There's nothing wrong with child-centered parenting. Why did we ever believe there was? Parenting isn't about the parents, it's about the child. No parent should ever try to force their child to fit into a mold that someone else has designated for them. Children are just little people, and people are all so wildly, amazingly unique. God designed us that way. I think He likes diversity. And I think it took having 3 kids who are out-of-the-box kids to finally put the nail in the coffin of "biblical parenting" ideals. (Personally, I think that all kids would be "out-of-the-box" kids if their parents would just let them. But that's another topic. ;))
I've been "accused" of attachment parenting. (Really? What kind of an "accusation" is that? Is that all ya got?) The more experience I gain at this mothering thing, the more my style of parenting is becoming more natural, more AP-like, if you want to put a label on it. It just fits me and my children. We are more at peace with each other and I'm not trying so hard to fit a style of parenting that causes strife and unhappiness in my family. Contrary to popular conservative belief, co-sleeping didn't ruin my kids' sleep patterns for life, breastfeeding on demand and child-led weaning didn't lessen my "authority" (whatever that means), and baby-wearing didn't make my kids turn into demanding brats. Responding to my child's cries, every time, didn't make them "in control" of me. Instead, it made my kids secure in the knowledge that I loved them, was FOR them, and would take care of their needs. Pretty much every terrible thing that those parenting books said would happen if I didn't follow them, never happened. My babies weren't taught to unnaturally sit still on a blanket so I could get stuff done. Instead, I wore them, or let them get in my way, under my feet, often having to stop what I was doing to chase them around. So what? Having kids is inconvenient. You get used to it.
You should see my home now. It's a mess. Always. Even after I work all day to clean it, it never stays that way. I let my girls draw hop-scotch numbers in the squares on the kitchen floor. I talk to and reason with my 4-yr-old when she doesn't want to do what I ask. When she asks me "why", I tell her why. I have never said "because I say so". That's a stupid cop-out and insulting to the intellegence of a child. I have said, "obey me now, and I will explain it to you afterwards". Sometimes I don't even punish them for disobedience, but instead let natural consequences take their course (as long as it won't kill them) and have a good lesson/talk afterwards. I try to teach them that choices have consequences, so make good choices. I don't punish them for telling me what they think or how they feel. Instead, I try to show them the polite and appropriate way to express those things. (Ex: screaming "No, I don't want to!!" when told to do something isn't appropriate. Quietly telling me afterwards that you didn't want to or didn't like it is fine. I don't expect you to like everything I tell you to do.) I don't feel guilty in the least for not spanking or punishing my kids when others think I should. Or letting them get away with things that others think I shouldn't. I am my children's mother, not anyone else. I will choose which battles to fight and which ones aren't worth it. I feel no need to constantly prove to my kids that I am their "authority" and they are mere children.
I wrote this before, and I think it bears repeating:
Guess what? The Bible never prescribes a parenting method. It just doesn't. So anyone that claims to know "The Biblical Parenting Method"(TM) is full of it. Parenting is a very personal, very individual thing that the Bible really doesn't talk much about. It is multi-faceted and complex and even changes from child to child within the same family. The only principles of parenting that the apostles ever addressed was summed up in two sentences: "Do not discourage and provoke your children to wrath" and "raise them up in the nurture and instruction of the Lord". That's it, folks. He didn't lay out 10 steps of how to do those two things....I think he left that up to us, to use discernment and wisdom and love and knowledge of our children to figure out the best way to "raise them up" and nurture them.
I also think that everything we need to know about parenting, we can get from looking at how God "parents" us. And from following the "one-another" scriptures in regards to our kids. They are people too, after all, and I fail to see how "be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other" doesn't also apply to how we interact with our children. There are no Bible laws that say your kid must obey immediately every single time with a smile on their face. Do you obey God that way every time He asks you to? And isn't God still good and merciful when we complain and stomp our feet? How many times has God extended mercy to you when you didn't obey Him instantly and cheerfully? I'd venture to say more times then most people extend mercy to their own children. So why in the world do we think we should expect more of an immature child then we are able to do ourselves??? If God is loving and gentle and merciful and abounding in loving kindness and patience toward us, how can we not extend that to our children? Don't judge another parent because they are doing things differently than you. Until you have to raise their unique children, you don't know their story and you have no right to tell them they're doing it wrong. And do not feel guilty if others seem to condemn you for your parenting choices. If you are confident that you're doing the best you can to love and raise your kids in the way that THEY need you to, forget others' condemnation. They are not the score-card on your parenting.
This parenting thing is messy.....messy, beautiful, fun, exhasting, nerve-wracking, unpredictable, exciting, fulfilling, wonderful, scary, and so blessed. Don't try to make it something it's not (i.e., perfect and convenient). Don't force yourself to live up to others' standards. This isn't about them. It's about you and your precious children.
I laugh about the whole thing now....now that I feel like I finally know what I'm doing (most of the time...except when I don't), now that I'm not at odds with my kids all the time, now that I'm true to myself and in tune with my kids, now that grace is my default setting, now that I'm not out to prove I'm the boss to my children, now that I'm not out to impress people with perfectly behaved kids, now that I don't care what people think about me or my parenting. It's so freeing.
A funny thing happened when I let go of unrealistic expectations for my kids: I let go of unrealistic expectations for myself. And that has made all the difference in the world.
My out-of-the-box kiddos