Does My Parenting Style Even Matter?

Does my parenting style even matter?Much of the bluster of the so-called “mommy wars” centers around parenting styles. But recently, I read an article in The Sun about parenting around the world by Utah State anthropologist David Lancey, who contends that parenting style at the infant/toddler stage doesn’t make a real difference.

Shocking, huh? Stay with me, because it makes sense. For most of time, parents couldn’t really afford to get too attached to pregnancies, babies and even small children. Death was common. Most societies put value and stock in the older members of their societies, which makes sense. Older people have life experience and wisdom that needs to be passed down. Especially so in the sense of ancient societies, where the wisdom these individuals carried could mean the difference in your clan or tribe surviving or not.

In some societies today, this thinking carries on. In China, it’s a common belief that it’s better to lose a child than a parent, for you can always have more children but a parent cannot be replaced. Western thought recoils at this idea, and that’s because we are what the author calls a “neontocracy” where babies and children are what matter most.

Now, any mom who has had to wield a cart full of groceries with two preschoolers in tow, or who has walked into a non-family friendly restaurant with two hungry kids to scowls and frowns from other patrons would tell you that is absolutely not the case. But the amount of time we spend worrying about, arguing and reading about parenting in these early years bears out his claim.

The truth is, we put so much pressure on ourselves to make sure our babies are learning and growing and developing on par with their peers when in reality, these things happen on their own. Babies learn to speak, eat, walk, use the potty and sleep through the night largely regardless of what we as parents do.

Lancey’s argument is that in Western culture the babies and kids are fussed over so much because they become our trophies—our measurement of self-worth. To have a “good” baby is to be a “good” parent. To have a an intellectually or athletically gifted child is something to brag about, so we try to get our kids to talk earlier, walk earlier, play sports earlier and read earlier than anyone else’s kid. Who is this helping? Certainly not the children, and it’s stressing us out as parents.

So what’s the solution? Lancey says it’s simple: maybe just chill out and quit placing so much pressure on our children to be our everything in life. Give your child free time to play. Let them interact with individuals of different ages. Let them learn at their own pace. Give them jobs to do. Don’t place your self worth in their accomplishments. Most of all, let them make mistakes, and let them learn from them.

Saying your parenting style doesn’t matter doesn’t mean that you are harming your child by taking a certain approach, just don’t ever get too down on yourself or too proud of yourself, regardless of the circumstances, because you are affecting the outcome much less than you think.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls who lives and writes in Oklahoma City.  

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