We Are Both Right

11 Years Later, Still Parenting by the Seat of My Pants

There is a small potty chair in the middle of my living room. Not surprising when you consider we have a two-and-a-half-year-old living here, but downright shocking if you know my take on potty training.

No potty seats and certainly not in the living room. You learn to do your business on the toilet on a potty ring. In the bathroom.

So why do I have a toddler watching television as he attempts to go to the bathroom?

Because he’s my third child and I’m tired and desperate.

To be fair, I didn’t buy the potty seat. It was sent to me to review for one of my other writing jobs. I had considered passing it off to someone else, but then I re-evaluated my stance when S. took an interest in the box.

Now our living room is one step above a public restroom, but at least he’s sitting on an actual toilet with his pants down, which is something he wouldn’t do yesterday. (Small victories people. It’s all about the small, strange victories when you’re a mom.)

potty training chair arm and hammer potty munchkin

We do need a new chair for the living room, but I was thinking recliner. ©Arm & Hammer/Munchkin

The potty ring isn’t the only way I’ve changed in my style of mothering. With nearly nine years separating kid number one from kid number three it isn’t surprising that we do things differently (and a are a bit more relaxed). As a one-week old, youngest child S. was being carted around to Little League games where I would nurse him in the stands and chat with the other moms and dads. When our eldest C. was a week old, we would maybe, possibly venture out for a walk if the weather was just perfect. If we were in public when it was time for him to nurse I’d whisk him away to a private place where we would be left alone.

Obviously, my thoughts (and consequently my parenting style) have changed on lots of things — some major, some minor — and while I’m not shocked by it, I am interested in my evolution from a know-it-all-yet-panicked first-time mom to a quite zen, oh-let-him-drink-soda-once-in-a-while third-time mommy.

And apparently a woman who encourages public urination.

How has your parenting style changed over the years? What is one thing you swore you’d never do that you do now?

That’s Me, Hitting My Head Against the Wall Instead of Spanking My Child

Pick your poison -- listening to mom yell or getting a spanking. © Ahmed Al-Shukaili / stock.xchng

It’s not that I’m anti-spanking. I’m just trying to be less hypocritical in my approach to parenting. Because it’s bad enough that I cut the kids off from snacks before dinner, and then they find me popping a few squares of chocolate into my mouth as I stir the broccoli.

I figure that if I’m trying to make the point to my three-year-old daughter that it’s not OK to come up from behind her brother and hit him across the back of the head, how effective will I be if I come up behind her and whack her on the butt to make the point?

Not to say that I haven’t.

But on the two occasions I have swatted her behind (once in diapers so it doesn’t exactly count), it was meant more for emphasis than punishment. Like along the lines of: I can’t believe you just stuck a play-kitchen butter knife in the dog’s ear, stop that right now, and never, ever do that again!

The other type of spanking — the pre-meditated, come over here and get the five whacks I owe you from when you ran into the street yesterday kind– is absolutely not even a consideration in my house.

I’m all for instilling fear into my kids. I absolutely plan to scare the wits out of them when it comes to driving, underage drinking, having sex as teens and stealing. But none of it will be done with a heavy hand. I’m much more into words. (Can’t you tell?) Instead of promising a beating, I’ll be making them wish they never had to hear me talk again.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

For right now, we’re dealing with the serious issues of writing on walls and purposely clogging up the bathroom sink to see how far the water can reach out the door before Mommy notices. And still, I don’t see where a spanking would solve those problems.

My preschooler is as defiant as the next, and yet when time-outs don’t work and verbal threats fall upon deaf ears, I am rarely tempted to use my hand to prove a point. I’d get laughed at anyway, since that is my daughter’s response to any form of discipline. Why give her the satisfaction of being the one in control, the one who obviously can spin mommy into such a tizzy that the tall lady ends up looking like a two-year-old?

So I’m still at a loss as to how to get a point across, and manage to make my second child as obedient as my first.

But one thing I know, spankings are not going to do it.

Any other ideas for me?

When Pop Culture Toddler gets out of hand, her mom doesn’t hesitate to use hers. At least it seems to work for them.

“Yes, I Believe in Spanking”… And?

