What’s Your Philosophy of Parenting?

I remember the first time this question was posed to me as a young parent. I stumbled on Barbara Coloroso’s excellent book Kids Are Worth It, in which she poses the question to her readers in the very first chapter. Being someone who is a voracious reader, I realized early on that I was so under-qualified to parent and found this question intimidating and intriguing. Intimidating, because I knew very little about how one creates a philosophy of anything, especially one focused on parenting, which already seemed overwhelming. Intriguing, because deep down inside it resonated with me.

As a parent, I was feeling that enormous responsibility that I think most parents experience.

Diane Wagenhals, Program Director, Master Trainer, Curricula Writer, Researcher, Mother and Grandmother

Whether in a flash or gradually over time, we realize that these tiny, helpless little creatures we care for 24/7 are totally dependent upon us for not only their physical well-being, but for those much more elusive qualities such as emotional health, the development of self-esteem, self confidence, and the capacity to one day become a healthy, moral adult.

It’s a lot!

Add to that things like exhaustion and the stress of trying to just get through each day and sometimes each hour! The idea of stepping back and becoming cognitive in order to develop a philosophy of parenting seemed like an added pressure, and a daunting one at that.

I was very thankful that Barbara Coloroso shared her philosophy with her readers:

  1. “Kids are worth it!”
  2. “I will not treat a child in a way I myself would not want to be treated.”
  3. “If it works, and leaves a child’s and my own dignity intact, do it.”

When I read these three key philosophical beliefs I remember thinking, “She’s exactly right! These are guiding principles I can embrace and fall back on whenever I wonder what I should do in a parenting situation.” I remember breathing a kind of mental sigh of relief and feeling a deep sense of gratitude for having a philosophy that could guide me through the coming years.

Over the years, this philosophy, with its three key principles, has served me well

…not just in my own parenting, but when interacting with other children or parents and when providing training for parenting educators.

I also have found that reflecting on each and considering how each can be manifested in day-to-day interactions with children is a powerful and humbling process. It turns out that philosophies are only as good as the actions that reflect them.

So if I truly believe all children are worth it, what does that really mean?

What are they worth? I think it comes down to philosophically believing that every child deserves a secure, safe environment where they are nurtured, loved and supported, just because he or she exists. Each child is worth the investment of the time, energy, resources, and all the work a parent must do to become more clear, confident and competent.

There needs to be a passionate dedication to ensuring that every child can experience safety, security and a deep sense of being cherished just for who he or she is. If this belief is embraced philosophically, apologies and amends can be made to get back on track because we know what that track is.

It means both the big and the small words and actions that consistently communicate to a child that he or she is extremely important and can count on a childhood filled with messages that reinforce that belief.

The second tenet is basically The Golden Rule many of us learned at home, in school or in church, if that was our childhood experience.

Barbara Coloroso shares nine different religions that basically embrace the sentiments of the Golden Rule.

If every time a parent says or does something to a child, and he or she could agree that this is a way he or she would want to be treated, it can put a halt to treatment that is hurtful, blaming, shaming or discounting. It means, as a parent that we have to hit the pause button to determine if we would be okay being treated like this. Pausing often gives us time to realize we need to step back, slow down and come up with a different response.

The third tenet enhances the previous one, emphasizing just how important it is to preserve and protect the dignity of both the child and the parent.

This also requires slowing down to consider the possible impact a response could have and to replace any actions or words that might damage dignity with something that is more relationally safe. And we do these things because kids are worth it!

I continue to have my share of humbling moments where I do not live up to the philosophy I embraced as a result of reading Barbara Coloroso’s book.

At the same time, I am so grateful to her for posing the question “What is your philosophy of parenting?” It invited me to embrace the concept that I needed a philosophy to serve as a kind of beacon in my parenting. I invite you to take a moment to consider what your philosophy is and if you don’t yet have one, to create your own.

Or do what I did, borrow one that seems to resonate beautifully with what I wanted to do and be as a parent.

[If you want to read more, Google Barbara Coloroso. A good website to start with is http://www.kidsareworthit.com/ ]

Diane Wagenhals