipline". It would certainly be easier for us if we did either of these things. Leaving my child to cry-it-out would save me a lot of time currently spent parenting my child to sleep. Spanking could certainly achieve outward results faster than the methods we have chosen.
But rather than convenience and appearances, I'm more concerned about the long-term effects of my parenting (is this going to lead to a secure and confident healthy adult?) and about my child's inward state rather than merely his outward behaviour (is he able to make wise decisions of his own accord, or just to avoid punishment?). Am I giving him the secure foundation he needs? Am I coming alongside him to disciple him into maturity? Is his heart in the right place - or does he just appear to be a "good boy"?
For now I simply trust that, in time, the results will speak for themselves.