Tools for Creating Your Parenting Philosophy

July 12th, 2011 by Dionna | 10 Comments
Posted in Carnival and Special Series, Carnival of Natural Parenting, Consensual Living, Gentle/Positive Discipline, natural parenting

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Welcome to the July Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Philosophy

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared their parenting practices and how they fit in with their parenting purpose. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


My admission of the month: I’d never even thought about developing a “parenting philosophy.” I know that I hope Kieran will grow up to be a compassionate, thoughtful person, to treat himself, others, and our Earth with love and respect, and to be bold, passionate, and inquisitive enough to reach for his dreams – whatever they might be. But actually sitting down and putting serious thought into a parenting philosophy? Nope. And then I read Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids, and the idea of a parenting philosophy really hit home.

Today’s post is the first in a seven part series I’ll be featuring on the “Seven Keys to Cooperation” from the book Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids. If you have never really thought about your own parenting purpose or philosophy, I invite you to read through these thoughts and complete the exercises – not only will they help you define your parenting purpose, but they will also help you on your journey to moving toward cooperation instead of conflict in your home.

Key 1 – Parent with Purpose

We all choose our parenting behavior – whether we commit to parenting gently, or whether we are “tiger” or “helicopter” moms – our behavior, our reactions, they are all choices we make, consciously or subconsciously. As part of the “seven keys to cooperation,” the authors encourage parents in Key 1 to figure out a few questions. Parents should ask themselves:

1) What is important to us in the short and long term?

2) What are we choosing for? In other words, why are we choosing certain behaviors, certain reactions, whether we realize they are choices or not?

3) What is your intention when you interact with your kids today, and what do you want your relationship with your kids to look like in the future?1

Answering these questions can help us make more conscious parenting choices. If we know what is important to us, it can help us look past immediate “misbehavior” and focus more on truly connecting with our children. If we know why we are choosing certain parenting behaviors and what we want our relationships with our children to grow into, it can help us center ourselves in the moment and reject reactions that do not foster good relationships.

The authors of Respectful Parents Respectful Kids present three different exercises, as well as guidance for putting your parenting philosophy into practice, that explore these concepts. I will summarize them here for parents who might want guidance in forming their own parenting philosophies.

Clarify Your Purpose

Exercise 1 – What do you want for the long term?

“Focusing on the long term puts present actions into perspective and often brings what is most important to you into sharper focus. Two questions can help you get clear what you are parenting for. . . .

1. What qualities do I want to see in my children when they are adults? (list several)

2. What kind of relationship do I want to have with my children, not only now but in the long term?”

After you’ve responded to these questions, ask yourself what you notice when you reflect on these questions and your answers.2

Exercise 2 – What will you do?

Review the qualities you listed in Exercise 1. “Now apply your list to yourself and you will see more clearly exactly which traits you want to be modeling for your children now.

For every quality you listed as something you value and want to see in your adult children, turn it around to reflect the quality or values you want to live. For example, if you said that you want your adult children to be honest, turn it around and say I value honesty; I want to tell the truth. If you want your children to care about their health, say I value health; I want to care about my health. These statements can be touchstones to remind you of your purpose and your practice.”

Statements of Value Statements of Intention
1. I value _________. I want to _________.
2. I value _________. I want to _________.
3. I value _________. I want to _________.

“Next, let your statements of values and intentions lead you to more specific actions you can take to support each value.”3

Specific Actions I Want to Take

*Feel free to complete these two exercises as a family. Older children can reflect on and record their own answers, younger children can draw a picture or make a collage to reflect their answers.

Exercise 3 – What is working?

“The following exercise is to draw your attention to what you are already doing that works to support your intention and create the results you want. Acknowledging and celebrating what works is one of the powerful, life-enriching practices parents can use to contribute to their own clarity, self-support, confidence, and balanced perspective.”4

What am I doing now that supports my values and intentions?

Choose to Think in Alignment with Your Purpose

Whether you realize it or not, you are the master of your own thoughts. “Thoughts arise, and moment by moment you choose which you invite in and entertain. You are the editor of your thoughts, and you can learn how to direct them to support your parenting purpose.

