Wednesday, July 14, 2010

My Way

My problem with most parenting theories these days is that they don't take one major factor into consideration - the parent! I think you can be the best parent you can be if the parent in you is aligned with the person you are rather than striving towards some parenting ideal spouted by an expert.

What got me started on this was this article on Babble and in particular this video:

The article says: "Fernald and her colleagues found that the children of mothers who spoke more, used different words for the same object, used different types of words, and spoke in longer phrases to their children at eighteen months, not only had larger vocabularies but were faster at processing words at twenty-four months."

Here's the thing. I can't do this. I cannot keep up this kind of constant chatter communication with my kids. That's just not my personality. I can be as talkative as the next person but I need to balance that with periods of solitude and repose to stay sane. So that is how I am with my kids too. If you were to walk into my house randomly, you could find me playing with them and talking to them, but you could just as likely find me sitting next to them while they played independently and reading a book.

The picture above is from when Ayaan was about three but this kind of thing is a pretty common sight even today. This way, he has the reassurance of my physical presence and knows that he just has to speak up when he wants to engage more directly.

With Tarana too, I usually plonk her down next to a basket of toys and let her get on with it. When she needs a cuddle, she crawls over, gets it and then goes back to playing. When she starts fussing out of boredom, I put my book down, talk to her, get her interested in another toy and then get back to my book.

This is what is comfortable for me. If I had to talk to the kids every waking moment, I would be seriously stressed out!

The article above also seems to draw links between the quantum of communication and vocabularies. I am not sure how competitive Ayaan's vocabulary was at twenty four months but both his teachers (from this year and the last) have mentioned to me that he has one of the best vocabularies in the class.

Again this happened because I did what came naturally to me. I am was a voracious reader myself and so I read to him. A LOT. We started reading as soon as he was steady enough to sit in my lap and it continues. We read at least 4 books on a bad day and this can go up to 10 on a really good one. He has a pretty impressive library for a kid his age and a new book causes much excitement.

So, did I have a point? I guess what I want to say, in the immortal words of Frank Sinatra, is this: And more, much more than this; I did it my way


  1. Ro, I too believe that our individuality as parents needs to be taken into account, and all these parenting theories need to be adapted accordingly.

    It looks like you've been doing just fine, what with reading all those books from early on. I saw the video and the article, but I don't think it says anywhere that we need to keep constantly chattering with our kids. Just that whenever we do talk, we need to talk more. This was something I went wrong in with my son especially, and we've seen the effects.

    I'm like you, I like silence of the companionable type. I get stressed if I don't get my regular breaks to recharge. And kids need to learn that mom needs space too.

    But I can also take it overboard. My way worked fine with my daughter, but with Dhruv, I'm catching up now on what I should've done when he was younger. Can't really tell the whole story here, but things are getting much better now.

    So I will say, that along with taking the parent's personality into account, one also needs to tailor it to the kid, and each kid is so different. The mistakes we make with some kids don't show, but become almost criminal with others!

  2. absolutely agree that you have to go with your style

    but we need to be aware of what works for that particular kid as well

    I usually do not actively subscribe to parenting techniques-if they were that great, by now all the kids/ parents in the world would be perfect and mirror images possibly of each other!!

  3. I feel that some of these parenting techniques are designed to make one feel so inadequate as a parent. I cant think of mindlessly talking to my kids through out the day. Come to think of it, dont the kids need their own time too. Sometimes its soooo easy just following your way! And from what you have mentioned, I can see that you are doing a great job! Wow...upto 10 books a day..I would be so satisfied if I could meet the easy target of atleast 1 book a day.

  4. great post ro. i agree wholeheartedly with this:
    I think you can be the best parent you can be if the parent in you is aligned with the person you are rather than striving towards some parenting ideal spouted by an expert.

  5. I agree to you totally. A parent knows the best for the child...and these child development articles and stuff...they make me feel so inadequate as a mom :(

  6. Same pinch...from start to finish. It gave me such a thrill to seemy EO pick up the newspaper the day after the FIFA final and read the headlines..."Spain won? See! I said so!!" He certainly had said so!

    Being the unchattery type myself, I don't think my kids are losing out on anything. One area where our kids score is that most of them are bilingual at birth. So I really don't think we need to worry about language problems and communication.

