Before I delve into parenting philosophy, I will share the meaning of the word philosophy using a few definitions that speak to me from merriam-webster.com:
A pursuit of wisdom that includes a search for a general understanding of values and reality, an analysis of the grounds of and concepts expressing fundamental beliefs, a theory underlying a sphere of activity or thought, the most basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes of an individual or group, and calmness of temper and judgment befitting a philosopher.
I really appreciate the last point because a philosophy applied to life begets a result; the result of calmness of temper and judgment is important to me.
Along the path of parenting I have considered many philosophies. Some of those include natural parenting, attachment parenting, gentle parenting, spiritual parenting, positive parenting, responsible parenting, radical parenting, leading edge parenting, alternative parenting, traditional parenting, and probably a few more.
Some of these philosophies have several ideas in common such as nurturing children through breastfeeding and close contact from infancy, being sensitive to the needs of children, allowing children choices, discipline through loving guidance, and using non-punitive teaching methods. At one point I even considered punitive teaching methods that were supposed to be based in love. That was a twist for me.
My oldest child is almost 11 years old. I’ve made plenty of mistakes and experienced many realizations along the way. Plus, I was a tumultuous teen myself and I am not trying to re-create that experience for any of us! Although summing up my philosophy for parenting sometimes seems rather involved, it really comes down to the moment. Right here, right now.
What do I want for my experience as a parent? What do you want for yours? And what are we willing to do about it?
Here are four aspects of the philosophy that guides my parenting experience, which I fondly refer to as moment-by-moment parenting.
Clarity. In any given moment I am either clearly moving about my life – or not. If I am not I always have the choice to become clear. I start with my breath, then honesty. After hearing suggestions for years like count to ten, take a deep breath, and other pointers to check in with myself, I finally started listening.
Along with attention to my breath and body, I pay attention to what I am thinking and feeling. Where is my attention focused? The past, the future, right now? On another or myself? On complaining or appreciating? To gain clarity, I ask myself a few questions. Is what I am thinking true? Am I absolutely sure it is true? (Most often if it’s a disturbing thought the answer is no.) How can I turn the thought around to entertain a different perspective? For example, if the thought is “My daughter is trying to antagonize her brother” I may turn it around to “My daughter is not trying to antagonize her brother” or “My son is trying to antagonize his sister” or “No one is trying to antagonize anyone.”
Lastly – and very importantly – what do I want as a parent and for my family and am I working towards that without force and with confident determination? If I want to encourage cooperation am I willing to stop what I am doing that is not working – whether that is finishing an article I am working on, carrying on a phone conversation, reading a book, or communicating in a way that doesn’t convey respect?
I admit that sometimes clarity takes time. Wading through beliefs and patterns that muck up our ability to discern is the largest part of this process. Embrace gentleness along the way – it only compounds the situation to take a ratchet to one’s self while trying to grow. With practice, honest inquiry will bring about clarity very quickly.
Intention. The basis for what I want is paramount to putting any aspect of any philosophy to work in my life. If I am breastfeeding just because I think it’s good for baby or to fit in with a specific parenting style, I may be doing both of us a disservice. The reasons behind and the desired result of my actions are just as important as the actions themselves.
I focus on what I want. I notice and soak up the times I am experiencing what I want, what brings joy, what brings calm, what brings resolve, and what works for the benefit of all. I realize that my ability to focus and see our life from an honest perspective allows me to be clear about what I want and support everyone in their intentions.
We talk about what we want often with the knowledge that we are creating our lives in cooperation with the Creator, careful not to circumvent the peace of the present for the illusion of personal gain. This is a process for all of us at times. Similar to clarity, with practice and the experience of reaching our goals we realize intentions carry us forward in our journey.
Trust. I open to solutions, intuition, and information that can help me to bring about what I want as a parent. When I was a new mom I wanted to protect my oldest from harm. I tried to manage that by being the only one who cared for her. While that was an honorable attempt at taking care of my young, I did not trust that anyone else would care for her adequately. It didn’t work too well as I had more children and actually needed time to check in with myself and learn new skills. It also supported the fear that warranted the desire in the first place.
When I learned that there are clear ways to discipline without punishment (which is what I wanted all along), I found many opportunities to learn how to trust that was true. I observed that as long as I questioned the possibility that teaching doesn’t require force or punishment, none of the skills I was using would work. The default belief that punishment was necessary indicated to me that I did not trust the process of Life.
Trust allows intentions to actually manifest and for some, trust is a moment-to-moment experience.
Action. I can become really clear, declare what I want as a parent, and trust. Taking action towards what I want puts it all together. The rubber meets the road when a child “talks back”, screams at the top of her lungs, or some other aspect of life seemingly throws everything off balance.
I act in accordance with my intentions as a parent and when I mess up, I start over – right here, right now.
Simple meditation is one way to tune into yourself in any moment.
Are you struggling as a parent? If so, I’d like to share something with you: a story and some hope.