Has spanking ever been a part of your discipline routine? © Iuriatan Felipe Muniz / stock.xchng

The other day, I was sharing mommy war stories with a woman at my volunteer gig. Her son is also two, just a few months older than Pop Culture Toddler, and we were sharing the things we both love and hate about this age. Soon the discussion turned to our least favorite part about the terrible twos – the acts of defiance.  The other mom told me that she was running out of discipline options, because neither positive reinforcement nor time-outs nor spanking were working, and before she could complete her thought, she blurted out, “Yes, I believe in spanking!”

This sentiment – feeling defensive about how she chooses to discipline her own child – is something with which I am familiar. More and more, parents who spank for some reason feel like they have to “justify” their actions. It’s not that we think we are wrong – no more so than any other parenting decision, anyway; it’s that many people who are anti-spanking have turned up the rhetoric so much that sometimes it feels as though the second you admit to being pro-spanking, people expect horns to grow out of your head.

I was spanked as a child, as most of my friends were. I am not afraid of my father (the parent who spanked me) nor do I hold any ill will towards him for spanking me. I appreciate and respect the fact that he spanked me. Every spanking I got, I deserved.  Although my father’s punishment was in some ways a comedy anecdote [the classic black comedian line about parents/grandparents who punctuated each syllable of their talking-to with another hit of the belt], he never spanked me out of anger. In fact, I usually was warned hours beforehand that a spanking was coming. The psychological element of the spankings – the sheer anticipation of the spanking to come – was often worse than the spanking itself. But neither element was so harmful as to negatively affect my childhood or my adult life.

Regardless of what you feel about the effectiveness or usefulness of spanking or what kind of lessons it does or does not teach to your children, let’s get one thing clear: spanking is not abuse. I have friends who were abused, and I find it insulting and demeaning to the turmoil they suffered when people, caught in their own rhetoric, equate spanking to abuse. Yes, in the wrong hands, used in the wrong way, spanking can be abusive. A verbally abuse parent can make time-outs or even positive reinforcement abusive; that does not make the methods of discipline in and of themselves abusive. And really, that’s my problem with the anti-spanking movement.

Like so many of the Mommy Wars, people feel that in order to justify their own positions, they have to turn up the heat in vilifying the opposite. I am not saying that everyone who is anti-spanking is this way; but certainly some of the most vocal opposition I have seen against spanking goes to this extreme.

Personally, I don’t care how someone disciplines their child as long as it is well-thought, non-abusive and effective. It is truly none of my business.

For myself, I believe in tailoring the punishment to the child. We tried time-outs with Pop Culture Toddler. Unfortunately, like her mother, my child is showing early signs of ADD. One of the side effects of this is that she amuses herself in time-outs. It is utterly the most ineffective punishment for her. Positive reinforcement also only goes so far with her. Really, the most effective thing to date has been spanking. We do not spank often, but we do spank when necessary (or threaten to spank as needed). Fortunately, I do have enough authority that if I begin the countdown to “If you do/do not do x by the count of three, you’re going to get a spanking,” I rarely make it past two.

As Pop Culture Toddler gets older, we will (as my father did) modify her form of discipline to use what works on her. Likewise, with the next Pop Culture Baby, we will cycle through forms of correction until we determine what works for that child, and then modify accordingly for him or her as s/he gets older.

The bottom line is that this decision will be made by my husband and me alone; how we discipline our children is not up for a community vote. If you don’t like spankings or don’t feel they are effective, don’t do them; but like every other parenting decision out there, spare me (and others) your judgment. Just be happy that my child is content, bright and well-mannered.

Yes, I believe in spanking. So what?

Pop Culture Mom, as she is known to us, writes none other than the Pop Culture Mom blog, keeping us updated on Glee and all the pertinent info we need to get by at the water cooler but were just too darn tired to catch ourselves. You can get your fill too — just check her out at Pop Culture Mom, on Facebook, and Twitter.

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In our new series of guest blogs, we invite other mommy bloggers to share their points of view on topics where Suzanne and Amanda happen to be on the same side. In this case, Suzanne can appreciate the careful consideration Pop Culture Mom gives to her version of spanking for discipline. She just doesn’t get the same results.

