When my oldest child, who is now 17, was in the womb, I read plenty of parenting books. I discovered then what was to be my parenting style — and what certainly would not be.

The first book I picked up at our local library was The New Contented Little Baby Book(#CommissionsEarned). The author, Gina Ford, has spent decades advising parents on how to raise babies with an almost military precision. Her philosophy centers on implementing strict daily routines, sleep training, scheduled feeding, and other means to instill discipline from birth. This book is a best-seller and enjoys a significant market share of parenting books.

But reading this book, I must say, left me even more terrified and anxious about parenting. So I read other books with different approaches, knowing that I wanted to follow a more relaxed philosophy where the needs of the child would be my guide.

I reasoned: I eat when I am hungry and stop when I’m full. I sleep when I am tired and work best when most people are sleeping – so why should I not let my little one do the same? The idea of forcing my baby to do things that didn’t align with his needs, especially if that called for making him sleep alone while I ignored his cries, did not make sense to me.

I reckon that life is tough on its own without us trying to make little children independent from Day One.

[Brick Wall, Jellyfish, or Backbone: What Type of Parent Are You?]

Some years later, I would be diagnosed with ADHD after living undiagnosed my whole life. The diagnosis explained many facets of my personality, including my parenting approach. It’s harder to implement discipline in a child, I figured, when I generally lack it. It’s why the idea of timetables and routines freak me out. In fact, the notion feels like raising chickens in a coop (sometimes I feel like I am the caged one) versus a more idyllic scene – letting the chickens roam around the field, figuring out where they want to go and what they want to eat.

Sometimes they will slip away and eat something that is not so great for them – but how much harm is in that, really (assuming, of course, they don’t find anything lethal)? Their bodies will respond and regulate. Eventually, their instincts will lead them to learn what is good for them, and what is not.

Do I have wild children who roam around the streets at ungodly hours, eating and drinking whatever they want? Not at all. Though relaxed in many ways, I am actually extremely strict where it matters — and my children know this.

I will not take all the credit for having a level-headed, responsible 17-year-old boy. I am rather that farmer who believes her field-roaming chickens ultimately know the direction home.

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Updated on March 19, 2021

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