[Not So] Tough Love

When I was pregnant with Immy I armed myself with a pile of books and subscribed to emails about pregnancy and each week I would studiously inform myself about what was happening to my body and developing baby. As our due date approached, I read about newborns – feeding, sleeping, bathing, dressing, routines. I was nothing if not prepared, at least for the practicalities of being a new parent.

What I did not really think about was what type of parent I would be. What style of parenting would best suit me.

Maybe I thought I already knew. After so many years as a teacher, working with all sorts of families, reading and sharing new research and information about how young children grow and develop, I certainly knew that there were some parenting behaviours and decisions I didn’t support – like smacking and limitless hours of mind numbing TV.

But then as an early childhood teacher, I had often advised parents away from actions which might be considered by some as ‘spoiling’ a child (like co-sleeping or assisting to sleep). Admittedly, the parents I counseled came to me at their wits end because usually what they had chosen just wasn’t working for them or their child.

Once I actually became a parent myself I had an *aha* moment. The one realisation that years of university, professional development, reading and research couldn’t teach me. I realised that given the emotional attachment you have with your small, defenseless baby, given the love that blooms as you bond with each other as child and parent, that the ‘tough love’ parenting stuff just wasn’t that easy after all. Routines, sleeping, tantrums, behaviour guidance – it is all so different when that strong emotional bond comes into play.

So what is my parenting style?

I think the parenting style I most associate myself with is attachment parenting. Many of the principles just seem to fit my natural style, what feels right to me, though I admit I didn’t even know the name for it until I began my journey into the world of blogging, some 18 months after I actually became a parent. I can’t say that I am a poster girl for attachment parenting through and through, after all, I cannot imagine co-sleeping and I wasn’t a hard core babywearer, but I feel more comfortable choosing gentler practices that place importance on the developing relationship, that are emotionally responsive, that are about consistency and gentleness, love and respect.

So although I just seemed to stumble over it, without books, emails or research, attachment parenting just seems to fit for me and work for us, as a family.

What is your parenting style?

Related Posts

Photo source


  1. That is a hard one to peg. I do what needs to be done for my girls who are both on the autism spectrum. With Heidi due to her constant absconding that means a lot of helicopter parenting.

    I just want to be able to look them in the eye when they are adults and say I did the best parenting job I could.

  2. Colin Wee says:

    I don't think it's only that. I think lots of parents have been brought up with an assumed way of how parenting should be specifically for children – and this collides with parenting objectively. I have seen intelligent parents apply a totally different set of 'psychological rules' on their children in contrast with how they would manage adults. While children are different, much of the same logic used to manage adults can be applied when dealing with children. In fact, many of the tactics I use to coach high level athletes are the same when put to good use on my children. Sleep deprivation and uncertainly of course make it more difficult, but children can respond to objective and fair parenting.

  3. I'm up at the attachment parenting end of the parenting spectrum because the practices sat well with me and I wanted to be free to respond to my babies' needs as they arose – so I demand fed them, breastfed both until about the 18m mark when they weaned themselves, co-slept and often used a sling. I like the term 'gentle parenting' too. I don't think you can spoil a child by responding to their immediate needs for comfort, closeness and food – it made me cringe when people told me (and told me they did) not to pick up my child or to let them cry it out.

    I reckon the best we can do is gather as much info as we can about how children learn and develop as well as practical advice and then trust your instincts. You know yourself, your family and your child better than anyone.

  4. I love this post! It is hard for me to really categorize my parenting style, but it definately is not a tough love aspect. Yes, we did stick to schedules, but one's that Selena chose to be her schedule, not our forced schedule. She slept in our room in her own bed for the first 9 months of life. In many ways we have followed the parenting from the heart aspect, that style just seemed to make the most sense to us. We listen to her needs, we respect the fact that she is a little person and deserves to be treated just like we would want to be treated. I have a few posts just on our parenting style here: http://whisperswhispering.blogspot.com/search/label/Parenting

  5. Anne@LittleSproutBooks says:

    I like Jenny's term of gentle parenting – though if I had to pick an established category I'd say I'm pretty firmly in attachment parenting too. I'm a co-sleeping, breastfeeding, often baby-wearing mama. I couldn't be prouder of the little boy my first baby is becoming, so I'm hoping I did something right!

  6. life in a pink fibro says:

    I'm from the 'whatever gets you through the night' school of parenting.

  7. Anj (@anjwrites) says:

    Nothing much to add, except I love this post! I have found that I make it up as I go along much more than I'd intended. And whilst there are 'learning opportunities' for ME every day, like Marita I'd just like them to know I did them best I could. 😉

  8. I really struggle to define my parenting style.

    When my little girl was a baby – I demand fed her, cuddled her lots, held her when she wanted to be held, no controlled crying or anything. But I know some people who are very much attachment parents and I wouldn't say I fit into that label.

    Now that my little one is a toddler, I'm a bit tougher but not to the other extreme. I expect a lot of her and I choose to treat her with love, respect and intelligence. I refuse to talk down to her and I explain things to her as much as possible and, in return, I expect her to behave nicely towards others.

    I'm not sure what that's defined as! 🙂

  9. Wow, thanks for that! We are already attachment parents, I didn't really realise that. After looking at the link I feel much more confident about what we call instinctive parenting, just doing what feels right for the three of us, its nice to know there is some sensible advice out there when things get tricky.

  10. katepickle says:

    Ah I remember how naive I was in my early days of teaching. I remember being horrified to find out a mother still breastfed her 18 month old, and tsk tsking another family who co-slept. And now here I am… I breastfed twins till they were well over two and have co-slept with all of my kids….

    I'm definitely way too crunchy to be mainstream in the parenting world…and probably way too mainstream to be crunchy. I just parent the way that feels right for us… 🙂

  11. Zoey @ Good Goog says:

    Like you, I fell into a parenting style based on what I felt comfortable doing and didn't really have a category for it until later. I'm more attachment parent than anything else, although that means different things for different people.

    When Riley was a baby (for me) it meant breastfeeding on demand, letting her sleep in our bed whenever she wanted and helping her get to sleep (which I did well into the toddler stage).

    Now that she's a toddler it's more about acknowledging that my needs don't automatically trump her needs just because I'm the parent and opting for gentle discipline techniques. Which generally means I don't use time outs and I try to give her the time she needs to do what I need her to do without forcing it. And I try to avoid things like asking her to say please and thank-you as rote or calling her a 'good sharer'.

    I think all you can really do is what feels right for you. I totally thought I would be a hard-ass, tough-love parent and was somewhat surprised to find out that just wasn't who I was.

Comments are closed.