Our Two Cents: How Far Should This Mom Go to “Save” a Friend?

©mummau55/stock.xchng

Can a mom and child ever spend too much time together? ©mummau55/stock.xchng

Dear Amanda and Suzanne: 

My dear, dear friend “Jennifer” and I have babies who were born seven months apart. How excited we both are to have children who will grow up together! 

Jennifer’s son “John” is a sweet boy with what I perceive to be a bit of an issue: He is 14 months old and won’t sleep through the night. You read that correctly…WON’T sleep through the night. 

Now, Jennifer is still breastfeeding him but John is also eating solid foods as well. Not to say that breastfeeding is causing the sleep interruption, but can it be part of the issue? Jennifer won’t try the ‘cry it out’ method and on average, John is up every 3 to 4 hours every night. 

I mean, I would go mental. I have wanted to gently broach the subject but I don’t want to seem like a know it all. 

And also, is it normal for moms not want to hang out without the kids? We haven’t been out to lunch alone since the babies were born. She “can’t” leave him. I feel like the worst Mom sometimes because I like to go out with my lady friends once in awhile. Anyway, that’s my issue and any feedback would be greatly appreciated. 

Signed,
A Concerned Friend
 

Suzanne: 

I could see where you would be concerned! Just the thought of not sleeping for longer than four hours for fourteen months straight makes me tired. And to envision your good friend suffering in silence, having been there yourself for however short a period of time, makes you want to jump through her bedroom window and save her.

But before you pull out your old Wonder Woman costume, maybe you could casually bring up the subject in conversation, without making your friend feel self-conscious about something she may or may not perceive as a problem herself.

Next time you talk, you might say in passing that your little one continues to sleep through the night and *fingers crossed* you hope it’s not just a phase. When she gives you the update on John (presuming they’re still in the same boat) ask in response whether her pediatrician has offered any advice as to whether she should try to stretch his feedings further apart. If she appears to not be looking for a “solution” you should just leave it at that — and maybe commend her for being stronger than you would be with so little sleep.

As for her not wanting to leave baby behind for a little girls-only time, you will just have to wait her out on that one. All moms find their comfort zone at different points in their child’s development. Some are ready to go immediately, knowing that baby is in good hands with daddy or grandma for an hour or two, while others might never leave their child’s sight until the drive to college.

For me, justifying time spent alone with friends took a few years and that was a direct result of my self-imposed guilt. I thought I was shortchanging my babies while I was at work, so I wanted to give them all of my free time otherwise. But now — well, I totally see the value in just hanging with friends for an hour or two and recharging in a way that ultimately makes me a more patient and well-rounded mom. Your friend should come around too — maybe after she starts getting some sleep! 

Amanda: 

I could be way off base here, but it sounds to me like Jennifer is practicing attachment parenting, whether she’s made the conscious decision to do so or not. Now this is just a guess based on what you are saying and from my own experiences as someone who did it as well (and sort of stumbled into the method).

If she is attachment parenting, I think everything you describe is actually pretty normal. The night waking, the extended breastfeeding, even the not wanting to leave the baby at all. I actually went through all of that myself — except for the extended breastfeeding part, which I had to stop at 13 months with S. because of my surgery. And while my husband T. and I did let our babies “cry it out,” at bedtime, if they woke in the middle of the night to nurse, I did let them and then they co-slept with us for the remainder of the evening.

Crazy? Perhaps. But it was the most natural thing for me, and I suspect, your friend. I’ve always felt that attachment parenting is inherent. Not to get all new-agey on you, but you don’t choose to attachment parent, it comes from inside of you.

And I promise, it’s no reflection on you if she doesn’t want to hang out. It’s just part of the attachment parenting style. Not that they dictate that, but it’s more like, moms who practice attachment parenting tend to not want to be separated from their babies. I knew that leaving the baby was fine and good to do, but it was just really hard for me emotionally. I have no way to explain it other than I just didn’t want to be away from them. I didn’t judge others that could leave their babies, I just couldn’t. Not for a while.

And that’s the thing about attachment parenting, you either get it and love it and do it, or you don’t do it and you think those who do are a bit looney. Which is fine!

