Monday, October 24, 2011

Parenting Conference

When Q-ball turned six-months old, my husband and I held our first official parenting conference to figure out what kind of parents we wanted to be.  We had discussed this before Q-ball was born, of course.  But, as first time parents, I must admit that we had more conversations about what to buy and about labor and delivery.  At the six-month mark, Q-ball was sitting up, rolling all over the place, reaching for everything, and crawling was surely just around the corner (and has since happened!) Also, my idealistic thoughts of being a SAHM (peaceful coffee and newspaper in the mornings, yoga in the afternoons, lots of time after baby goes to sleep at night…) have been banished, so I felt we could analyze where we wanted to go from a more realistic perspective.
Here was our topic: Based upon a discussion of our beliefs and objectives towards parenting, how did we want to raise our children? 
I thought that it would be super easy to find resources for such an event on the Internet.  I was surprised to find, however, that there was pretty much nothing.  Our conference was based upon internal assessments of our personal attitudes, but most of what I found did not necessarily encourage personal reflection.  These sites seem to be grouped into three categories:

1.          Organizations or groups that propose a certain parenting style - These sites are very informative and offer great resources and a sense of community, but they were not what I was looking for because they assume you have already decided what parenting style you want.
2.          Sites that resolve conflicts between parents who have different parenting styles - Here, it appears that parents did not have a “parenting conference,” which is unfortunate for the children, because they were likely receiving mixed signals, and for the parents, because major conflicts appeared to have erupted.
3.          Quizzes based upon actual daily scenarios that allow you to determine your parenting style based upon your answers - Again, it appears that the quiz taker did not necessarily have a plan in place going into events and is now trying to figure out their style. 

So, to help others who might be interested in holding their own parenting conferences, here is what we did.  We thought it worked quite nicely and would recommend it others.
1.          Make ice cream sundaes. (Beer or wine would also suffice.)
2.          As a couple, answer the following questions:
a.            How were we disciplined growing up?  This question helps uncover any bias and/or background experience.
b.            How do we envision our home?  What does a typical day look like?  What does family time look like? 
c.            How do we find “balance”?  (Or, how will we stay sane?)
d.            What are our goals in raising our children?  How can we accomplish these?
e.            What is the role of a parent?
f.             How do we believe a child should- be fed? Sleep? Play? Take part in day-to-day activities?
g.            How do we want to respond to our children’s- fears? Tantrums? Successes? Happiness?
h.            How do we want to communicate with our children?
i.              Are boundaries necessary?  If so, how will we set them?
j.              What is the goal of discipline? 
k.            How do we envision discipline?
l.              How will we make decisions? Resolve differences between us?
3.          Repeat conference regularly, noting that as parents and children grow, opinions change.

Our answers helped us determine that attachment parenting with a touch of Montessori’s educational philosophy best match our beliefs. Because of our parenting conference, we think hope we are better able to learn from these communities and the resources they offer, but, ultimately uphold our beliefs and help our child flourish. 

Do you think it’s important to determine a parenting style?  How did you determine yours? Has it changed over time?

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