Sometimes I wonder whether the difficult choices I make as a parent will actually pay off.  Although responsive parenting is what feels right to me, it isn’t always the easiest way to parent especially because it can be so different from what other people do. In being different, parents who choose to go against the grain can be perceived as odd, ‘soft’ or even as making a silent commentary on other parents’ choices.  When my friends went back to work and I stayed home, I was the odd one out.  When my daughter carried on breastfeeding past the first few months, and my friends had weaned their babies, I was the unusual one.  When I resisted the popular advice to let my baby cry it out, others couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t.  When I put my babies in a sling friends and strangers alike wondered why I didn’t just use a pram.

Although I held no opinion on their choices about their children, my own quiet decisions were perceived as a threat to some people.  When it became clear that my choices were very different, some of my friends distanced themselves from me.  It was painful to be pushed aside, to have phone calls left unreturned, to be looked at with a disdainful glance as I lifted my top to feed my one year old.  I knew that they didn’t approve of me, and even now it hurts.

But rather than change my choices, external disapproval acted like a furnace on my heart.  I looked at myself through the eyes of my critics and considered my decisions afresh.  Rather than change my ways, their criticism of my choices only burned away all doubt and made me feel even more confirmed that I must defend my choice to listen to my child above all others.  Because if the world was full of people who put my child second, third, fourth or last, the hard truth is that I am my child’s only champion.

Sending my children to school means that my parenting choices are often placed under the microscope.  I refuse to have my crying child wrenched from my arms so that he can go to nursery.  I will not sneak away without saying goodbye.  When my older children are unfairly chastised at school, I listen to them first and the teacher second, and stand up for my children when they need me.  I hope that I am fair, but I will not be cowed by authority.  No one will stand in between my child and me.

When constantly under pressure from outside forces, it is hard to have the resilience to keep the course and do what I feel is right.  But there are golden moments when I think, “Yes, this is why.”  This is why I do what I do, this is why I stand up and go against the grain, this is why in the face of disapproval I do what I know is ultimately right for me and my family.

This morning, one such instance.  My eldest daughter recalled a time when she’d been having problems with another girl at school.  She recounted how the boys in the class had taunted her for telling me about her problems and going to the Headteacher for help.  “Why do you have to go to your mum and get us into trouble?” they jeered.

As she told me this story I felt the anger build inside me. How dare they try to intimidate my child into keeping secrets from me?  How intolerable it would be to think that she could be suffering and not telling me for fear of being taunted and disliked.  The fear of disconnection from her swelled within me and I felt seasick. I watched the birds out of the window as she talked, not wanting her to see my rage and my fear.

As the birds flew away she said, “I know what I’ll say if they say that again.” “What will you say?” I asked. With triumphant emphasis she said, “I’ll say, I’m telling my mum because I trust her.”

And as I stared at out the window at the empty feeder, the tears building behind the dam of my gaze, I thought, “Yes, this is why.”

Will you please share those times when you had confirmation that you were on the right path?

Photo credit: jans canon (Goldfinch  Uploaded by Snowmanradio) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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When responsive parenting pays off
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20 thoughts on “When responsive parenting pays off

  • 20/09/2012 at 3:06 pm

    Lisa, What a great post! Love it! I had a very nice validating moment last night. For some reason I experienced horrible stomach pains last night and I was literally moaning in pain when the waves of cramping hit me. I decided after feeding the kids dinner that I could have a bath to see if that helped at all. I explained to the kids what was happening and they kind of sprung into action. They decided together that one would massage my feet and one my shoulders while I was in the bath (!) and then they would swap. It was the sweetest thing watching them take care of me, trying in the only way they knew how to make mommy feel better. At one point I got out and went to lie in my bed. After they had their bath they came and I explained that there was no way I could put them to bed and read to them. They were definitely disappointed, but after a few minutes they came and tucked me in and kissed me goodnight and off they went.
    I really saw the joy in their faces when they were able to do something nice for me and I like to think that I had something to do with that empathy they expressed. Would they be that caring if I hadn’t practiced empathetic parenting? I have no idea. But I do think I’ve done something right.

    • 20/09/2012 at 4:33 pm

      Thank you for sharing that lovely heart-warming story. It’s similar to those times when an older sibling lovingly looks after a younger one, or when a toddler starts cuddling their little dollies.

