In today’s world of 21st century parenting chat rooms, television programs and books each claim to have the golden answers to our parenting dilemmas. But do they control or compliment our parenting? Does the overabundance of this type of information help us discover our own inner parent, or turn us into parenting advice junkies? Monic Joint, a mum, former nanny, baby massage instructor, positive parenting author and founder of MummyMustHave.co.uk investigates parenting styles from the 19th century to the present.
Parenting styles from the Victorian times to the present have changed dramatically, having longreaching effects. Issues such as divorce, the introduction of the Pill, commuting and living away from our extended families have all influenced the way we raise children today. Parents are no longer necessarily married, may be same-sex and stepfamilies are now common.
Whatever method of parenting you follow, there are certainly many options to choose from.
Currently, parenting styles fall into four different categories: Indulgent, Authoritarian, Authoritative, or Uninvolved Indulgent: this is a responsive attitude to parenting and laid back in its approach to childrearing.
Authoritarian: These parents have high standards for, and expect total obedience from, their children.
Authoritative: These parents have expectations and standards for their children and are responsive to their child’s needs; discipline is constructive, not punishing.
Uninvolved: This approach has a low level of involvement, emotional stimulation and/or care. Children may feel neglected or that they need to meet their needs themselves. The following are a few examples of parenting from the present and recent centuries. Some are famous; others range from strict to very nurturing and one of them can be lethal….
19th and 20th styles of parenting:
The Truby King Method: This method was common practice in Britain until the 1950’s. Strict routines, leaving baby outside for an hour a day, allowing baby to ‘cry it out’, limiting cuddles to 10 minutes per day and feeding baby every four hours are some examples of this technique. Truby King beleived babies should not be allowed to control their parents. He once stated that higher education for women would ruin their mothering abilities and result in harming the human race. This method had disasterous consequences for nanny Clair Verity on the Channel 4 program ‘Bringing up Baby’, broadcast last year, when outraged parents, the health industry and children’s groups denounced her for demonstrating what they deemed outdated, cruel and unsafe practices.
The Dr. Spock Method: Another method portrayed on the ‘Bringing up Baby’ series, Dr. Spock’s method of parenting continues in popularity to this day. Born in 1903, the Olympic gold medalist Dr. Spock was a pediatrician who spent many years studying psychoanalytics, the only physician of his time to do so. Author of several parenting books, he told parents "Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do" and "Parenting is about choices and deciding what’s best for your child". His teachings were a welcome relief from ‘children should be seen and not heard’ authoritarian methods, and he advocated being responsive and affectionate to the needs of children. According to his official website: ‘During Spock’s long lifetime, his book would be translated into 39 languages and sell more than 50 million copies, making it second in sales only to the Bible.’
20th and 21st century parenting:
Dr. Sears/Attachment Parenting: Dr. Sears is an American pediatrician, author of several parenting books and a strong advocate of close, natural parenting. Parents who follow this method usually breastfeed and are responsive to their baby’s crying. They often wear their baby, sleep withtheir infant in the same room and use positive parenting techniques. Members of these families tend to be strongly bonded to one another, and discipline is used constructively, intending to guide, not punish children’s behaviour.
Routine Parenting: We are no doubt all familiar with the recent rise of parenting experts as seen in today’s media: the program ‘The House of Tiny Tearaways’ and nannies such as Gina Ford, ‘Supernanny’ Jo Frost, the ‘Baby Whisperer’ Tracy Hogg, the ‘Nanny 911’ ladies and others. All of these women are known for their different styles of raising children; some are even parents themselves. Their various approaches are usually routine-based. Examples such as ‘time out’/ reward-based discipline or structuring a child’s feeds, sleeps and schedule are common. While some families find routine provides them with predictability, others may have lifestyles that make routineparenting challenging.
Attachment Disorder Therapy: Frighteningly, this little-known therapy and form of parenting originally began in America around 1975. This therapy claims to treat children who cannot bond with their new parent (often foster or adoptive parents) and are thought to have repressed rage against their biological parents. Therapists of this approach teach parents to train their children to be forever obedient, unquestioning and cheerful at all times. Children who experience this method are sometimes starved or segregated from family and friends, are forced to spend time in a locked room and are often home-schooled. On occasion, they are subjected to ‘holdings’ where the parent is made to lie on top of the child, belittling and screaming at him/her, until the child breaks down. Over time, this is meant to reprogram the child by reducing them to an infant-like state, thus reducing their resistance to total obedience to their parents. Since 2001, the therapy has changed slightly following the high profile deaths of two children. It is NOT a form of popular or mainstream parenting.But what if you what to parent in your own way, but need some ideas to think about before getting started?
And finally, what I call ‘D.I.Y.’ parenting: If you’d like to parent in your own way, without influence, this can be a rewarding but sometimes tougher option. Start with having clear ideas about what is important to you as a family. How would you blend what is best for you as parents with what is best for your baby? When first pregnant, my partner and I discussed different parenting scenarios; I was pleasantly surprised to realise just how alike our views were. We talked a lot about which values were important to us, and discussed how we would ideally like to handle situations in future, helping us to feel a bit more confident. Lastly, keep advice for optional future reference; it may not seem relevant now but may inspire you later on. When examining parenting advice, always use your own judgement as a rule of thumb when deciding to follow anyone’s suggestions. If it does not feel right for you, do not force yourself; it just may not be right for your family. Remember too that change can take time, so give yourself a compassionate window of adjustment while waiting to see how things turn out. YOU ARE A MORE EXPERIENCED PARENT EVERY DAY.