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Parenting Labels

parenting labels

Full disclosure – I do actually like parenting labels. Which I know sounds really terrible, because labelling people is supposed to be a bad thing – but I really do think labels have a time and a place.

Firstly, what I mean by “parenting labels” is like – “Attachment Parenting”, “Child led Parenting”, “Gentle Parenting”, “Free-range parenting”. Or labelling activities, like “cosleeping”, “babywearing” “baby-led weaning” and so on.

And I hear ya – “Isn’t that just parenting/sleeping/carrying/feeding your baby?”

And…. sure… it is. But labels can be helpful. They can provide a starting point for a Google search for people who love to overload themselves with information (like me).

They can be helpful for reaching out to parents with similar viewpoints. I joined an Attachment Parenting Playgroup and it was truly liberating meeting a group of people I knew I could say “Ugh, I’m so tired I was up half the night with my 1 and 4 year old” knowing that nobody was going to instruct me to do controlled crying; “at least with your 4 year old because don’t you think he’s OLD ENOUGH for controlled crying?” – True story, except it was at a PND support group… and it was the psychologist facilitator who said it me – multiple times…

So a parenting labels can be helpful for finding information and locating like-minded people.

Sometimes people don’t want to use the labels, even if they could apply to them and that’s totally okay too! Cosleeping is an interesting one. For example I would say:

“We cosleep, we put our kids down in their own beds, but when they wake up they can come into our bed.”

And someone else might say:

“We don’t cosleep, we put our kids down in their own beds, but when they wake up they can come into our bed.”

Either is totally fine! Use the label – don’t use the label. It’s really up to you.

Sometimes parenting labels are used to describe different approaches, especially when it’s used to explore the effect that has on children, such as “Helicopter Parenting,” “Bulldozer Parents,” “Tiger Mum” and so on.

I do think it would be wildly inappropriate to label another parent as that “type” of parent. Even if it is something like “Attachment Parenting” – that person might actually use the label themselves, but even if you mean well it’s probably best to feel that conversation out first, like “Have you read that book by Dr Sears? I’ve found it really helpful myself…What do you think about it…?” Rather that straight out saying  “This is my friend Rachel, she’s does Attachment Parenting.”

Some terms seem to be open to interpretation, such as “Child led parenting.” To me that means following their cues and responding to wherever they are at – whether it’s during the course of the day or with regards to their development. It’s doing things to their “schedule” rather than the parent’s. But I often see people suggesting that “child led” means no discipline or parental input and the parent adheres to the child’s every whim.

I just don’t think that parenting labels should be used to put other people down, or box them in to what you think that label means. I don’t think it should be used to exclude people – for example as I said with going to the Attachment Parenting Playgroup, the appeal was meeting similar people, but thankfully there was never any pressure to be “AP enough” to join the group. Some parents home-schooled, some went to kindy, some breastfed to school aged, others didn’t breastfeed at all and so on. A few of us joked about the appropriateness of bringing prams to a “Babywearing meet”… so it wasn’t like the Mean Girls thing ;“That’s against the rules and you can sit with us.” 

In saying that I can’t speak for all AP Playgroups, because even if we share a label, we are all individuals…. (Ha… like… Life of Brian “You are all individuals” )

Okay, I’ve falling into quoting random movies, so I should wrap this up quickly!

The bottom like for me with labels is not to get too caught up with them. One isn’t better than another, they’re just ways of describing different choices.

What do you think? Do you like labels? Do you label your own parenting? 

About Rachel Stewart

Rachel is the founder of Parenting Central Australia. She is raising two children, boy and girl, with her partner.

She has a background in early childhood education, but right now is content to be a stay at home mum.

She is passionate about birthing rights, breastfeeding and mental health. She enjoys crafting, drinking coffee (sometimes wine) and spending a little too much time on Facebook.

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