Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tips for Moms & Daughters to Discuss Parenting Styles without Fighting

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama
This post was written for the May 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting With or Without Extended Family which I foolishly thought was next week, so I didn't get submitted in time to be part of the official link-up. I still encourage you to check out all the great posts that did realize that May started on a Tuesday, making today carnival day, lol.

While I was pregnant and when my son was brand-new, my mom and I had a pretty rocky time. Without getting into a ton of details, we were having trouble communicating effectively. She didn’t understand why I didn’t seem to value her parenting advice, and I didn’t understand why she wasn’t just letting me do my thing and being supportive (which is what she does for everything I do in life!) Now we are all patched up and talk on the phone pretty much everyday and e-mail each other and repin stuff from each other’s Pinterest boards and stuff like that. Anyway, I am hoping that some of what I learned the hard way can help you avoid similar conflicts so I asked my mom to help me write a very special post: I’ll share my top tips for daughters to discuss different parenting styles with their moms without fighting and she’ll offer her top tips for Grandmas to do the same*.
My mom and son when he was about 6 months old

Tips for Daughters

Realize it’s a sensitive issue

I naively didn’t realize anyone would care how I chose to parent. As with most things in life, when I wanted to research parenting styles and decisions, I turned to the internet and a few library books. I didn’t even think about the fact that for most of human existence the primary-and often only-source of parenting advice and wisdom was friends and relatives, especially your own mother. Unless you have siblings significantly younger than you, you may not actually know much about what parenting decisions your mom made and why.  And she will appreciate you showing an interest and knowing that her input was at least one that you considered when you made your choices.

Make it about you

This seems a bit counterintuitive (normally it’s better to think of others, right??), but make sure it’s clear that you aren’t thinking of anyone but yourself and your kids when you make your parenting decisions.  That your decisions aren’t reactionary or a judgment on the choices your Mom or Grandma or sister-in-law made or didn’t make. That they are simply what you deem best based on the info you have and the specific situation and temperaments of you and your spouse and kids. Even if it is a completely unfounded assumption, your mom will (understandably) be heartbroken if she thinks you are rejecting or judging harshly the way she parented.  Let her know you think there is more than one “good” way to parent, and you choosing a different one doesn’t make hers bad. And compliment her on how well she raised you!


Ask lots of questions

Some of the best conversations my mom and I had when my son was little were the ones where I asked lots of questions about what things were like when I was born-what advice was given, what parenting styles were popular where she lived and amongst her relatives. It was really interesting to find out that information, and definitely seemed like it helped me understand where she was coming from. For example, my mom breastfed me much longer than advised-even though that wasn’t nearly as long as I nursed my son and she also supplemented with formula. But discussing the advice and research she’d encountered when pregnant with me helped me realize our choices were more similar than they seem at first glance: we both bucked common trends to nurse our babies longer than advised because we felt in our hearts and minds that was what was best for them.

Answer as many questions as you feel comfortable answering

Our moms have been worrying about us for several decades now, and they still want to know that we are making good decisions and not just jumping into fads we haven’t researched. Sharing new research and other info that has led you to the decisions you’ve made can help your mom understand why you have made different decisions. For example, the research of Dr. James McKenna at Notre Dame’s Mother-Baby Sleep Lab is new since I was a baby and telling my mom about it made her realize that some of the anti-co-sleeping schpeels from the media are pretty inaccurate.

Do what feels right

Ultimately you are responsible for your kids and have to do what you think is best even if it ticks off your extended family. Use the previous steps to try to avoid starting a fight and to help you and your mom understand each other and why you’ve chosen different parenting practices. But when it comes down to it, do what feels right. In the end, you are the one who has to answer for your parenting choices, and you don’t want to end up blaming your mom for you choosing something you didn’t think was best. Most Grandmas will respect your devotion to your kids, even if they disagree with some of your specific choices.

Tips for Mothers

Realize it is a sensitive issue

Just because you have not talked about parenting with your daughter previously doesn't mean she hasn't already formed some very strong opinions about things. It may not occur to her that you have valuable information to share. Offer to help, but let her come to you. She may see you as not approving of her choices if you try to share too much. It's a tricky balance, making yourself available for your daughter, while listening to her potentially discard some of the very methods that raised this intelligent, independent young mom-to-be. It was a balance that would take us awhile to perfect.  


Remember it's about your daughter

Your daughter and her husband have started a new life together. It's not a competition between the way your family did things and the way her new husband’s family did things. It's about a new family finding the way they will do things. There will be plenty of times you can offer your input and your daughter will come to you when she needs you. There is a lot of difference between the information you read and the practical application of that information. My grandson continues to delight and amaze me as he finds new ways to be a kid that my daughter and I aren’t prepared for. Maybe there is something to this new electronic source of collective parenting information. . .

Ask lots of questions

Parenting techniques seem to change as fast as babies are being born. Your daughter and her doctor will probably use many new unfamiliar terms and there may even be advice that directly contradicts what you learned. We pulled out the information my doctor gave me when I was a new mom and realized that it advised me to never let my baby sleep on its back without supervision. Now they advise to never place the baby on its stomach without supervision. Who can keep up? So, when your daughter is doing something you may not understand, ask questions! You may not agree with the answer, but at least it will help you understand why your daughter is doing things so differently. My daughter and I have been amazed at the number of things the medical community has flip flopped on over the years as we compare what we have been told by our doctors.


Trust your Daughter

Babies have survived Dr. Spock, powdered formula, a variety of bottle and nipple styles, sleeping on their stomach, sleeping on their back, and many other innovations and trends that I probably never heard of. But the thing that remains the same is that moms are always trying to do better.  And, they no longer have to rely on using just the information that their mom may have. Moms have united on the Internet and can now help each other almost instantaneously. Allow your daughter to do the things she finds that will make her a better parent. Sometimes that will be things she learned from you. Sometimes it won't. It's ok! You taught her to do her very best and she listened!

 *My post is based on the assumption that you have a loving, kind mother who would like to have a friendly relationship with you and who wasn’t abusive. If your mother was abusive, you will probably want to seek the advice of a counselor or psychologist to help you figure out the best way to talk about (or not talk about) parenting decisions you're choosing to make.

1 comment :

Andrea said...

I really admire how you and your mom are using your experience to help others. I think I often unintentionally hurt my mom in my earlier parenting days by choosing to do things differently. Looking back, I really was quite a brat about it - not really considering her feelings at all.

Overall, I think all moms are just trying to do the best they can with the resources available to them. Being a mom is the ultimate "vested interest" I guess. The one thing we can't afford to screw up.

But don't worry mom, I've got my own kids now, so there will be payback. I'll try to remember this post when my turn at grandma comes along.