Recently I read an article on a parenting style referred to as “child-led parenting.” Simply put, “child-led parenting means the parent is in charge and makes the decisions but does so in response to the needs and wishes of the child.” The article indicated that this parenting style works for parents who recognize that children are not machines. This style requires the parent to make frequent adjustments to their expectations so that children’s feelings and needs are considered. One of the examples provided in the article was a child refusing to eat, where a parent practicing child-led parenting would react by putting the food away until the child is hungry or by offering another food choice. The parent’s ultimate goal is that the child eats healthy, but the parent is willing to compromise on when or what the child eats.
What I like about this parenting style is that it takes into account the individualized needs of the child. It also requires parents to focus on the present. It seems to me that in order to truly assess and listen to the needs of their children, parents using child-led parenting would need to be present in the moment. Lastly, this parenting style would enhance the parent-child relationship as it lends itself to parents being responsive to their children.
In addition, I appreciate parents being able to compromise without giving up on what they see as important. I have often observed parents who become involved in extreme power struggles. These struggles typically involve parents insisting children follow the rules in order to demonstrate that they are in charge. In these situations parents identify compromise as weakness. However, in child-led parenting, parents use compromise to intentionally ensure the desired results are achieved. Choices provided by parents lead to what parents want for their children.
And though I see many benefits in this style of parenting, I could envision a potential pothole -parents taking the “easy way out.” Child-led parenting requires parents be responsive and still hold their own intention. At times parenting can be exhausting. In addition sometimes children’s challenging behaviors are reinforced when parents “give-in” to children versus dealing with the behavior. To avoid this unintended consequence, parents would need to be careful not to forfeit their own desired results as a means to eliminate children’s negative behaviors.
I typically state that there is no one right way to parent. I do wonder if child-led parenting comes close to being one way to parent, simply because it does take into account the individualized needs of the children while also supporting the intentions of parents. What do you think?