When I had my son 18 years ago, I didn't have access to the number of parenting resources we have now. I'm not sure whether that was a good thing or a bad thing, considering that now we are constantly being fed with so many new studies, research and experience sharing of what to do and what not to do nowadays, it can be so overwhelming and intimidating, but also very useful at the same time.
I have read numerous articles on parenting styles - authoritarian, permissive, authoritative and neglectful, thanks to Diana Baumrind, a developmental psychologist and researchers from Stanford, Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin. Then there are conscious parenting and positive parenting. To be quite honest, I never knew it was a thing until now.
Reading through these different styles of parenting, I've found a fun fact that I don't really fit in any one particular box, but maybe a mixture of somewhere between permissive and authoritative.
Yes, my son is 18 and I'm still reading and gathering information about parenting. Parenting never stops, really. Your relationship with your child as a parent evolves with every stage of their lives and I am in that stage where parenting looks very different. He might not need me the way he used to, but he still needs me, in a different way.
Being a single parent, not having many resources to read up on except for Dr Spock and getting parenting advice that I took with a grain of salt, I chose to trust my intuition.
I let my intuition be my guide and let my child lead me with a knowing that what I was doing was right for my child, our family structure and our circumstances.
These days it seems practically everyone has an opinion about the “right” way to raise a child, and we can find plenty of advice and suggestions offered by doctors, psychologists, bloggers, and other parents about how we should be parenting whilst reminding us of all of the mistakes we’re making.
Looking back 18 years and the parenting decisions I've made along the way, here are ten decisions, which are thought to be controversial that I made that I don't regret making!
Not to say that you should follow them or if they are right for your family, but to share the decisions that I made that I wasn't supposed to and it ended up being okay.
I Don't Regret Co-Sleeping
No, I don't regret it, not for a moment!
Being a single mom to an only child, co-sleeping was the best decision for both of us. Our nighttime routine was simplified and less tiring for me, especially when I had to work the next day.
When he was a baby, I was aware of the possible dangers and made every effort to ensure that he was safe, and comfortable. We never had any issues.
Furthermore, as he grew, we enjoyed the bedtime book readings before bed, storytelling and just talking before we'd both fall asleep.
My son co-slept until he was ready to sleep on his own. Transitioning from co-sleeping to sleeping in his own room had many nights where he'd come to my room in the middle of the night, which was expected and fine by me.
Those moments, I'd never trade for anything else.
Co-sleeping might not be for everyone and depends on your family's needs and dynamics, and what suits you.
For me and my son, it was the natural thing to do.
I Don't Regret Picking Up My Child When He Cried
I don't believe in this whole practice of letting a baby or a small child cry it out to let them self-soothe or whatever it is we hope to teach them with that.
I believe that they cry because they need something, whether it's food, comfort, a diaper change, or they just wanted to feel you close. That's the only language they know and they're trying to communicate with you, so that you can help them out since they can't do it by themselves.
For me, letting my son 'cry it out' just sends the message that I'm ignoring his needs and that they don't matter or are not important enough to me, and it's something that I was definitely not willing to do.
I Don't Regret Child-Led Potty Training, Giving up Diapers, Weaning and Everything Else
There's such a race these days for children to hit certain milestones, whether it is weaning, learning to eat by themselves, using the potty, giving up diapers, learning to read and write and so many more.
I have listened to some parents be concerned that their child wasn't potty trained at 1 year or couldn't read at 2. In conversations, parents are always trying to one-up each other where their kids were concerned and would feel sorry if another's child was still struggling to do everything by themselves at a certain age. It was just an annoying environment for me to be in.
For my child, I chose not to push, I believe that every single child, will naturally learn how-to when they are ready. Regardless of how fast or how slow they take, they will eventually get there.
It wasn't my mission to push my child to be able to do something by a certain age. I didn't want that kind of pressure being forced on him at such a young age, and I didn't want that kind of pressure on myself either.
It's okay that he wasn't potty trained until he was 4, it was also okay that he decided he wanted to sleep on his own only when he was 10, and it was okay that he still wanted me to feed him until he was 12. I never saw the big deal in it as long as he was okay, and that I was okay with it too!
Letting my child lead meant that when he did learn to go potty by himself, give up his diapers, feed himself or sleep on his own, it was an achievement that he did by himself and not something he had to accomplish because I said so and to satisfy me.
One thing was for sure, child-led anything was a lot less stressful for both of us since we were not on a self-created 'deadline' we had to chase.
I Don't Regret Letting My Child Quit Activities
I believe that it's better to try as many things as possible so that you can discover what you truly like and what you don't.
I supported my son through countless activities that he wanted to try and sometimes, some of them didn't stick because he'd lost interest in it, or discovered that it really wasn't his thing.
Why force a child to continue an activity that doesn't resonate with them? It's better and more rewarding for the child if he or she is supported through activities that they actually enjoy and like doing.
I Don't Regret Not Yelling or Spanking My Child
To be honest, I never yelled, but I have raised my voice when we used to do homework together. I hated myself after these instances so stopped it. I chose another way in order to alleviate all the stress that yelling was creating for both of us.
My son has only me, so yelling and spanking were never in the plan. I wanted him to grow up in an environment that was calm and where issues were resolved in a certain manner, without all the yelling, screaming and punishment.
I'm not sure if raising him in such a way has indeed made an impact on him, but he is the calmest, most level-headed person I know regardless of the situation and he certainly doesn't get it from his father or myself!
I don't spank just because I don't think it's okay to hit anybody, especially not a younger, much smaller person than you. What would I be teaching him, if I did? That issues can be solved by hitting? Or physical punishment is the solution to what they perceive as bad behaviour?
I definitely didn't want my son to think that it's okay to hit or kick regardless of the behaviour unless, of course, it's out of self-defence!
