Monday, October 17, 2011

Mama La Vida Lanka, Obsessing About Parenting Part 1: What Is Natural Parenting?

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For the longest time I’ve been grappling with what kind of parenting philosophy to guide us in raising our family.  I’ve seen a few articles that seem to verbalize what kind of parent I would like to be.  But it somehow did not satisfy me just yet.  Was I looking for a label?  Maybe.  So as I was researching about breastfeeding I chanced upon Natural Parenting and somehow what it stood for fit our ideals – both hubby and I.  Researching on this was what took over me this weekend (talk about obsessed!).

So what exactly is Natural Parenting (or NP for short)?  According to the Natural Parents Network, “’Natural parenting’ is based on a desire to live and parent responsively and consciously. While no two families who practice natural parenting may define it the same way, there are several principles that are widely agreed to be part of this lifestyle. These are ideals that natural parents tend to hold — even if we don’t always live up to all of them, we keep them in mind as goals.” 

I like that in as much as it is a philosophy, it is still very flexible.  It doesn’t force parents into a box.  Rather it provides a collection of principles for which parents uphold as ideals.  I also appreciate that the group recognizes that parenting is a process and that you can call yourself a natural parent even if you don’t “perfectly” practice all.

What then are the principles of Natural Parenting?  The Natural Parenting Network presents the following:

  • Attachment/Responsive Parenting which includes preparing for pregnancy, birth and parenting; feeding with love and respect; responding with sensitivity; using nurturing touch; ensuring safe sleep; providing consistent and loving care; practice gentle/positive discipline; striving for balance in personal and family life.
  • Ecological Responsibility and Love of Nature: Families strive to reduce their ecological footprint by living consciously and making Earth-friendly choices, such as by choosing organic when possible, using cloth diapers etc.
  • Holistic Health Practices: Parents research medical choices and make educated decisions regarding all health care. Many families choose to use alternative or natural healthcare such as herbal remedies, chiropractic care, natural childbirth, and so on.
  • Natural Learning: Families spend time together, and children learn through everyday activities. Parents try to facilitate learning without “teaching,” to help children ask questions that develop thinking, to develop consideration for others without shaming or training, to give choices while guiding the children, to listen to instinctual cues, to honor emotions and desires, to allow development to take place in its own time, and to engender cooperation and harmony without manipulation.

The Natural Parenting Network also provides additional principles:

  • Healthy Eating and Living: Eating healthy foods, making regular time for physical movement and having a healthy body image. 
  • Parenting Philosophies: Parents and parents-to-be research different parenting philosophies.
  • Political and Social Activism: Families who parent against the grain often see issues in society they want to change and they work to make that happen.
  • Family Safety and Health

At the end of the day, they say “Natural Parenting is making the choice to develop a deep bond with your children and family based on mutual respect. An attached child grows into a mature and interdependent individual who understands how to develop healthy, secure relationships with others.”

Now isn’t that wonderful?  At the end of the day I realized that in as much as I like putting concepts in “nice, little boxes” (cognitively economical that way!) it wasn’t the mere boxing in a particular parenting label that mattered.  What I was really looking for was a framework to move along in this new space called Parenting.  

Check out the second part of this series for why Natural Parenting resonated with me (and hubby!). 

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