Research-Based Parenting

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Categories Discipline, Diversity, Divorce, Education, Family, How Do The Moms Do It, Mommy Issues, Other people, Perspective

“Trust your instincts” is an excellent parenting strategy … but it’s not for me.

I choose not to raise my children the way I was raised. I have a deep-seated worry that if I go with instinct, I’ll fall back on the parenting style I lived with in my own childhood, replete with yelling, threats, and inconsistency. I want better for my children.

Before we started trying to conceive, I spent over a year in therapy. Ironically enough, I originally went in because my husband didn’t understand my reluctance to become a mother. At my first appointment, I told the therapist, “I’m here so you can tell my husband that I’m just too crazy to make a good mother. We just can’t have kids.” A year of talk therapy later, I’d come to terms with my childhood and come to believe that my depression was manageable condition rather than a tragic curse. I felt that I’d slain my dragons and could be the parent I believe that children deserve to have. I read parenting book after parenting book, taking notes on the things that made sense and even larger notes on the things that didn’t. I came up with my parenting credo, making sure that my husband was on board: Our goal is to raise a happy, wholesome, healthy, productive adult.

There’s a reason I overthink.

My research didn’t end when I became pregnant. I peppered first my ob-gyn, then the girls’ pediatrician, with questions. I selected doctors who would partner with me to give my kids the best possible start they could have. I selected a daycare program that would partner with me to raise J and M, not just provide us with a daytime babysitting service. Their infant class teacher knew them so well that I bought my house based on her recommendation. I wanted to situate my daughters to go to the school that their former teacher’s daughter attends. She assured me that it would be a good fit for them, and she was right.

I continue to read. The book that’s had the biggest impact on my parenting is Nurtureshock, published in 2011. I’m currently reading Stepmonster to get some insights into what I can do to encourage the healthiest and most positive relationship I can between my daughters and their new stepmother and stepsisters. There are pieces of Raising Your Spirited Child that I find helpful, but I hate the author’s tone and her suggestion that we need to shape a child’s world to her intensity. Instead, I choose to teach my girls to direct and control their intense reponses, channeling their spiritedness into creativity and community service instead of explosions and hysteria.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in the dance studio lobby while M and J were in their ballet/tap lesson, reading The Foster Parenting Toolbox. Another mom asked me whether I was taking classes. I told her that I wasn’t. I was just beefing up on my parenting. This mom and I have been casual friends for several years, but aren’t particularly close.

“You don’t need to read that stuff!” she said. “All a child needs is love and discipline, and you’ll be fine. You’re a good mom!”

I flailed around for a response. I tried to explain that I feared that being a good mom didn’t come naturally. I needed to read the research and hear other parents’ thoughts to inform my own parenting. I’ve honed my instincts over the years until I’m pretty sure they’re trustworthy, but I still think through every act of parenting. It’s exhausting, but the last place I’m going to let myself get lazy is when it comes to guiding my children, within the strengths and weaknesses that come naturally to them, to becoming happy, healthy, wholesome productive adults.

A lot of people don’t get it. That’s okay. If your instincts work for your kids, good for you. But please, let me overthink with mine.

What’s your parenting approach? Do you run on instinct? Do you research? Do you balance the two?

Sadia overthinks the raising of her identical twin almost-7-year-old daughters in the Austin, TX area. She is divorced and works full-time in higher education information technology. Her overthinking approach works quite well, although she’s now attempting to end the weekly Saturday morning meltdown. First stop, sugar elimination from weekend breakfast.

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Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 10-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. They live in the Austin, TX suburbs, where Sadia works full time in information technology. She contributes to a number of parenting websites and magazines and also runs The Mommy Blogging Guide, where she answers mommy bloggers' technical questions.

5 thoughts on “Research-Based Parenting”

  1. Oh man, I can I ever relate to this….all of it! I’m a little obsessive about research and information as it is, and when my twins came along, I haven’t stopped looking for my next book to help me parent properly. On one hand, I like that people often come to me with questions or recommendations because they know I’m crazy about finding out everything, but it does feel like intuitive parenting is not something I’ll ever be comfortable with.

  2. I had forgotten about the Nurtureshock book; I remember you reviewing it a couple of years ago. I just added it to my wish list.

    I do think there’s a lot to be said for “gut”, but consistency is one of the most important things — for me — in parenting. I think having a methodology to reference is very helpful in me striving towards consistency.

    A couple of my favorite books to date are 1-2-3 Magic and Einstein Never Used Flashcards. One is on discipline, and one is on learning styles, but they both contribute towards my parenting philosophy on a daily basis.

  3. Hmmm………. interesting topic. My kids weren’t a planned adventure in life and I have never been a big overthinker- so I guess I just go with instinct + our friends. I definitely get feedback from my adult friends that I respect regarding how they were raised (did their parents both work, private vs. public school, discipline methods used when they were growing up, etc) and combine it with what feels right. We also regularly discuss the most important traits we would like them to have as adults and how we think those can be nurtured at whatever age they currently are. I believe there are no less than a thousand different ways/methods to raise happy, healthy children- and your girls are very lucky to have a mom that cares so much!

  4. Thanks for sharing! I love reading parenting books. Like you, I don’t want to parent like I was parenting, or should I say, wasn’t parented. I like hearing what your favorite books are. I’ll have to add them to my “to-read” list.

    However, I don’t think intuition and instinct aren’t important. I think they are the tools you use to guide you through your research. Does the method your reading about agree with you and your philosophies?

  5. Sadia,
    It is always a pleasure to read your posts. You dropped me a sweet, encouraging comment the other day, and I have been meaning to reply ever since. You were on my mind quite a lot, and I was thinking what a great job you are doing, even with all that you have on your plate.

    I read a lot more at first, then got some great advice from a trusted friend over a period of time. It had taken me a long time to allow myself to trust my instinct / intuition.

    Definitely need some fresh input from somewhere soon though.

    So I’d say, a combination that tilts one way or the other at different phases.

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