Anyone who chooses to focus on thoughts of who’s right and who’s wrong, what’s fair and what’s unfair, who’s bad and who’s good, will inevitably spend essential time and energy analyzing, judging, blaming, and criticizing. When you give your energy to analyzing, judging, blaming, and criticizing, you are in a sense voting for conflict.” By always being ready for conflict, you are taking away from the energy you could be focusing on “understanding and meeting the needs that your children are expressing through their behavior.”

If you think in terms of people doing things to you — “for example, that your child (or anyone else) is manipulating you, taking advantage of you, ignoring you, or disrespecting you — you will often feel annoyed, irritated, and angry.” Instead, consciously shift your thinking. Choose to “think in terms of the needs that you and your child are trying to meet in every action taken, then you are more likely to feel compassion and connection. And you are much more likely to take action that contributes to your child’s well-being as well as your own.

Your thoughts about your children determine how you see them and how you treat them. If you see your children as untrustworthy, you will tend to limit opportunities for them to make decisions and learn about trust.” And if you tell your children that you cannot trust them, they will internalize that judgment. “If instead you see your children as capable of handling life, you will convey your confidence, treat them with respect, and give them lots of opportunities to make decisions for themselves. Imagine the best for your children; give them the gift of your confidence.”5

Choose to Act in Alignment with Your Purpose

Without a doubt, actions speak louder than words. “In fact, studies show that only 5 percent of lifelong learning comes from instruction: 95 percent of what we remember comes from family and social interactions.”6 In other words, align your actions with your purpose – you’ll be modeling for your children that making good choices will help them determine their own desired paths.

Look at your activities and ask yourself: based on your parenting purpose/philosophy, which activities are central to that purpose, and which are not?7

Choose to Listen and Talk in Alignment with Your Purpose

The attitude you have when you listen “determines whether any interaction you’re having will turn into an exploration and discussion or a disagreement or fight. When you listen to your kids, what are you listening for? Are you listening for errors, missteps, and mistakes, or information that can clarify and help you better understand your kids and their challenges?” Are you open to really understanding the feelings and needs of the speaker, or are you more defensive, apt to take everything personally? Can you listen with respect, or do you have to have your own opinions tended to first?

If you find that you cannot make the choice to listen with empathy and respect, you might need to find someone to listen to you to work out your hurts and sadness. “Trying to listen to your child when you are full of intense emotions is difficult. take responsibility for those intense feelings and find someone who can hear you so you are available at a later time to hear your kids.”

“Habitual ways of speaking often get in the way of establishing respect and cooperation . . . .” There are many common ways of communicating without respect:

by labeling (You’re selfish. She’s grumpy.)

by judging (He’s bad. You’re wrong.)

by blaming (You’re always messing up. It’s his fault.)

by denying choice (It’s not up to you. She has to do it.)

by making demands (Finish your chores or you’ll be grounded.)

Later in Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids, the authors help parents discover a different way to use language by focusing on feelings and needs.8

One way to help communicate effectively and to parent according to your purpose is to tell your children the truth about choice. Rather than saying “you have to do your homework right now,” explain the consequences that may occur if she doesn’t. She might receive a poor grade. She might slip behind in other areas of her work for the class. She does have a choice about whether to do her homework, there will simply be consequences if she does not.

Parents can also reframe their own lives in the language of choices. You don’t have to go to work, you choose to work to afford housing and food. You don’t have to fix dinner for everyone, you may choose to fix dinner because it’s easier to clean up the kitchen after yourself than it would be to have everyone else in there cooking and cleaning up.

