Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Respectful Parenting As a Way of Life

Welcome to the February 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Respectful Interactions With Other Parents
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have focused on how we can communicate with other parents compassionately.
NOTE: I'm taking a short detour from my Unconditional Parenting series to take part in this blog carnival. Finding respectful ways of interacting with other parents is such an important topic, particularly for anyone interested in unconventional parenting styles.I invite my readers to explore the other posts listed at the bottom. 

I live in one of the most progressive and multicultural metropolitan areas in the United States. Oddly enough, unconditional parenting (or attachment, natural, or conscious parenting) isn't very common, at least in my particular suburb. Almost every day I interact with other parents who do not share my parenting choices. I've made some mistakes during some of these interactions, but I've also learned some valuable lessons.

First of all, I've come to realize that respect for self, others, and planet is central to my parenting philosophy. That means I have to model respect if I ever hope my son to exhibit it. While I may disagree with other parent's choices, I still have to respect their right to make choices...even if I find them distasteful, offensive or hurtful.  I'm sure some of them feel the same about some of my choices.

Furthermore, it takes much more than a comment here or there to fully inform others about my parenting choices. Most of what I do runs so counter to mainstream parenting culture that it warrants thorough discussion and explanation (think: no rewards or punishment, no TV, breastfeeding a 2 year-old, doing EC, and I'm even thinking about homeschooling; check out my latest blog series for "thorough explanations"). My choices are often misunderstood but I will only engage in discussions about them if the other party is genuinely interested. Parenting raises so many personal issues that people can become defensive unless they are open to hearing information that runs counter to their world view. So, I keep my ideas to myself. And my blog.

Secondly, I can inform and reach many more people if I do so with compassion. I don't want to argue, I want to share and learn. Although I do have very strong opinions, I avoid sharing them with parents I don't know well. Strong opinions have a way of turning people off and people stop listening if they don't immediately agree. Instead, I focus on sharing the information that has led me to form the opinions I do have. Some people will become inspired and make the same choices I do. Others simply won't get it and will go on doing what everyone else does. Either way, it's their choice and I respect their right to make those choices.

I've also started looking at parents as individuals with their own struggles to overcome. I think every parent wishes better for their child than they had it. Whether that's more stuff, more love, more freedom, or whatever, we're all just trying to make the next generation a little better. Maybe that family comes from a culture where cloth diapering is considered low-class, so using disposables feels like financial freedom.  Maybe the helicopter mom is showing all the love she never received from absent, neglectful parents. Maybe the parents trying to get their kid away from the playground with promises of sweets and threats of no ice-cream have never even heard of unconditional parenting. Maybe the father dragging his kid by the arm out of the park is exercising considerable restraint compared to the beatings he once received.

I'm not saying I think all parenting choices are justifiable, I'm just saying those parents don't need my contempt or unsolicited advice. They need my support, my empathy, and access to the same information I have. The most respectful thing I can do is model the choices I'm making and be willing to peacefully share the reasons why.

Finally, I've come to learn that parents with different approaches have valuable information to offer. That means I also have to be willing to listen to what other parents have to say. They might know a trick or coping strategy I wouldn't have thought of. They may have a way of navigating parenthood that can bring new insights to my own. They can also teach me to be more compassionate when I realize how much we share in common. Because parenting is hard work, no matter what approach you take.