  7. I loved that picture. Could have been my mom & me ages ago (we used to be and are still big into the companionable silence concept).

    About that snippet from the article - is it even important for 2 year olds to have larger vocabs and be faster at processing words?! Don't mean to be smart-alecy - genuine surprise/question!

  8. am not the chatterbox type with Sonny boy either.. and I HAVE wondered about whether I should be doing more stuff with him, and talking more to him... but seriously- we mamas need our time too...
    the Dad overdoes his bit at chattering so I justify to myself that I maintain the calm quotient in the house. LOL!

  9. I couldn't agree with you more. Back when I was a rookie mum I'd read in one of the child care bibles that you must constantly talk to your child so that his/her vocabulary is developed properly and in my naive enthusiasm I drove everyone around (including myself) up the wall with my non stop chatter! Thankfully good sense prevailed and things have been a lot calmer since. I'm naturally a not so talkative person and I find that if I just be myself my conversations with Nikki are a lot more relaxed and productive that the forced chatter monkey mode.

  10. Completely agree. I do look up parenting websites once in a while for suggestions, but mostly its our own instinct that works the best. Also, we want to raise our children as unique individuals, passing on our individuality through our upbringing. If we all followed these websites religiously, our children might end up as just copies made from the same template!

  11. I'm ok with broad hygiene guidelines about parenting but anything beyond that, no. I also prefer to do it my way. I completely agree that you can't adopt a style that is far from your personality. It just won't work - not for the kid either.
    There are certain things that don't work with a formula and parenting is one. I mostly follow my instincts.

    Btw, that pic with you next to Ayaan makes me jealous - that's exactly what I would like to do as well, but Pattu just doesn't agree. She wants my undivided attention :(

  12. Absolutely spot on Ro . It makes no sense to fall all over your children all the times - one needs to put them in a pattern where they feel secure . And you're not a "was"reader , are you ?The rate at which you've been reading ?

  13. Absolutely spot on Ro . It makes no sense to fall all over your children all the times - one needs to put them in a pattern where they feel secure . And you're not a "was"reader , are you ?The rate at which you've been reading ?

  14. Where's the "Like" button on this post? Quick!! I LOVED this post of yours. You said exactly, EXACCCCTLY what I feel about parenting theories.

  15. Applause!!!
    My only advice to friends who have had kids after me- find your rhythm with the baby- and that is the ONLY correct way to be.

    The only parenting books i read were about the physical development of a child. Any book, or person giving me pep talks on child psychology- show them the highway, because I want to find MY WAY!

    And big deal if the child does not have a large vocabulary at 24 months. Is she/he going onto one of those debates on NDTV? Or is she/he writing a speech for a tricky diplomatic meeting???

    Its ridiculous how these books urge you to do this so the baby can walk faster/talk faster/desing the next spaceship faster....than? the next child. So many parents buy into it- my child was talking at 10 months, my child rattled the alphabet at 11 months...

    Yes, i love the photo- of you reading, the child playing by your side. Thats how i worked until Sanah was two!

  16. Anonymous3:29 am

    Very true, nice post Rohini. They seem to have the 1 size fits all for every parenting technique. Also, sure chattering to kids the whole day may help in some ways.. but then they need it all the time and will always crave for your attention. I believe a lot in kids knowing to play by themselves. I have no house help and take care of both my kids; so maybe it is more a necessity for me.. but regardless I would enforce it.
    -Kutty's mom

  17. Well, Ro, I did a post in response to yours. :)

    But, sometime while I was writing it, a story I'd always wanted to tell has poured out. So thanks! And again, I don't intend to offend, it's just that I hope my story can help someone else.

  18. Kudos to you on this post! Loved it and totally identify with it, not just on the questionability of having to talk all the time to ones kids, but on the general principal of someone always telling you (i) how you could do it better (ii) are not doing the ideal thing (iii) how efforts you take now may be already too late (!).

    Infact rather than take up space on your blog, raving and ranting on this, I think I'll write one out on this on my own blog!