If you miss your friend (and it sounds like you do) for now, maybe it’s best to schedule outings that incorporate all four of you — trips to the playground, walks, even a quick meal or coffee at a family-friendly place. Be supportive and patient — the good friend that you’ve been all along.

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What do you think? Does Concerned Friend have cause to be concerned? Should she talk to Jennifer or leave it alone? And if you are looking for a second (and third) opinion, ask us! Send an e-mail to advice@wearebothright.com.

Is Winging It a Parenting Style?

I’ll admit it — I’m a nerd. I have never failed a test in my life. But if there was one about parenting styles, you can bet I would fail miserably. Honestly, Dr. Sears might as well be Dr. Seuss for all I know. 

Aside from my required reading of what to expect throughout pregnancy and the next two years, I never invested much time in parenting books. I felt confident enough in my own intuition to make it up as I went along. (And it seems to still be working after eight years.) 

But since I’m always game for a little self-analysis, I figured it couldn’t hurt to (finally) figure out my parenting style — once and for all. 

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That was easy. According to the online quiz I just took, I can now call myself an authoritative parent. While this sounded a bit unappealing at first (the first association that came to mind was dictator), another search brought me to this definition (Finkel, Pagewise): 

Authoritative parents set clear and consistent limits for children. They are flexible but firm, which leads to children who are responsible, cooperative, and self-reliant. Authoritative parents often express love and affection to their children, without fear that such expressions of emotion may affect their ability to discipline. As their children get older, authoritative parents encourage more responsibility and freedom, within well-outlined rules.

asifthebes/stock.xchng

Also known as balanced parenting, this style has been described as equal parts nurturing and control. Authoritative parenting is based upon having expectations for your child, but also being flexible about how and when they are met in an age-appropriate way.  Come to think of it, whenever my husband and I have discussed our approach to raising our children (which we never thought of as parenting style, per se), we have always agreed that expectations are key. 

For each of us, knowing that there were parents and grandparents who expected the best of us, and would be around to see the consequences of any bad choices, was motivation enough to stay on the straight and narrow path when we were growing up. Our goal is to do the same with our children, ensuring that there are supportive and interested people around them in every facet of their day (school, home, and with our extended family). 

So I guess we weren’t really winging it after all.  If we continue to work within this parenting style, which seems most natural to us, we can hope that our children develop into confident, independent, socially adept and respectful adults. 

Could a mom wish for anything more? 

I kind of like my parenting style title now and plan to wear it proudly, eschewing any associations with other parenting styles like helicopter parenting, indulgent parenting, or strict parenting. 

Do you know your parenting style? How is it working for you? 

Locked Up in Attachment Parenting?

© vancity197/stock.xchng

© vancity197/stock.xchng

I never knew defined parenting styles existed. For all the reading and research that I did when I was pregnant with my eldest, my son C., somehow I must have missed the chapters where it detailed the qualities and methods of the various ways to raise your kids.

But even if I had known that there were formal modi operandi (Woo hoo! My high school Latin is useful!) for us to follow, I doubt I would have been able to choose one. And even if I had — say I found one that stood out for me above all the rest — how could I have possibly adhered to it without knowing what I was getting myself into?

I mean, does parenting even work that way? Is choosing a parenting style as simple as shopping for a sweater in a catalog? (Although if you’ve ever watched me shop online, you’d know it’s not as much of an effortless expenditure as you would think.)

See, for my husband T. and I, parenting was always about following our instincts. If it felt right, we did it, whether it was deciding to breastfeed (even though some didn’t support our decision), choosing for me to be a stay-at-home mom or simply making our own baby food (something we did with our youngest, S.). And the thing about parenting by instinct is, that you do it differently every time, adapting for each child. While we stick with the same fundamental tenets for all three of them — Be kind and honest. Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Treat others the way you’d like to be treated. Laugh often. Things are never as bad as they seem. All you need is love. Look for a fastball on a 3-0 count. — we definitely have made some modifications as we go along. We are evolving, fluid — like Facebook. (Can someone please explain why my News Feed is now at a .5 font size?)

Anyway.

So I can firmly say, no parenting styles for us. I am a mother, not a sheep in a herd and I won’t be classified.