So while I have dreams of changing the world through peaceful parenting, I've come to accept that the only way we can get better as parents is by supporting each other and exchanging information, with open minds and open hearts.  If we begin with a little respect, we might just change the world, together.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon February 14 with all the carnival links.)
  • How to Respond Respectfully to Unwanted Parenting Advice and Judgment — At Natural Parents Network, Amy (of Peace 4 Parents) offers some ways to deal with parenting advice and criticism, whether it's from your mom or the grocery store clerk.
  • Judgement is Natural - Just Don't Condemn — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shared her views on why judgment is unavoidable and why the bigger issue is condemnation.
  • Four Ways To Share Your Parenting Philosophy Gently — Valerie at Momma in Progress shares tips for communicating with fellow parents in a positive, peaceful manner.
  • When Other Parents Disagree With You — Being an attachment parent is hard enough, but when you are Lily, aka Witch Mom, someone who does not enforce gender roles on her kid, who devalues capitalism and materialism, and instead prefers homeschooling and homesteading — you are bound to disagree with someone, somewhere!
  • Mama Bashing — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud reflects on the hurt caused on the blogosphere by mama bashing and pleads for a more mindful way of dealing with differences.
  • Accentuate the Positive — Joella at Fine and Fair shares how she manages interactions with the parents she encounters in her work as a Parent Coach and Substance Abuse Counselor by building trusting relationships and affirming strengths.
  • The politics of mothers – keys to respectful interactions with other parents — Tara from MUMmedia offers great tips for handling the inevitable conflict of ideas and personalities in parenting/mother's groups, etc.
  • Trying to build our village — Sheila at A Gift Universe tells how she went from knowing no other moms in her new town to building a real community of mothers.
  • Internet Etiquette in the Mommy Wars — Shannon at The Artful Mama discusses how she handles heated topics in the "Mommy-space" online.
  • Parenting with Convictions — Sarah at Parenting God's Children encourages love and support for fellow parents and their convictions.
  • How To Be Respectful Despite Disagreeing On Parenting Styles... — Jenny at I'm a Full-Time Mummy shares her two cents' worth on how to have respectful interactions with other parents despite disagreeing on parenting styles.
  • Public RelationsMomma Jorje touches on keeping the peace when discussing parenting styles.
  • Navigating Parenting Politics — Since choosing an alternative parenting style means rejecting the mainstream, Miriam at The Other Baby Book shares a few simple tips that can help avoid hurt feelings.
  • Hiding in my grace cave — Lauren at Hobo Mama wants to forget that not all parents are as respectful and tolerant as the people with whom she now surrounds herself.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting - Respectful Interactions with Other Parents — Wolfmother at Fabulous Mama Chronicles explores how her attitude has changed regarding sharing information and opinions with others and how she now chooses to keep the peace during social outings.
  • Empathy and respect — Helen at zen mummy tries to find her zen in the midst of the Mummy Wars.
  • Not Holier Than Thou — Amyables at Toddler in Tow muses about how she's learned to love all parents, despite differences, disagreements, and awkward conversations.
  • Nonviolent Communication and Unconditional Love — Wendylori at High Needs Attachment reflects on the choice to not take offense as the key to honest and open communication.
  • Respectful Parenting As a Way of Life — Sylvia at MaMammalia writes about using her parenting philosophy as a guide to dealing with other parents who make very different choices from her.
  • Homeschooling: Why Not? — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling shares how parents can often make homeschooling work for their family even if, at first glance, it may seem daunting.
  • If You Can’t Say Something Nice… — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells her philosophy for online and offline interactions … a philosophy based primarily on a children’s movie.
  • Different Rules for Different Families — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children discusses how differences between families affect our children, and how that can be a good thing.
  • Respectful Interaction With Other Parents — Luschka at Diary of a First Child shares the ways she surrounds herself with a like-minded support network, so that she can gently advocate in her dealings with those whose opinions on parenting differ vastly from her own.
  • Parenting as a mirror — Rather than discrediting others' parenting styles, Kate Wicker discusses why she tries to focus on doing right rather than being right — and why she’s also not afraid to show others that she’s a heartfelt but imperfect mama just trying to be the best mom for her family.
  • The One Thing {Most} Parents Have In Common: They Try Their Best — Christine at African Babies Don't Cry finds interacting with other parents easier once she accepts that they are all just trying their best, just like her.
  • Finding your mama-groove: 5 ways to eliminate judge/be judged metalityMudpieMama reveals 5 ways of thinking that have helped her find her mama-groove and better navigate tricky parenting discussions.
  • Speaking Up For Those Who Can't — We've all had those moments when someone said something hurtful or insensitive, or downright rude that just shocks you to your core, and you're stunned into silence. Afterwards, you go home and think "Gosh, I wish I said…" This post by Arpita at Up Down, And Natural is for all the breastfeeding mamas who have thought "Gosh, I wish I said…"
  • Thank you for your opinion — Gaby at Tmuffin shares her go-to comment when she feels like others are judging her parenting style.
  • Mending — A playground conversation about jeans veers off course until a little mending by Kenna at Million Tiny Things is needed.
  • The Thing You Don't Know — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy talks about what she believes is one of the most important things you can consider when it comes to compassionate communication with other parents.
  • 3 Tips for Interacting with Other Parents Respectfully When You Disagree with Them — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares what she has learned about respectful interactions on her parenting journey.
  • Peacefully Keeping My Cool: Quotes from Ana — How do you keep your cool? Ana from Pandamoly shares some of her favorite retorts and conversation starters when her Parenting Ethos comes into question.
  • Kind Matters — Carrie at Love Notes Mama discusses how she strives to be the type of person she'd want to meet.
  • Doing it my way but respecting your highway. — Terri from Child of the Nature Isle is determined to walk with her family on the road less travelled whether you like it or not!
  • Saying "I'm Right and You're Wrong" Seldom Does Much To Improve Your Cause... — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment writes about how living by example motivates her actions and interactions with others.
  • Have another kid and you won't care — Cassie of There's a Pickle in My Life, after having her second child, knows exactly how to respond to opposing advice.
  • Ten Tips to Communicate Respectfully, Even When You Disagree — What if disagreements with our partners, our children or even complete strangers ultimately led to more harmony and deeper connections? They can! Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares ten tips to strengthen our relationships in the midst of conflict.
  • A Little Light Conversation — Zoie at TouchstoneZ explains why respect needs to be given to every parent unconditionally.
  • Why I used to hide the formula box — Laura at Pug in the Kitchen finally talks about how judgement between parents changed her views on how she handles differences in parenting.
  • Assumptions — Nada at minimomist discusses how not everyone is able to nurse, physically, mentally, or emotionally.
  • Shushing Your Inner Judgey McJudgerson — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction knows that judging others is easy to do, but recognizing that we all parent from different perspectives takes work.
  • Respectfully Interacting with Others Online — Lani at Boobie Time Blog discusses the importance of remaining respectful behind the disguise of the internet.
  • Presumption of Good Will — Why — and how — Crunchy Con Mommy is going to try to assume the best of people she disagrees with on important issues.
  • Being Gracious with Parenting Advice — Tips for giving and receiving parenting advice with grace from Lisa at My World Edenwild.
  • Explain, Smile, Escape — Don't know what to do when you're confronted by another parent who disagrees with you? Amy at Anktangle shares a story from her life along with a helpful method for navigating these types of tricky situations (complete with a handy flow chart!).
  • Balancing Cultures and ChoicesDulce de leche discusses the challenges of walking the tightrope between generations while balancing cultural and family ties.
  • Linky - Parenting Peacefully with Social MediaHannabert's Mom discusses parenting in a social media world.


