Parenting Styles: Part 1, Background and theories

What are your parenting beliefs? What are the parenting beliefs of your culture? In the United States, where a myriad of cultures have come and blended together, plus the intervention of “experts” and science in the first half of the twentieth century, plus the revolutionary culture of the 1960’s, and now the back to nature, going green culture of today, it is a time of great diversity of parenting beliefs and great struggle for one to determine for himself or herself how to parent.

My experience is full of those diversities. My father grew up in rural Washington across the street from a creek and nearby a logging camp, and “he survived.” My mother grew up in the Bay Area and worked in education. They met, married and bore two children, settling down on a 9-acre almond ranch ten minutes outside of town. We were primed to be “free-range kids.”

I’m very grateful I could experience this. We had rules, but did not have supervision. We did not need supervision as my sister and I were inclined to follow the rules. There was an orchard, kind and trustworthy neighbors and scary stories about any neighbors who might not be as kindly or trustworthy.

Since family time was lean, I did not think about what type of parent would I be should I become a parent (I actually did not plan on marrying or becoming a parent until I was 19). When I realized I was not going to become a nun, I met a handsome man and it was time to think about that other life.

And did he have ideas! My husband was a free range kid because he lived way out in the country on his grandparents’ property. The world was his. The wildlife preserve was his. He had a boys’ childhood, full of innocent, boyish rule breaking. Nothing too serious. Only a little gun powder. His young-adulthood-born love of the faith came and he developed strong desire to marry a modest woman who would stay at home, have a large family and pray a nightly rosary. He never expected to raise children in any way other than free range, and to be immensely present to this family.

I knew I wanted to stay home at least part time, I knew I wanted to work, I was not sure how my time would be shaped once I married him. I did not attend graduate school expecting to be a full-time, stay-at-home mother. Indeed, I am not, at this time, a full-time, stay-at-home mother. Believing in the teachings of the Church and the Theology of the Body, I saw in my womanhood an image of God (I’m not delusional, remember, every person is made in the image of God). As a woman able to bear and nurture children, I saw in this a reflection of how God bore, sacrificed his body, and continually gives himself to us. Keeping this in mind, it seemed right that we should pay attention to how the body works, believe that God made this with a rational mind and “trust the system.” Natural all the way.

With my education in psychology, attachment parenting made sense and many of my friends were intense advocates for attachment-style parenting. Attachment-style parenting, based on attachment theory, advocates certain parenting actions that are believed to facilitate a secure attachment between infant and parent. It views on-demand nursing and holding, not as detriments to development, but as ways to respond to a child’s expressed need (expressed through crying). The parent adapts their schedule and needs to their child. Emotional well-being and stability for the child.

"Lovey mobey-wrapper"
Mimicking baby-wearing, which I hate but do out of necessity.

In my early parenting days, this was contrasted with sleep training parenting styles, or Babywise style parenting, in which the parent sees beneficial the development and training of the infant in a feeding and sleep schedule. Seeing the irregularity of infancy, the order and structure of the schedule is meant to provide a reliable base that will help the child grow healthy. The child is trained to fit within the schedule and structure of the overall family. Independence is the goal.

Such is the information that came to me through growing up and early parenting. It takes time to develop one’s style and can be helpful to consider the sources. Perhaps we have a habit developed simply because we were raised with it ourselves. This is good information to know. Consider your own upbringing, philosophical and religious leanings. What do you believe about human nature and the nature of children and do those two natures differ? In my next article, I’ll share with you the development of my own style. I hope you’ll consider sharing yours in the comment box below.

1 Comment

  1. Kelly Westfall says:

    Thank you for much for sharing – it’s so interesting! For us, we were very influenced by our Catholic faith, both of us being raised “free range” but also thinking attachment parenting was best. As we went along though, I think the personality of our child, along with our personaities, influenced us to encourage more independence, almost adopting a montessori type method as well as influenced by baby-led weaning which encourages more independence. Not what we thought we’d do in beginning!

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