Intuition and Book Smarts: Mixing Up Parenting Strategies

I had heard of attachment parenting before I was a parent, but only in passing.  I had never read Dr. Sears’ books and I certainly remember definitively stating to my coworker friends that I would NEVER subscribe to the idea of the “family bed.”  True to my ever-prepared nature, while pregnant, I certainly did read a variety of nursing and sleep training books.  My husband and I were particularly convinced that Dr. Karp’s The Happiest Baby on the Block swaddling, rocking, and shushing techniques would lull our infant child.  Sometimes parenting changes everything you think you know.  In our case, when our daughter was born, we found that our preferred parenting methods actually most closely matched those supported in attachment parenting philosophies, which I know and understand are not for everyone.

When we had our little girl, the poster child for difficult sleepers, we shushed, swaddled, and rocked to no avail, until, at the recommendation of an experienced parent, we brought her to bed with us, where she slept peacefully and fully…finally.  I was a bit conflicted about this decision, which flew in the face of all the sleep training books I had read, until I came upon Dr. Sears’ attachment parenting style, which advocates for co-sleeping.   This experience was my first juggling of my own intuition, advice of my pediatrician, advice of friends, and parenting research.  We explored all the options and ultimately found what worked best for us and our daughter.

I’ve come to believe that the resources folks use to parent are much like learning styles.  Some of us rely primarily on intuition, some of us look to pediatricians as experts, some of us follow traditions and guidance from family, others of us utilize books and research.  I’ve found my own style is to research, balance the information with my knowledge of my daughter and intuition about her needs, then to try something different if the first option doesn’t work.

The reasons why I read about child development and parenting are many.  I have two Psychology degrees that reflect my ongoing interest in human development and I’m always looking to learn more. Though I do trust my own experience and education, I don’t believe I have all the answers, and I’m willing to hear other perspectives when they are supported by expert research, educational credentials, and experience.  The reasons why I prefer research to “advice-giving” (although, I have asked for it from trusted friends and family members), is that if I strongly object to the “advice given,” I just shut the book and return it to the library. There’s no offense, no harm done, and no awkward tension when I/we choose to take another direction.  I haven’t yet found a pediatrician who is willing to share options beyond the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics so while I do ask for and value my pediatrician’s advice, I balance that with the needs of my individual child, and sometimes take a different direction.  Research gives me a sense of support and understanding.  It allows me to feel more comfortable trusting in my intuition or raises questions that I might need to consider in the best interest of my child.

I know parents for whom the idea of using books to parent is a misfit, those who parent well using a combination of other resources.  I also have heard parents dismiss others’ parenting styles because they are not their particular preference. To me, this kind of attitude lacks understanding.  Parenting is an ongoing learning process, one in which we are learning about our children at a particular point in time, and about ourselves.  Like any learning experience, there is no one size fits all approach.  Ultimately, whatever resources we use in our parenting, the important thing is that our children’s needs are met and that they are healthy and happy.  Whatever empowers us to do this is the best approach.

What parenting resources do you prefer?  How have you struck a balance with the information you use to parent?

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4 responses to “Intuition and Book Smarts: Mixing Up Parenting Strategies

  • Angie

    My sons are twenty and thirteen and I’m still reading parenting books. These days, though, instead of reading about how to get them to sleep (my eldest never slept well no matter what we tried) I’m reading about being a good mother-in-law (my eldest just got engaged!) and communicating with your teen (the thirteen-year-old is doing a lot of eye-rolling). I’ve always believed that if someone feels strongly enough about something to put the time and effort into writing a book about it, and then manages to convince someone else that it’s important enough to be published, odds are they’re a better source of information than the lady behind me in the grocery line. Keep reading!!

    • Pamela

      Hi Angie! Thanks for sharing! I am so a reader, so it was inevitable. Congrats on the engagement and for being the kind of MIL who will read on how to be a good MIL?! What lucky kids you have!

  • Shell Things (@shellthings)

    I like a combination of intuition and using what I’ve learned from experts/books. But, it has to be a mix of what works for us- since after all, you can find parenting books that completely contradict each other in so many things!

    • Pamela

      I totally agree! There are a lot of contradictory messages out there: between books, between pediatricians, between parents. You have to find the methods that help you feel confident and secure about your parenting choices, because you can always find someone to tell you you’re doing it wrong! Good point!

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