How does it feel when you frame your life in terms of “have to’s” as opposed to “I choose to’s”? “What message about life do your children receive when they hear” either of those messages? “Consider telling yourself and your kids the truth about choice. When you catch yourself thinking or saying, I should (or have to or must) eat more healthily, or get more rest, or have more fun, or just listen to the kids without reacting, ask yourself if this is something you want or something you’ve been conditioned to believe you should want. If you want it, tell yourself the truth about it: I want to eat more healthily. I choose to get more rest. I’d like to have more fun. I really do want to listen to the kids without reacting. Notice how you feel when you tell yourself the truth about choice.”9

Choose to Encourage Your Kids’ Choices

One way to encourage more cooperation than conflict is to encourage your children to make their own choices whenever possible. “Their choices and the lessons they learn from them will be the best teachers they have in their lives.” As your children get older, they will have more opportunities to make choices. And with each choice they are able to make, they are also able to mature in a different way.

Imagine for yourself that you were rarely, if ever, given choices about your own life. If someone was constantly telling you, “You can’t! You must! You have to! Do it because I said so!” Children feel the same frustration. Regardless of whether parents want things to be done in a certain way, or because it saves time and energy to do it without a child’s “help,” limiting children’s “opportunities to make choices and to get things done using their own brain and muscle power creates resistance and conflict. Without these opportunities, it is difficult for them to see themselves as capable and competent in their world.”

Give children choices in their daily lives. Let them participate in creating the rules of the house. Choose to choose, and to allow your children the same freedom.10

Have you created your parenting philosophy?

What do you reflect on to help you align your actions with your philosophy?

What can you do to consciously think, listen, talk, and act in accordance with your philosophy?


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon July 12 with all the carnival links.)

