Thursday 6 November 2008


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.


  1. Can I encourage you? I don't know how old your son is but from the parenting subjects and from the photo I am guessing he's still in diapers at least.

    Keep seeking the Lord in how to best raise your son - keep praying for the grace to respond to other people's comments (or to hold your tongue) - and rest in the knowledge that you love your son and know more than anyone else what is best for your family.

    My oldest is only about to turn four but I have observed and enjoyed so many changes about the way I parented him as an infant versus the way I parented his little sister - I think I was very similar to you with my son but then my daughter came along and was a different person and our circumstances were different. I was forced to make some changes that were "against" my heartfelt and fundamentally sound philosophies. But I was blessed to find a new sense of peace (though initially some begruding humility) in knowing that all my intentions and all my learning would never compensate for God's lessons intended for me through parenting.

    People are always going to hold misconceptions about the way we do things - it just cuts a little deeper when it's our care for our children being judged.

  2. I think you do a great job with Jacob. I don't like to be criticized by my parenting choices either. Spanking,whipping,whatever you want to call it, isn't something everyone will do. That's fine, I used to think it is the only way,but I know it's not. We are choosing to do it and continue. It's working for us. Daniel doesn't hide his actions b/c of whippings,it's sinful nature. All people do it. People are going to always make judgements about your life and decisions. I don't think you or Isaac or permissive parents at all. What works for you may not work for others,that's something you've got to realize. *hugs*

  3. naejeirual, thank you for that. I appreciate your experience and wisdom.

    Heather, I most certainly understand that what works for us may not work for others. I don't believe I suggested otherwise. I just don't like that people so often assume things about what we do based solely on what we don't do. That has nothing to do with how others parent.

    I wonder, though, why you say that Daniel doesn't hide things because of whippings? That's an action I've only ever seen in babies that are spanked.

  4. I found your blog through NaPloBoMo.
    I breastfed my children for around 2 1/2 years each. We don't spank, but did for a short period with the second one. I never left either on of my to cry themselves to sleep either, we had a family bed.
    I think each family (and each child) is different. It's not my place to judge you or your place to judge me. I do, however,get ticked when I am judged.
    Good luck with your family's decisions on how you choose to raise your children. It's obvious you love your son dearly.

  5. It is so hard when family has such differing opinions on how you should raise your children. I have to say I am guilty of that regarding my SIL. I feel like their is a total lack of discipline and I do judge them in my heart. I am working on it though. It is a journey finding the balance between permissive and authoritarian parenting. It is definitely a child by child journey. Every child is different. We have 3 boys so it has been an adventure figuring out what works for each one. We do believe in spanking, but not as our main form of discipline. We have found that no matter what form of discipline you use as long as they know that you mean what you say then they will listen and obey because they trust you.

  6. I can completely relate to your frustrations about people's misconceptions. I feel like our families think we are so darn permissive just because we co-sleep and don't allow Hannah to cry-it-out. I hate hearing the comments about how she's "so spoiled" and that she's "controlling" us. Yet these same people (primarily my mother and father) cater to her much more than I ever do, not allowing her to cry at ANY time and letting her basically have the run of the house - whether or not it's in her best interests. It drives me NUTS.

  7. You know, my grandmother told my Mom I and my siblings would be "spoiled" if she continued to let us sleep with her (we all seem to be alright). I know it can be frustrating. I'm already set up for explaining myself to a lot of my family(and my husbands) because I want to use a Midwife, and have already decided I won't be having my children in a hospital. I have some time considering we won't be having children for awhile, but I know it's annoying to have to re-explain yourself all the time. I just hope that God can open other's eyes to at least see your point of view.

  8. This post popped into my head this morning and I knew I needed to come back and add this funny note:

    When my son was an infant, we practiced ecological breastfeeding (no bottles, no pacifiers, etc.) - though I should point out I only got on board with it after my son spent his first month refusing anything other than me. At any rate, every doctor appointment we had my doctor would give me a hard time about getting him on a bottle so that I could get a break. I was thinking, "I get breaks... as long as I plan them. And this is only for a short season. And I don't feel need for more elaborate breaks right now." I just let them do their health evaluations and I continued parenting the way that worked for us.

    Fast forward to my first appointment with my newborn daughter... we moved so it was with a new doctor. Prior to her birth I already knew that when she was four months old I was going to have to be away for several nights without her. This was a huge step of faith for me but God is gracious! Anyway, trying to plan ahead, I asked the doctor about supplementing breastfeeding... when/how... explaining that I was going to have to be away four months from that point. She doesn't even give me real information but starts to lecture me on the benefits of breastfeeding. Hello! Preaching to the choir.

    I found you just can't win.