Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Laid-back Parenting

When people mention the term "laid-back", I think most people bring to mind the ultimate laid-back stereotype: the surfer dude. Slow drawling speech, languid cat-like movements, happy-go-lucky attitude, carefree, no-pressure job and a passion for their favorite past-time.

Is there anything wrong with that type of lifestyle? Absolutely not! If it works for you, then more power to you! But how can you meld the laid-back lifestyle into parenting?

Children need structure, boundaries and discipline. Those needs are not mutually exclusive for a laid-back parent. But the laid-back parent must decide, as must all parents, what is a priority and stick to those priorities.

I must admit, I'm married to a laid-back parent. Yes, I said it. He's laid back; I'm uptight. But we balance each other most of the time. Here's what I've learned from him:

- It's okay to let your child fall down.
He'll inevitably get back up and try it again. To my husband, this means "let the child explore". To me it means "lots more bruises and owies!"

- What time is it? Schedule? Oh yah... that.
I know that my children need a routine and a schedule. I know that if they don't go down for naps by a certain time, they will be miserable. My husband isn't as time conscious as I am. Suddenly, it will be an hour past our son's dictated nap time. Or it's 1:30pm and no one has eaten lunch. Sometimes it's not a problem but other times it can present a huge challenge and disrupt the entire family and the rest of the day.

- Guidelines are just that: guidelines
"No dairy before 12 months." "Co-sleeping is good/bad for the child." "Cry-it-out or not." If there's an article supporting one view, there's another article just as vehemently opposing that view. A good laid-back parent will educate himself, learn what's out there in the world of parenting advice, then cull the strategies and routines that work best for the lifestyle of his family. Not a single "expert" out there has all the right answers for every family or every situation.

- Be silly
Go ahead. Wiggle that tush! Jump up and down while squealing like a chimp! Let your little girl put barrettes in your hair, Daddy! Sing at the top of your lungs to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Enjoy your second childhood through the eyes of your own children.

- Find balance
Laid back is fun. It's less stressful. There are no demands for perfection. But find the balance so that your children learn when it's important to act quickly, be serious and how to descern the importance priorities.

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