  • 20/09/2012 at 3:51 pm

    Oh gosh Lisa. If i had a great big enormous gold medal I would give it to you RIGHT NOW. Firstly for being such a great Mum and for nurturing such a fantastic relationship with your girls; but also for being such a great role model. Oh, and also for writing about it so eloquently. You might like to know I am sitting here typing this through a flood of tears having read your beautiful words. Thank you. I hope my boys feel the same. Gxxxx

  • 20/09/2012 at 4:41 pm

    Wow! Well, that’s it, isn’t it? You’ve done what most of us ‘aware parents’ set out to do – be trusted by our children. 🙂 Write out what she said and post it up in a cupboard somewhere to read next time you’re having one of those parenting downers, to remind you what a wonderful job you’re doing xx

  • 20/09/2012 at 8:31 pm

    I have seen my child be more confident at trying new experiences than those around him and I think it was because I never ignored his need for me or his feelings, I always let him go at his pace when trying out the new. I

    I have to fight a never ending battle to find places and people that allow him to go at his pace but it is worth it. The pay off will be profound as it will also influence his future relationships, family and own parenting. Humans have evolved to have feelings over thousands of years for a reason, they show us the right choice for us. This is surely a biological feedback system of warnings and encouragements. As an adult we are all very used to listening to our feelings and valuing them as a guide, especially stress, children have the exact same needs and their feelings are even more important whilst they develop their skills in expressing their needs clearly.

    Fight on and remember that our children will know that we loved them and that is all that matters. x

  • 20/09/2012 at 9:11 pm

    Thanks for sharing your post with us, I feel you’ve shared my words it’s exactly how I feel!
    Although miss9 I slowly talking about the stuff that happens – less… 🙁

  • 20/09/2012 at 9:41 pm

    Bravo! I’m with you. I breastfed my son till he was about two and half. The pressure to stop from silent disapproving looks was building and not so silent pressure from my husband. One thing that kept me going was knowing that the world health organisation recommends breastfeeding to age two and once I got to that point I looked into it further and discovered that they weren’t saying to stop at two they were just saying do it till at least two but if you keep going it’s still good for them. People will pressure a mother like hell to breastfeed up to six months then pressure them like hell to stop after that which is an artificial, arbitrary cut off point with no reason to it except that it’s when people start becoming socially uncomfortable with the sight and the idea of it. It continues to be good for our babies so why should we deny them their best nutrition just because it makes people embarrassed. Being a good mother takes bravery and it means examining your choices for their true motivation. I’m glad I breastfed as long as I did and I’m glad I stopped when I did. I found it hard to continue breastfeed against the tide of social norms but ironically I also found it hard to stop when I wanted to because there wasn’t any information out there on how to wean a toddler. All the literature was about weaning the six month olds because that’s when people expected that you should do it. So thank you for sharing your story and good on you.

  • 20/09/2012 at 10:16 pm

    Beautiful! I have yet to experience this as we have only little ones who aren’t in school yet. But it is good to see that down the road the trust is there. Can you homeschool in England?

    • 21/09/2012 at 7:15 pm

      Hi KC,
      Thanks so much for taking the time to read and reply. Yes, I have many friends who home educate their children, though here in Wales there is uproar because the government is trying to change the rules, much to home educators’ dismay. 🙁

      I hope you will return again and continue to read and share.
      Lisa x

  • 20/09/2012 at 10:20 pm

    BRAVO for not giving in to your friends pressure. Well done! I have an almost two year-old boy, he still doesn’t talk but he respondes the same way with me.

    Whenever he gets hurt or if the isn’t confortable with something and cries a little, I tell him “come tell mummy about it” and it doesn’t matter how far I am from him or how many people there are around him (even his father or any of his grandparents), he will come running only to me and look for my confort. Sometimes it only takes 5 or 10 seconds of confort, of getting his head in my legs and a soft touch in his hair, but it makes everyone around envyous at a point of telling me that I’m spoiling him. The faces they make!

