Friday, July 19, 2013

Encouragement parenting and the spirited child

There are all types of parenting styles and labels. Here are just a few that I've heard of over the years:

Helicopter parenting
Drill sergeant parenting
Free Range parenting
Attachment parenting
Detachment parenting
Natural consequences parenting
Authoritarian parenting
Permissive parenting
Intentional parenting


Makes me wonder what I am. I've decided my parenting style is a mish-mash of a lot of things, mostly because I think there is no one right way to be a parent. At least for us, what is needed changes based on the situation and the stage we're going through.
If I had to pin it down, I'd call my style Encouragement Parenting, which is a name I think I just invented. At least I couldn't find it anywhere online.

It's flexible. It can take many forms and directions depending on what you are encouraging at a certain time. It is definitely focused on the child, but it does not mean the child is the focus of everything.

My kiddo is an intense kid, a smart kid, a strong-willed kid, a kid who responds differently than other kids. He makes me think and learn and grow and try new things all the time. He challenges me every day to do better and be better. No one style ever seemed to totally work for us. 

Disclaimer: I am by no means even in the same universe as a perfect parent nor would I ever judge what anyone else does. Personally, I do my best every day. I have good days and bad days. I strive for patience but sometimes get frustrated. What works for me may not work for anyone else. But I love my boy, he loves me and we work through things together. Isn't that what's important in the end?

Okay, so below is what I see as Encouragement Parenting and what I hope to capture here as I share the things we do (It was very helpful just to write it all down and see what my goals are.):
  • Teach a child to be independent, but let him depend on you when he needs to. 
  • Encourage him to grow up and be responsible, but balance that with letting him still be little sometimes (see Big Kid Bike). 
  • Saying 'yes' to your child's outlandish ideas if you can (see Invention Party & Stick House). 
  • And also really think through why you say 'no' sometimes.
  • I believe in rules and discipline, but also in giving as much freedom, individual choice and unstructured time as possible.  
  • Talk, talk, talk, talk, all the time. Brady knows no question or statement is too upsetting for him to tell or ask me. 
  • Take their questions seriously and give them serious answers. I've been told I explain too much to him, but I have seen the positive results of my explanations. 
  • Let your child experience natural consequences if it's safe to do so, but give him structure and guidelines if he needs them. (see Shoe Chart)
  • Figure out what motivates him and what his unique learning style is, both for academics and for behavior. 
  • Also respect his uniqueness as it relates to food within healthy guidelines.
  • Teach them to exercise their minds and their bodies. 
  • Do your best not to compare (it's a terrible natural human tendency that I fight within myself!).
  • Watch your words and labels carefully. Words can hurt long after they're said. 
  • Live by example and show your child what you want them to learn, not just tell them.  
  • Give them a foundation in faith, spirituality, a broader knowledge of the world around them, both in terms of people, places and nature
  • Indulge their curiosity whenever you can. 
  • Be soft but also be tough. Let them know there is a time for both.
  • Have high expectations. Let them see what they are capable of. 
  • But don't belabor their failures. Help them learn from them. (see Homework Helpers)
  • Help them work through the things that frighten them even if you don't understand them. 
  • Read, read, read. It is the most perfect one-on-one time.
  • Remember that they see the world through the filter YOU give them
  • Be consistent in your rules and your lessons, but be flexible if there is something you can change. 
  • Play to their strengths but also help them improve the areas they are not so good at
  • Coach them to fight their own battles but stand up for them when they can't. 
  • You can never, ever, ever tell them you love them too much. 
  • Touch them often and hold their hands, so they don't just hear your love but feel it. 
  • Sometimes do just exactly what they want to do.
  • Other times, tell them what you'd like to do or let them know you have your own things to do independently from them.
  • Keep them close, but also let them explore and let them love. 
  • Share in the house work so they can feel as though they've contributed.
  • Work always to preserve their spirit because sometimes the world will not. 
  • Put names to emotions. This has helped us a lot. 
  • If you have a bad day, if you fail, ask for forgiveness. That is okay. We expect it of them, so why not us too? 
  • Then pick yourself up and move on. Tomorrow is a new day.


  1. Excellent post. One of the hardest things as a parent for me is to change my parenting style to my children's different personalities. What works for one definitely doesn't work for the other. For me and my kids I've found the most important thing is to let them know I love them without fail-that it's given automatically and they don't have to earn my love, and I often ask forgiveness and point out when I've done or said something I shouldn't have. This goes a long way with them.

    1. Thanks, Missy. I can only imagine what it is like with more than one child and them having different personalities. I am able to zero in on my one and tailor myself to what is needed for him alone. If they know you love them and are trying, that makes up for a lot of things :)

  2. Fantastic post! I often have a hard time not just doing something for my kiddo. Also, I hate to hurt her feelings. (like if I have to tell her no I can't play I have to hang laundry) :-) Thanks for this post its encouraging and helpful. I should print out your list and put it somewhere I can see it!

    1. Thanks, Angela! Oh my, I struggle with stepping back and letting Brady do things on his own, but he has such a sense of accomplishment when I do. I need to print my own list out so I can remember on rough days, LOL!

  3. This is excellent! I am just starting to have to form my parenting style, my daughter is turning 1 soon. She is very independent and strong willed too, so I think I will have my work cut out for me. But she is super smart and hilariously funny and sweet at the same time! Wouldn't change her for anything!

    1. One is such a sweet age! Still discovering the world and doing "firsts" but not yet in the 2's :) I think strong willed is a wonderful trait that may be challenging in the early years but will, hopefully, serve them well as they grow older.

  4. Something great to read--more than once. I will try to pin it!

    1. Thanks, Tammy :) I will have to read it over myself, some days it's easy to forget what your ultimate goal is.


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