  • Between Love and Fear: On Raising our Children Sensibly — Mamma Earthly at Give an Earthly discusses the fear factor in parenting and how she overcame it, despite societal pressures.
  • really, when do i get my cape? — Sarah at small bird on fire is a working city mama trying to learn how to set aside her expectations of perfection and embrace the reality of modern parenting.
  • Baby, Infant, and Toddler Wearing — Child wearing is part of Sarah at Nourished and Nurtured‘s parenting philosophy. In this post, Sarah describes benefits of child-wearing and gives tips for wearing babies, infants, and toddlers (even while pregnant).
  • First Year Reflections — As her daughter’s first birthday approaches, Holly at First Year Reflections reflects on how she and her husband settled into attachment parenting after initially doing what they thought everyone else did.
  • Making an allowance — Lauren at Hobo Mama welcomes a guest post from Sam about the unexpected lessons giving a four-year-old an allowance teaches the child — and the parent.
  • How to be a Lazy Parent and Still Raise Great Kids — Lisa at Granola Catholic talks about how being a Lazy Parent has helped her to raise Great Kids.
  • Philosophy in Practice — Laura at A Pug in the Kitchen shares how her heart shaped the parenting philosophy in her home.
  • What is Attachment Parenting Anyway? — Gaby at Tmuffin describes the challenges of putting a label on her parenting philosophy.
  • Of Parenting Styles — Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom talks about how she and her husband tailored various parenting styles to fit their own preferred parenting philosophy.
  • Moment by Moment Parenting — Amy at Peace 4 Parents encourages those who care for children (including herself) to explore and appreciate parenting moment-by-moment with clarity, intention, trust, and action.
  • Maintaining Spirituality in the Midst of Everyday Parenting, Marriage, and Life — Sarah at Nourished and Nurtured shares her perspective on finding opportunities for spiritual growth in every day life.
  • Parenting Philosophy — Lily, aka Witch Mom’s parenting philosophy is to raise child(ren) to be compassionate, loving, inquisitive, and questioning adults who can be trusted to make decisions for themselves in a way that avoids harming others.
  • Long Term — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis thinks about who she would like to see her daughter become — and what she can do now to lay a strong foundation for those hopes.
  • Connection, Communication, Compassion — She’s come a long way, baby! After dropping her career in favour of motherhood, Patti at Jazzy Mama discovered that building solid relationships was going to be her only parenting priority.
  • My Parenting Inspirations – Part 4 — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at her biggest parenting inspiration and how that translates into her long-term parenting philosophy.
  • A Parenting Philosophy in One Word: Respect — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction summarizes her parenting and relationship philosophy in one word: respect.
  • Knowledge and Instinct — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment believes that knowledge and instinct are super important … as are love, encouragement and respect. It’s the ideal combo needed to raise happy and healthy children and in turn create meaningful relationships with them.
  • THRIVE!The Sparkle Mama wants to set a tone of confidence, abundance, and happiness in her home that will be the foundation for the rest of her daughter’s life.
  • On Children — “Your children are not your children,” say Kahlil Gibran and Hannah at Wild Parenting.
  • This One Life Together — Ariadne aka Mudpiemama shares her philosophy of parenting: living fully in the here and now and building the foundation for a happy and healthy life.
  • Enjoying life and planning for a bright future — Olivia at Write About Birth shares her most important parenting dilemmas and pours out her heart about past trauma and how healing made her a better parent.
  • My Parenting Philosophy: Unconditional and Natural Love — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares what she has learned about her parenting philosophy from a year of following her instincts as a mama.
  • An open letter to my children — Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine writes an open letter to her children.
  • My Starter Kit for Unconditional Parenting — Sylvia at MaMammalia discusses her wish to raise a good person and summarizes some of the nontraditional practices she’s using with her toddler son in order to fulfill that wish.
  • Responsiveness — Sheila at A Gift Universe has many philosophies and goals, but what it all boils down to is responsiveness: listening to what her son wants and providing what he needs.
  • Tools for Creating Your Parenting Philosophy — Have you ever really thought about your parenting purpose? Knowing your long-term goals can help you parent with more intent in your daily interactions. Dionna at Code Name: Mama offers exercises and ideas to help you create your own parenting philosophy.
  • Be a Daisy — Becky at Old New Legacy philosophizes about individuality and how she thinks it’s important for her daughter’s growth.
  • What’s a Mama to Do? — Amyables at Toddler in Tow hopes that her dedication to compassionate parenting will keep her children from becoming too self-critical as adults.
  • grown-up anxieties. — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life explains her lone worry concerning her babies growing up.
  • Why I Used Montessori Principles in My Parenting Philosophy — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells why she chose Montessori principles to help her now-adult children develop qualities she wanted to see in them as children and adults.
  • Parenting Philosophies & Planning for the FutureMomma Jorje considers that the future is maybe just a fringe benefit of doing what feels right now.
  • Not Just Getting Through — Rachael at The Variegated Life asks what truths she hopes to express even in the most commonplace interactions with her son.
  • Parenting Philosophy? Eh… — Ana at Pandamoly shares the philosophy (or lack thereof) being employed to (hopefully) raise a respectful, loving, and responsible child.
  • Parenting Philosophy: Being Present — Shannon at The Artful Mama discusses the changes her family has made to accommodate their parenting philosophy and to reflect their ideals as working parents.
  • Who They Will Be — Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro shares a short list of some qualities she hopes she is instilling in her children at this very moment.
  • Short Term vs. Long Term — Sheryl at Little Snowflakes recounts how long term parenting goals often get lost in the details of everyday life with two kids.
  • Parenting Philosophy: Practicing and Nurturing Peace — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle sets personal goals for developing greater peace.
  • Yama Niyama & the Red Pajama Mama — Part 1: The Yamas — In part 1 of a set of posts by Zoie at TouchstoneZ, Zoie guest posts at Natural Parents Network about how the Yoga Sutras provide a framework for her parenting philosophy.
  • Yama Niyama & the Red Pajama Mama — Part 2: The Niyamas — In part 2 of a set of posts by Zoie at TouchstoneZ, Zoie explores how the Niyamas (one of the eight limbs in traditional Yoga) help her maintain her parenting and life focus.
  • Our Sample Parenting Plan — Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey shares hopes of who her children will become and parenting strategies she employs to get them there.
  • Philosophical Parenting: Letting Go — Jona at Life, Intertwined ponders the notion that there’s no right answer when it comes to parenting.
  • Unphilosophizing? — jessica at instead of institutions wonders about the usefulness of navel gazing.
  • Parenting Sensitively — Amy at Anktangle uses her sensitivity to mother her child in ways that both nurture and affirm.
  • how to nurture your relationships — Mrs Green at Little Green Blog believes that sometimes all kids need is a jolly good listening to …
  • Philosophy Of An Unnatural Parent — Dr. Sarah at Good Enough Mum sees parenting as a process of guiding her children to develop the skills they’ll need.
  • Life with a Challenging Kid: Hidden Blessings — Wendy at High Needs Attachment shares the challenges and joys of raising a high needs child.
  • Flying by the Seat of My Pants — Heather at Very Nearly Hippy has realized that she has no idea what she’s doing.

