Let’s lose the provocative parenting labels: you do you

cheerful mother and daughter having fun on bed at home

How do you parent? Do you let your kids run amok (free-range parenting), or do you schedule their every moment while standing very nearby (helicopter parenting)? Are you a “gentle” parent, “attachment” parent, “crunchy” parent, “authoritative” parent? And does it really matter?

I recently read an article about “puddle parents”: “Puddle parents encourage their children to veer off the path typically prescribed for them, who promote creativity and thinking outside the box, and who value things like kindness and authenticity and experiences more than academic and worldly success.”

Sounds lovely, right? Of course it does.

But why do we have to separate parenting into boxes?

I got completely behind “free-range parenting” because I thought that was me. Fast forward a few years – now I do a little helicoptering while my daughters try new skills (like cooking and baking.) I also did attachment parenting, but with pieces of cry-to-sleep and co-sleeping when my girls were babies and toddlers.

Related: It’s okay not to love the baby stage

Parenting does not fit under a label. It doesn’t even work with broad themes. Each year, week, day, and moment, is unique and you can’t put a label on everything we do as parents.

I like the idea of “I do what works for me, my family, and my children” parenting. My girls are very different. I strive to give them both the same opportunities, responsibilities and freedoms, but that looks different for each of them.

Now that I’m well away from babies and toddlers, and approaching the teen mom years, I can look back and see that every moment of my parenting is different from every other, but some things are consistent.

Know your child

Every child has different needs. As you move through the ages and stages you will learn your child in a way no one else will. Supporting and parenting them will evolve into something only you and your parenting partner will have full knowledge of. And that’s how it should be.

Remember that each one of your children has unique needs. What works for one may not work for another. (Super bonus if it does!) This is the real challenge of parenting – learning, changing, and providing for each child as a whole person.

Learn from your mistakes

This should be easy, right? As parents we make A LOT of mistakes, but it’s not always obvious why.

As your children get older they will tell you what they need (or don’t!) but with young children, everything is trial and error. Part of getting to know your child includes mistakes and tears – yours and theirs. But when we have their best interests at heart we can take those mistakes and build toward a well-rounded parenting goal.

Let your child make their own mistakes

This is one is hard. Support and guidance is wonderful, but as children grow they also need space to make their own mistakes. This is learning, plain and simple. They need to lose their balance and fall. They need to explore with all their senses. They need to make friends and have unpleasant interactions. And they need to experience consequences.

Watching our children fail, get hurt, be upset, and make mistakes can be heartbreaking. But it is also watching them grow, develop, learn new skills and gain confidence.

The only things we consistently need to do is help our children stay safe and feel loved. But how we choose to do that is always and ultimately up to us.

Til next time!


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  1. This is such good advice. I’ve always parented my own way. I can see where I went wrong with my older kids and try to improve on this with my younger ones, you can’t get everything right but you can learn as you go along

  2. Thank you! I’ve always gravitated to this way of thinking and appreciate you sharing this for others to think about.

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