    Having our childs trust is something that I must fight for everyday, is a task that I feel I cannot fail as a mother, is something that I need to do every single time my child expects me too, this is something I do for him, but that also warms my heart more and more each day, because even if I feel like I gave everything I got for that particular day and I feel tired, the love and trust I get in return fills me up again with encouragement to go on. I hope you feel that too. x

  • 21/09/2012 at 12:01 am

    Thanks Lisa, as usual your story brought tears to my eyes as I recognise the struggle. As a (reluctant) working Mum I find my parenting practices often draw attention from work colleagues and friends alike. They are incredulous at what they view as my manner of making life harder for myself, because I do not follow usual patterns of parenting- sleep training etc and they are mystified that my two year old has never had a cot or bed of her own, let alone a bedroom of her own, and they are confused by the absence of adult only weekends away, girls nights out etc. as I view my family time as the most precious gift and treasure it. I’ve had many frantic days however, especially recently, when I’ve wished that my six year old would do as she is told instead of engaging in lengthy discussions about the reasons behind my instruction!
    I had a lightbulb moment this morning though, when she asked me what I was thinking about, and I absentmindedly filled her in on a dilemma I was mulling over in my head. My daughter’s thoughtful response was considered, empathic and really insightful into the emotions I’d been experiencing but not acknowledging which had been clouding my thinking. She presented me with such sage advice and encouragement that I was overwhelmed by her wisdom and insight. Amongst the chaos and difficulties of daily life it was a much needed moment of reassurance that I am doing at least some things right.

  • 21/09/2012 at 3:57 am

    When you see the fruits of your labor, it truly is rewarding. Too often people try to intervene in your parenting when nothing is really wrong. While many couldn’t understand our decision to solely breastfeed for nearly nine months, they now comment on the resiliency of our daughter- both physically, emotionally, mentally, etc. My latest mommy mantra is “the proof is in the pudding”. 🙂 If a parenting decision doesn’t work well for us all (child included), then it’s time to assess and adjust.

  • 21/09/2012 at 11:53 am

    I am a mum to a 15 month old and am starting this journey into parenting. I am already facing the hurdles you describe and I have only just left the starting blocks and am on my first lap! It is a relief to hear about your experiences and cast my self doubt aside. Thank you for sharing x

  • 21/09/2012 at 4:53 pm

    Thanks for the lovely post Lisa, it comes at a good time for me. I’ve taken my 7 yr old out of school having decided to trust what he was saying and my instincts, despite huge disapproval. It was definitely the right choice as I now have my relationship with my son back – and he can now be the lovely person that he is – empathetic, gentle, courageous, affectionate – without stress he can’t deal with. BUT, having had a day full of doubt about what we’re doing and feeling rather lonely (just like in the early baby days, as you say), it is great to be reminded about why we’re doing this, thank you!

  • 21/09/2012 at 6:42 pm

    Absolutely love this!! It is how I’m bringing all 3 of mine up the older 2 (22 & 16) trust me so unreservedly that they tell me everything even things that sometimes I find a little uncomfortable to hear 🙂 but I love the fact that they know and are safe in the knowledge that there are no conditions or boundaries with our relationship and I hope iolo grows up feeling the same! It really does pay off 🙂 thank you for writing about this and normalising it 🙂 x

  • 21/09/2012 at 7:46 pm

    I would just like to add – that it is so helpful to read these comments and your blog Lisa. I do not always get it right, but when I get signs that I am bringing up a sensitive, kind, and thoughtful son it makes it all worth it and hearing others stories of signs of being on a positive path, it helps me feel more self assured about my own choices. – Big thank you.

    • 21/09/2012 at 7:49 pm

      Thank you Charlotte. I have been really very touched by the comments on this post. I love the way people are sharing and supporting one another.

  • 21/09/2012 at 8:30 pm

    Lisa, thank you so much for this timely and inspiring post. You know better than anyone the pressure that I have felt recently regarding my parenting choices, and it’s been a bumpy road getting to where we are now. Oddly enough the bad decisions I have made have been more useful than the good ones in convincing me that my way was right all along for my child: as a previous poster said, those instinctive feelings are there for a reason. Thank you for the boost xxx

  • 23/09/2012 at 1:07 pm

    Thank you and kudos for sharing such a wonderful story, Lisa. As a mother of five, I have learned so much from your blog. May God give you the strength to continue your choice of raising your children and living your life the way you see it right for you. Although it is easier said than done, pray for your friends that they accept you for who you are.

  • 23/09/2012 at 10:05 pm

    Thank you for your inspiring post, Lisa! I realised early on in my parenting career that I was making choices that were very different to others’ and to start with it worried me. But I soon realised it was something to be proud of – doing what I felt instinctively to be the right thing for my children rather than simply doing what everyone else was doing or what the book said. But it’s hard when you think people are looking at you and questioning what you are doing – particularly when your children are not acting perfectly! So thank you, as ever, for the inspiration! Kirsten

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