  1. Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids at 47-48.
  2. Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids at 49.
  3. Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids at 50-51.
  4. Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids at 51-52.
  5. Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids at 52-53.
  6. Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids at 9 (citing Mendizza and Pearce, Magical Parent, Magical Child).
  7. Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids at 54.
  8. And stay tuned, I’ll be posting about this topic when I go over “Key 5.”
  9. Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids at 56-57.
  10. Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids at 57-59.

10 Responses to:
"Tools for Creating Your Parenting Philosophy"

  1. Deb @ Living Montessori Now   DebChitwood

    Wow! That’s a lot of wisdom in one post! Even a concept as simple as “I value honesty; I want to tell the truth” is extremely effective. That’s what my husband and I used to help our children become honest adults. Because they knew how much we valued honesty and were honest with them, they learned to be honest with us about any topic. Great exercises and suggestions for creating a parenting philosophy! :)

  2. Kelly   BecomingCrunchy

    Wow Dionna – there’s so much amazing information here!

    I’m going to save that exercise to hopefully do with the husband – it looks like a really great way to get on the same page as one another.

    The rest of it I’ll be thinking about a lot, as I’m in a similar boat of having many ideas of what I want for my children without necessarily having a clearly defined ‘philosophy’ – and I think that’s so important. Thank you for sharing – looking forward to reading the rest of the series!

  3. I will need to reread this a few times for everything to sink in. Your posts are always helpful.

    I know from my own relationship with my parents that I will need to be very open-minded and welcome all conversations while she is young, so she will want to talk to me as an adult. I thought that I could talk to my dad about anything, but sadly a few recent awkward conversations have hindered future “deep” discussions with him. However, he did do a lot for me growing up. I saw him earn his Bachelor’s degree, which really encourage me to attend college. My parents were also a huge support for me while I earned my Bachelor’s degree, and I’ve always felt that I wanted to study in a Master’s program as well. Because I value education, I want to earn my Master’s degree to show my daughter you’re never too old to pursue your dreams.

  4. Charise@I Thought I Knew Mama   ithoughtiknewma

    Such helpful info, as always! I look forward to reading the rest of this series!

  5. Isil   smilinglikesuns

    Like others,I need to reread this again later, but I love the points you make,especially the value statements. It’s easy to forget them sometimes as busy parents. These statements will help me remember my intentions when I get frustrated.

  6. Sheila   agiftuniverse

    This is a great guide for more purposeful parenting. We all have goals and philosophies, but sometimes we don’t know how to bring our actions in line with our ideals. These are great tips!

  7. Amy   Amy_willa

    Dionna, this is an amazing guide! I’m really looking forward to doing some serious self-study and directing my parenting in a responsible way, using your series as a guide! Your post really spoke to my type-A, intense need for structure and logic. Love! Thank you!

  8. This book is now even higher on my “must read next” list. I’m a big fan of parent skill building (rather than just general parenting philosophy). Exercises like this can really help pinpoint certain behaviors or changes we want to make. Thanks for the summary!

  9. Lauren @ Hobo Mama   Hobo_Mama

    I need this perspective right now. I love the idea of looking long term to evaluate what I’m doing in the present. I also want to take stock of some of the language I’m using and change it to choosing language. Thanks for this start on developing a clear parenting philosophy.

  10. Amy   anktangle

    Wow, what a great tool you’ve created here, Dionna! Thanks for this; I’m definitely going to spend some time working through each point. And I guess I have another book to add to my never-ending list. =P

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