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There is No One Way To Parent

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Learning to offer parenting support without judgment… One of the trickiest things to deal with as a parent is when either a friend or a sibling ends up having a radically different parent style from your own. I want to make it clear that I am not talking about a parenting style that might actually endanger a child, but the subtle and obvious everyday decisions, actions and attitudes that become ones’ parenting style. When the parenting style of someone you both care for and spend a lot of time with is different from your own, and when you genuinely care about the children themselves, it might be easy to find fault with their parenting. When they turn to you for support, it might be tempting to try to “correct” their style of parenting.

Here’s the thing, the fact is that there is no ONE way to parent. The parenting aisle at the local bookstore would be a lot smaller if there were. There would be no need for this article either. Of course each of us has our own opinions and beliefs about parenting. We have learned through trial and error that some things work better than others with our own children. We develop our parenting style as a result of mistakes we think our own parents made as well as the things that we think they did well. We change our parenting based on the things we read and learn, and by the examples of friends. On the most fundamental level, we parent the way we do because of something profound and innate in each of us. Most of us want to be good parents.

On the day when a friend or sibling turns to you—exasperated—about a parenting issue, use caution. Check yourself. That is not the moment to unleash judgment, criticism or to try to “correct” that person’s parenting. As long as no one is actually in danger or getting hurt (that would be a very different article,) don’t submit to criticism. Instead, offer the support that person needs to be the best parent he or she can be. Accept the fact that their parenting is not going to be like yours and that, actually, maybe that is perfectly OK. For the sake of the children involved, we need to remember that supporting our loved ones as parents is about building strength, not tearing them down.

If you are actually asked for advice, things are a bit different. Again, refrain from criticizing or condemning what they have done in the past. Instead, try simply being yourself. Your friend or sibling is less likely to be hurt by something along the lines of, “Well, I don’t know if this will work for you, but here is what I do…” They may let you know that that idea would NOT work for them, and when that happens, it is hard not to feel offended or criticized yourself, but, again, keep yourself in check. There is no one way to parent. Everyone’s circumstances are different. Agree to disagree.

The most important thing to remember is that you are there to offer support for one another. It’s also important to remember that parenting involves a lot of learning– a whole lot of learning– and that we can learn from parents whose parenting styles are different from our own. On those rough days of parenting (and, for the record, they happen to everyone…) that can be all we need to be a better parent.

[AUTHOR: Hilary Doubleday]

May 10, 2015

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