  19. Preeti9:40 pm

    Hey Ro!
    LOVED ur post. It almost seemed like u were talking about me, rather than to me... I have the same way of handling my kids, down to the fact that I prefer that the younger one plays on his own rather than stuck to me all the time. While I DO take time to read to him everyday, could not imagine keeping up a constant dialogue, or for that matter even a conversation for any length of time... I mean, there's only so much one can share with a 10 month old right?? :)

    And my older one is also none the worse for this treatment, having also recd the great vocab feedback fm her teachers.

    One thing though that I do try to practise is the ISP principle of talking and describing to ur kids whatever one is doing to/with them. Though many of their guidelines seem far out, we have tried to incorporate those that we are comfortable with.

    I guess the bottomline is that one can read all the books, all the articles, surf all the websites, attend all the courses, but ultimately, one needs to figure out what works for them and therefore for the child as well.

    And as far as devp of speech and vocab goes, one other thing that I think worked in the case of my daughter is that we rarely use 'babytalk' or even simplified words with her. In fact, I try and use language that I would use with any other adult, and she picks up the words in no time.

  20. lovely photo...and am all for solitude and less chatter myself.

  21. Hmm. I did it my way too. No baby einstein. No chattering. No by the books. Krish had his issues. But, we've done okay.

  22. Hopped over from Starry's post. And looks to me that you have done what they said in the article. Reading out loud is talking to.

    I understand a bit about what the articles says and the context. A friend of mine from the US had this issue where her 4 year old did not speak. Was with grandparents all day who did not think that a child needed to be spoken to (they were loving and caring and all that), parents were at work and the child was not allowed TV. As a result, he heard very little talk about him. Not a problem that we have to deal with in India.

    When the 4 year old was not talking and the subject was raised as a red flag, a 2 month India holiday actually got the child back on track. The problem with milestones not being met is that the child can develop some serious self esteem issues....much more dangerous than the actual milestone being delayed.

    I would not scoff at the article though. While parenting style is critical and governs how a parent decides to learn (books/workshops/talking to friends/observing people for how to be (and not to be!), learning different things can mean that child's needs are met even better. And the parent has fun in the process.

    I come from the 'why recreate the wheel, I want to make an original mistake' school of thought. Besides, as a person with different hats to wear, most of them of high responsibility (as we all have), I don't have the time to do it all....figure it out and then execute it. In the end, everyone does it their own way...with the aid of some tools/people! :-D

  23. [Starry] I was reacting to the mother speaking in the video in particular and their generalisation about vocabularies, Starry. And also, like I mentioned over at your post, obviously there is no place for being rigid or ignoring your children's needs, special or otherwise... I think you were very brave in facing up to the issues and tackling them head on

    [Artnavy] Absolutely. Even within your own personal parenting style, there is need to adjust stuff for each kid depending on their needs and personalities.

    [Sandhya] Well, I am at home these days and whenever the brat sees me unoccupied, he comes at me with a book...

    [Mona] Thanks :)

    [R's Mom/ Violet] I do read a lot of parenting stuff - books, blogs, websites, articles as well. But I pick selectively what works for me and ignore the rest.

    [M4] Most impressed with the reading of the headline!

    [JAB/ Sur] Seriously! I don't understand what the great hurry is.

    [JLT] In our case, Ayaan does all the chattering and barely lets anyone else get a word in edgeways :)

    [NMOTB] LOL at forced chatter monkey mode :D

    [Uma] Hang in there. She will get there. Ayaan did too but around three, he started playing independently for increasing buckets of time.

    [Eve's Lungs] The 'was' was for the voracious part. I am lucky if I can get through two books a month. There was a time I read that many in a week.

    [CeeKay] LOL at 'Like' button :)

    [Kutty's Mom] I think it is important for them to learn to self-entertain, IMHO. I think kids who are used to 24-7 mommy attention find it harder to break away for school, etc...

    [Lawyeramma] Oh goody. Will come over and check out your post

    [Preeti] Exactly. It seems so fake and pointless to keep up a constant one-way conversation with a baby who can barely understand you...

    [Uttara] Thanks :)

    [Kiran] Better than OK. You forget I have met Krish :)

    [Sangi] Not scoffing at the article - merely mentioning that it does not come naturally to follow its advice. And obviously extremes are never good, as the case of your friend's kid shows. While I don't keep up a constant chatter, I do talk to my kids, A LOT!

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