I Don't Regret Not Assigning Any 'Chores'
I've read numerous articles on how parents should assign chores to their kids to promote self-esteem, and responsibility and to avoid raising entitled children, and articles about chores being given according to specific age groups. And I'm certain there are benefits to assigning chores.
Well, I've never written down a list of chores for my son to complete, but he does clean his room, wash his own plates, cleans up after himself, puts his shoes where it belongs, dirty clothes get thrown in the hamper, cleans his bathroom when needed, takes out the trash when it's full, puts his clothes away, etc, all without being told to do so.
I don't see these as chores but as basic personal responsibility, being courteous and having respect and manners, which I'm a big advocate of.
Now that he can drive, he even takes the family car for a wash even without being told!
He might not be vacuuming or mopping the house, but I'm not worried because I know when the time comes when he is on his own, he will learn to do it.
Is he entitled and expects everything to be done for him? Far from that.
I Don't Regret Not Limiting Online Gaming
When my son was younger, maybe up till the age of 11, phones and iPads were not so attractive to him, maybe because it wasn't such a big thing amongst kids then. What was, was online gaming. First, it was Minecraft then FIFA.
FIFA was of course his favourite since he absolutely loves football! Connecting online with his friends, I heard what was going on at all times, especially from his end. It was interesting to hear how he interacted with his friends. They sounded like they were having a blast of a time. I'd smile to myself every time I hear him laughing like a hyena from his room.
They weren't only being sociable, but they were working together as a team to perform certain tasks and achieve certain goals and having absolute fun at the same time. He had to learn to figure things out on his own, without the need to have me get involved. He was learning.
He kept telling me that he was really good at it, and seeing all that confidence and interest in it, of course, I didn't stop him.
One day, out of the blue, he told me that he wanted to enter a local online gaming tournament so I said yes. Registering for it, I thought he'd be competing amongst children his age, but no, he was competing against, grown men who compete for a living! At 10 years old, he was the youngest participant (the second youngest was 17!) in the whole competition with more than 100 people! Not only that, he made it through to the round of sixteen!
Entering the competition is one thing, but him having that kind of confidence whilst dealing with the anxiety and pressures of being in that tournament, having all eyes practically on him throughout, and having to deal with the disappointment at the end, was a big teaching moment for him, and a proud moment for me! I made sure to let him know that he should be so very proud of himself for getting that far, going against these professional gamers.
The good thing about him is he knows how to self-regulate, knowing when to switch up his activities, run outside, go swimming, play actual football with friends and get his homework done. He never just hides in his room and he never complains when I call him out if I need something done, or need to talk to him or for meals.
I Don't Regret NOT Saying "NO" All The Time
I recently asked my son if he can recall how many times in his life I have said No to him, and he had to think long and hard before saying maybe a handful.
For context, I say yes to my son, almost all the time because he's a reasonable kid and knows his limits when asking for or doing anything. I'm not talking about saying no to running on the street, hitting another kid, stealing and other bad behaviour. He knew what was wrong and what was dangerous and lucky me, he was never one to test those kinds of limits.
It can be toys or electronics, outing with friends, activities etc. He also understands my limits if he needs me to buy him something. I don't know how but he never goes overboard neither is he demanding.
I also don't say NO if he wants to give parasailing a try, swim in the deep end of the pool, white water rafting, go-karting, or climb that giant slide in the playground. I might hold my breath every time and watch him like a hawk because I'm afraid he'll hurt himself or I fear something might go wrong, but I will not project my fears onto him by saying NO.
Children are brave and fearless by nature and are always up for anything but as they grow older, fear starts to set in and it stops them from trying and doing a lot of things. It's something natural and inevitable as we grow older, and we know this.
I remind my son every once in a while, to not let fear get in the way of what he truly wants in life.
I Don't Regret NOT Giving My Child Any "Punishments"
Punishment is the normal reaction to any misbehaviour, and sometimes, we're so quick with the punishment to 'teach them a lesson' that we fail to think that maybe there is a reason for the misbehaviour.
I choose to understand the misbehaviour - there is always an underlying reason and I always remember that my child is still so very young and does not understand or know how to deal with big emotions or even regulate them. It is then my job to understand, connect and help him through it. I believe that in turn, this has helped him learn how to deal with his emotions better.
I Don't Regret Not Pushing Him Hard Academically
Giving this a bit of context, this applies especially during the primary years. I did push my son ever so slightly and supported him where he needed it during middle school just so he wouldn't be retained for a year. By high school, he knew what he had to do to achieve the goals he had set for himself.
I was always guided by my son's interests and was a big advocate of balancing social development, school activities and academics. As long as he wasn't failing in his subjects, it was alright with me. And when he did fail, it was in subjects that were extremely difficult for him and I completely understood why it got that way.
Not doing well in school or failing subjects is enough for my son to feel anxious, demotivated, and under tremendous stress without me having to add to it.
The thing is with my son, he knows when he needs to buckle down to achieve the results he needs to. He's not one of those children who are naturally gifted that they don't need to do much to excel, but he is one of those that work really hard when it's required of him.
I did let him enjoy his school years and he did!
I'm sure that many who have made similar decisions as I have invited unwanted criticism from moms and mom groups on many occasions. But look, after 18 years, I can confidently say that none of these decisions has in any way made negatively impacted my well-mannered, respectful, level-headed and ambitious 18-year-old.
There are a million "right" and "wrong" ways to love and parent your child. What might be a "wrong" for one parent, might be a "right" for another.
It's important that you be guided by what is right for you and your children.
I have learnt that it's ok to do it differently, and still, raise an amazing kid!
Do you have any controversial parenting choices you've made? I'd love to hear them!