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Here’s the problem with extreme parenting styles

You may have noticed a trend as you compared parenting philosophies at playgroup. The more that you focus on your parenting style, the less you focus on your kids.

I get it — trust me, I do. Those first few months and even years of parenthood are borderline terrifying. I remember spending the last trimester of my pregnancy frantically reading parenting books and websites to figure out how I would fit into the chaos of it all.

Would I be an attachment parent? Probably not — I hate sharing a bed with anyone, and breastfeeding was not the best experience for me. Would I be a tiger mom? Doubtful — I had a rough upbringing and have a hard time being the “bad cop” of the parenting duo.

The options in parenting styles don’t stop there. There is the newly modified RIE parenting, popular among celebrities, where children are treated like mini-adults. And let’s not forget the helicopter parenting trend spurred on by overprotective parents in the past few decades, with free-range parenting as its polar opposite.

Every parent has values and preferences that will lead them to naturally gravitate toward another group of like-minded parents. But in this modern, cutthroat parenting world, that’s where the identification with a parenting style can get dangerous.

To put it plainly, extreme parenting related to any parenting style can be extremely selfish. Once a parenting style becomes a lifestyle, the child is lost in the mix. If you see yourself as a hard-core tiger mom who must rule with an iron fist to successfully raise your kids, the individuality and needs of each child are ignored.

At the very least, strong identification with one parenting style can put unnecessary pressure on the parent. It can even lead to feelings of failure when things don’t turn out as planned. One attachment parent describes her disappointment with weaning her twin babies early, “I was always planning to [breastfeed] my twins for at least a year, but I recently had a week long hospital stay, and I’ve never responded well to the pump.”

“I couldn’t even nurse them when they came to see me once a day because of the medications I was on. So, of course, I now have basically no milk. Plus, the babies seem to have easily transitioned to formula from the bottles and aren’t at all interested in nursing. While I’m happy that they seem to have had an easy time weaning, I can’t help but be sad that I didn’t make it to my goal (they’re 11 months).”

Not every parenting style works for every child. It’s perfectly normal to prefer a certain style of parenting — but making a parenting style your identity will damage your relationship with your child.

Most of us would be better off if we eliminated the words “parenting style” from our vocabulary. There is no method that will guarantee you will be the best parent. Focus on your child and his or her needs and leave the labels out of it.

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