Monday, January 14, 2008

Parenting Theories

Some may say it's a little early to start studying parenting theories - after all, I'm not even in the third trimester yet! And I agree. But on the other hand, I'm already being pulled in different directions in terms of parenting styles. Yes, it's already begun - people I love, respect and admire are telling me how to raise my kid. The kid who ain't even born yet. So I guess I need to do some thinkin'.

A woman whom I respect greatly gave me "Your Self-Confident Baby" by Magda Gerber, founder of the RIE (Resources for Infant Educaring) philosophy. A passage I read last night said:

I don't feel a baby needs to have her mother (or carer) near her at all times. I believe that there is too much emphasis on the idea of holding and touching one's baby, just for the sake of doing it. What is the value of being held or touched if it's only the skin that is in contact? I believe it is better to be with your baby while giving her your full attention whether holding her, tending to her needs, or observing her, than to carry her around with you from room to room strapped in an infant seat, or secured in a baby carrier that you wear, or held while you are busy doing other things such as talking on the phone, reading a book, or cooking. What about your minds connecting, or to become more philosophical, your souls?


When you hold your baby or simply observe her, be fully aware and tuned in to her. Then you are both freer to separate when necessary, feeling "filled" by the other. In my mind, a few minutes of this special receptiveness is much more valuable for both of you than feeling you must remain with the baby constantly or hold her without paying attention to her.


Place her in her safe area where she can play and explore her environment. She will soon discover satisfaction and joy in her own independence. And you will have free time of your own. In this way, both your needs are met. I believe that spending time in her one or two places gives your baby more security than carrying her from room to room with you as you clean, talk on the phone, and so forth. Then when you go back to her, you will both be refueled and ready to interact in a calmer, more loving way. As she grows, you may encourage her to spend more time playing on her own in her safe place.


Contrast this with the philosophy of attachment parenting, which is also being advised to me by a woman I greatly respect:

A baby learns a lot in the arms of a busy caregiver. Carried babies fuss less and spend more time in the state of quiet alertness, the behavior state in which babies learn most about their environment. Babywearing improves the sensitivity of the parents. Because your baby is so close to you, you get to know baby better. Closeness promotes familiarity.


The behavioral state of quiet alertness also gives parents a better opportunity to interact with their baby. Notice how mother and baby position their faces in order to achieve this optimal visually interactive plane. The human face, especially in this position, is a potent stimulator for interpersonal bonding. In the kangaroo carry, baby has a 180-degree view of her environment and is able to scan her world. She learns to choose, picking out what she wishes to look at and shutting out what she doesn't. This ability to make choices enhances learning.


What may happen if the baby spends most of his time lying horizontally in a crib, attended to only for feeding and comforting, and then again separated from mother? A newborn has an inherent urge to become organized, to fit into his or her new environment. If left to his own resources, without the regulating presence of the mother, the infant may develop disorganized patterns of behavior: colicky cries, jerky movements, disorganized self-rocking behaviors, anxious thumb sucking, irregular breathing, and disturbed sleep. The infant, who is forced to self-calm, wastes valuable energy he could have used to grow and develop. While there is a variety of child-rearing theories, attachment researchers all agree on one thing: In order for a baby's emotional, intellectual, and physiological systems to function optimally, the continued presence of the mother, as during babywearing, is a necessary regulatory influence.


Pretty different views, there. Yet I can find concepts I agree with in each. How to incorporate them? And let's not forget, these are only two of the myriad of theories out there. And ultimately, my belief is that there is not one perfect answer; that you have to take from each theory the bits and pieces that make sense to you. And the thing that works for one family (or even for one child in the family) may not work for another. The thing that worked when the child was 2 may not work as well when he is 3. So my real desire is to, you know, get to know this child first (which kind of requires him/her to be born) before making any sweeping subscription to any one parenting theory. And I'm sure Chris and I would appreciate the chance to get a bit acquainted with ourselves as parents before making any huge decisions.

In the meantime, what do I say to the well-meaning people who are all set to tell me how to raise my kid?

1 comment:

sarapants said...

I'm calling shenanigans on the first theory....and your theory is bang on: do what feels right for you and your bebe! Those books that you're reading never gave birth to Baby Buechler. Not even once!


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