  1. The more I talk with parents who are doing something I disagree with, the more I realize that they're good people, too, with good intentions. It's so true that we don't know from a glance what the motivations and backgrounds are of the people we're observing. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Thanks for sharing this blog.
    This is exactly how I feel about parenting, about 'living in this world'. The only difference is that you have put it into words, which is difficult for me to do.

    I find it extremely frustrating when people tend to not respect my or anyone else's opinion. It makes me really sad. I wish for everyone to respect eachother more so we can have a more peaceful world. I always try my hardest to be respectful, eventhough I know there is a struggle to overcome in a particular situation.

    I hope the above makes any sense. If not, sorry for my poor English. It's not my mothertongue. Dutch is, actually. :)

    Have a nice day!

    1. Dee, your point was well made, thanks for commenting! Lack of respect also makes me sad, but I've found it's easier to deal with if I just try harder to show respect to others.

  3. "Maybe the father dragging his kid by the arm out of the park is exercising considerable restraint compared to the beatings he once received." Wow - what a powerful visual. I agree that parents are doing the best they can with the tools they have, which is why I'm so passionate about helping parents learn new tools. Great post!!

    1. Dionna, yes I actually witnessed this dragging event at my nearest playground. Horrifying. Then I saw the same kids at the park with their grandmother(equally horrifying), and I began to wonder what struggles that family must face. I really do think that if more parents had more support, information and resources, we wouldn't see this stuff. That's why I blog about it, too!

  4. Your point about parents having their own history is so true. My dad was pretty strict. He yelled a lot, and he spanked. He wasn't very snuggly or connected. But when I discovered that his own father was physically abusive and completely detached, I understood a lot more. He never made a mark on us, and he made an effort to play with us even though he had no background at all in what good fatherhood looked like. He wasn't the perfect dad, but what he gave us, through a lot of effort on his part, was MUCH better than what he received. So he broke the cycle of abuse and freed me to parent my own child more gently still. I can't help but be thankful for that!

    1. Thank you, Sheila, for sharing your story. It's a prime example of what I was talking about in this post. Sometimes the abusive cycle is broken abruptly, but I think more often it happens slowly and incrementally. You are fortunate in being able to see that...and your child will undoubtedly reap the rewards of your insight and strength.

  5. A lovely post, and one that's really in line with my way of thinking in a lor of ways too ~ I tend to keep my ideas to myself (and my blog) too because I've occassionally been made to feel like I'm extremely peculiar for even contemplating things like tandem nursing.
    And I whole-heartedly agree about modelling respectful behaviour for the sake of your children ~ it was not wanting to be a shouty, bad-tempered mother raising shouty, bad-tempered kids that started me on my journey towards mindfulness.
    Going to check out your Unconditional Parenting series now, as that's another approach I'm trying to incorporate into my parenting right now :-)

  6. Sylvia, very nice post. I think it would be very hard to be a natural parent without a real-life community of support, always feeling like our approach is so "out there." I'm fortunate that in my city there are a lot of us! It's wonderful to have this online natural parenting community to bring together link-minded mamas!

    1. Kerry, yes, it is tough. I have to put a lot of effort into finding and building my local tribe, especially since I only moved here shortly before I became pregnant. But I am eternally grateful for the online community!!

  7. "I'm just saying those parents don't need my contempt or unsolicited advice. They need my support, my empathy, and access to the same information I have."

    Amen! Well written! Compassion is inexplicably important in raising ourselves, our children, and sharing information with our fellow parents.

  8. Wonderful post! I love your thoughts about "looking at parents as individuals with their own struggles to overcome." I've often been amazed at the childhood difficulties parents have come through to do a much better job with their own children. And I love your statement "I've come to accept that the only way we can get better as parents is by supporting each other and exchanging information, with open minds and open hearts." I totally agree! Deb @