Except…

One night I was surfing the Internet looking to find the proper dosing information for infant acetaminophen. C. must have been teething or something and I had lost the paper where I wrote down the right amount as directed by my pediatrician. While looking, I stumbled on a most helpful parenting tool — the Medicine Cabinet at AskDrSears.com. (This is unrelated so I’ll keep it fast — basically it’s a listing of just about every over-the-counter medication you can buy and the correct dose by age and weight. It’s awesome.) Anyway, so thrilled was I with this discovery that I started clicking around the site, eventually landing on the Attachment Parenting page.

As I read, I found myself nodding my head. Breastfeeding. Babywearing. Co-sleeping. It is impossible to spoil an infant. “We do that!” “And that!” “That too!” “Hey, that sounds just like us!” For someone who had eschewed parenting styles in the past, I sure was happy to be suddenly classified in one.

And that’s why I didn’t mind finding myself categorized as someone who practiced attachment parenting. We came to do it on our own, simply by following our built-in mommy and daddy intuitions. We were doing what we thought was best for our kiddies, letting our natural parental inclinations be our guide.

(Now to be fair, there is one big aspect of attachment parenting that we don’t follow. On the recommendation of our pediatrician, we have always “Ferberized” (sleep trained) our kids once they hit four months old and I have no regrets about it at all — especially since they all sleep 11-12 hours at a stretch. Having said that, once they are sleeping through the night, we do bring them into our bed on occasion if they need some extra snuggles.)

But that’s the beauty of attachment parenting — it’s an approach, not a rule book. You do what works best. The major proponents of attachment parenting — Dr. William Sears and his wife Martha Sears, RN — write on their site, “Attachment parenting is not rigid. On the contrary, it has options and is very flexible.”

Celebrating and exploring the bonds between mother and child, for me, attachment parenting makes me feel more relaxed and more mellow about the parenting decisions I make every day.

Not everyone is a fan though.

Late last week, attachment parenting came under fire by author and feminist Erica Jong, who, in the Wall Street Journal, compared the approach to being incarcerated.

“Attachment parenting, especially when combined with environmental correctness, has encouraged female victimization,” Jong writes. “Women feel not only that they must be ever-present for their children but also that they must breast-feed, make their own baby food and eschew disposable diapers. It’s a prison for mothers, and it represents as much of a backlash against women’s freedom as the right-to-life movement.”

Hmmm. Well, sometimes I don’t change out of my pajamas all day and don’t leave the house, but that’s because I’m lazy, not because the kids have me tied up.

Look, I could sit here and could argue point by point against Jong of why I think she’s wrong. (And she is. Buzzwords and saying things for shock value are not the foundations of a cohesive argument.) But her words about attachment parenting aren’t what made me see red.

What got me so angry is that she attacked the way other people parent — one of the most personal decisions there is. She raised her daughter one way — leaving her with nannies while she traveled the world — not a method I would employ certainly, but hey, it’s what worked for her family. How dare she criticize others for their choices, choices that we are all free to make.

I don’t appreciate being judged because I love being with my kids, because I choose to spend my time mashing bananas and pushing toy trucks on the floor instead of going to an office every day or seeking some sort of outside achievement. I hate that some people think because I’m a smart woman who doesn’t put on high heels and a suit every day or use my neurons to come up with a cure for cancer, that I have somehow been brainwashed or bullied and am setting the feminist movement back decades.

We need to stop being so critical of one another and start working together to fix some very real social problems that affect all of our children — those raised by moms who work in an office and moms who don’t.

The lack of paid parental leave. Unequal pay for women. A broken healthcare system that has a terrible record when it comes to maternal and prenatal care, one that pays for penis pumps but not breast pumps. Women who can’t breastfeed in public without being harassed or causing some kind of incident.

This is the madness we need to address.  Not attacking women who, as Jong so nicely points out, are “giving up your life for your children,” instead of supporting all moms as they strive to live fulfilling, rewarding existences while raising tomorrow’s mothers and fathers.

“Do the best you can,” Jong writes at the end of her piece, “There are no rules.”  Good advice. I just wish she meant for everyone, not just the folks who agree with her way of thinking.

Do you employ a particular parenting method?