This blog post was contributed by Lou Donnelly-Davey.
I used to write a lot about life as a new mum when I first had the kids. My first born was a super sensitive baby who was literally allergic to everything. Wheat, nuts, soy, dairy, eggs and was intolerant to almost everything else including the prescription formula. So, we had to make quite a few adjustments to life and how we parented. It was a pretty steep learning curve I must say, and life with an anaphylactic child was not easy. But we made it and he’s now a teen.
Along with his sister and brother, they are all now teens. But the times when they were toddlers and preschoolers still seems like yesterday and our parenting style certainly hasn't changed.
It’s important to decide on the parent you want to be from the outset and follow that path, making adjustments as you go, as you learn and grow as a family. But fundamentally, sticking to your mental list of values, sticking to that heartfelt knowledge that you know what's best for your child.
There are some staples we all adopt when it comes to our parenting styles. When we peer over the fence we might question whether we are too lenient or in fact too strict, but we all form a slate from which we draw over and over again.
For us, that slate included always making sure that the kids knew it was their body, their choice. From the time they were old enough to understand this concept they chose their own clothing for the day. Often wearing pink tutus over pants, with woollen hats and plenty of sparkles. They had agency to make their own choices on what they wore. How they expressed themselves. How they wanted to be viewed by the world. And while this small thing seems possibly insignificant, it was the start of ensuring they always knew, it was their body, their choice.
We’ve taught them about consent from as early as appropriate. We’ve taught them about agency too. And now as young adults, it’s no different. Talking with them about all the hard stuff in life has become so much easier. And making decisions about hair styles, piercings and tattoos has remained solely their own choice. Albeit with plenty of guidance. My daughter has a nose piercing and my eldest is planning his first tattoo, a Japanese design that’s just beautiful. It’s their body, their choice. They have agency.
You see, consistency is the key. Define what’s really important to you personally and as a family and stick with your plan. You get to choose!
Kids love consistency and knowing what to expect. If you steer your path as a family based on your own values and heart centred parenting, they will grow up embraced by a connection to something so strong and so valuable, it will stick to them for life.