Looking back at the evolution of parenting advice over the centuries, it seems to me that Adam and Eve may have been the only parents in history without the benefit of an “advice du jour book” on how to raise children. True, considering how things worked out for their kids, our original forebears probably could have used a book or two on the subject. But surely if Adam and Eve would have had two parenting books on their shelf in the garden, each book would have advocated a completely opposite parenting philosophy.
17th Century poet and nobleman John Walmot is famously quoted as saying, “Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children and no theories.” Parenting experts—from psychologists and pediatricians to philosophers, clergy, kings, queens, and First Ladies—have all opined on how best to raise kids. You’ve heard some of the terms: slow parenting, helicopter parenting, free-range parenting, and attachment parenting. Nurturant parenting, strict parenting, ethical parenting, indulgent parenting, authoritative parenting, and authoritarian parenting. Should you be a soccer mom, tiger mom, or stay-at-home dad? What about spanking, praising, scolding, rewarding, tough love, and safety-net love? Another day, another expert’s theory.
So, what parenting philosophy should you use to raise your children? I’m going to duck that question. Over the past thirty years as a pediatrician, when it seemed appropriate, I have given parenting advice to young parents (and not-so-young parents), using my doctor’s intuition to judge the individual circumstances and choose the best parenting approach to suggest. At home with our own three kids, my wife and I have relied on our parenting intuition, probably crisscrossing through a hodgepodge of experts’ recommendations without even knowing it. And in the end, I have concluded that there is no single “right” way to raise kids. The unique circumstances and dynamics in your household will guide you in developing your own parenting intuition, or they may even guide you toward an advice book that best fits your family.
There is, however, a single truth that applies to any parenting philosophy you may choose: your kids need you to be there. They need to see who you are and how you live your life. And in return, they will help you to better see who you are and how you should live your life.
So, now for a question that I won’t duck: How can you be there for your kids in the way they need you and in the way you need them? The simple answer: find enough time. Regardless of the approach to parenting you choose, the moments you have with your kids are fleeting and precious. No Regrets Parenting doesn’t deal much with particular parenting philosophies. No Regrets Parenting is about time—finding enough of it and making the most of it.