Have you ever felt so excited about an approach to parenting that you wanted to shout it from the mountain tops?
Have you ever encountered some ideas about parenting that made you cringe, feel uncomfortable, or otherwise had no interest in?
What do these two questions have to do with each other? Everything, especially when it comes to sharing natural parenting practices. Since we’ve been on both sides of the experience, we can grow to offer what we feel passionate about in ways that serve those we are sharing with.
First, here are a few ideas to keep in mind when sharing certain practices outright (as in suggesting them to someone else as a potential option for them to ponder):
- What you share may or may not have any relevance to the person you are sharing it with. (Only the person can determine this for sure.)
- What you share may initially be viewed as inappropriate, dangerous, or possibly uneducated.
- What you share may initially bring about discomfort, but can later be really helpful.
The third idea highlights the fact that even when we find information uncomfortable, it is still possible to benefit from it at some point in our lives. When sharing with others, it is important to know that their experience may or may not be positive. That’s okay; we can’t control others. We can be really clear about our intentions, though, and lead with compassion to share what we feel may be beneficial.
So, just for clarity … here are a few ways not to share natural parenting practices.
- Judge the other parent’s methods to be not as good as yours, suggesting a “better” option.
- Put down the parent with alternatives that obviously have no meaning to them currently or differ so much that they will turn away from you instead of seek more information.
- Act as if the parent should know or sense how much better what you are suggesting is than what they are currently doing.
- Talk behind the person’s back, gossip, write about without names, or otherwise not speak directly to the parent about the practices that you feel may be helpful.
- Allow your judgments and opinions to overshadow your desire to actually help others or do your part to bring about harmony in the world.
In contrast, here are some ways to respectfully share natural parenting practices with those close to you as well as with people you may not know well.
Embody the practice. Learn to live what you feel so passionate about. Make embodying the practice more important than sharing it. As we embrace and demonstrate (in public and behind closed doors) what we feel is valuable to us, the results show up in our lives. We feel better; we can enjoy parenting and life more. People become curious. There is no better way to share a practice than to live it. As others observe you enjoying your family and actually practicing what you talk or write about, they may ask questions of you. This is a way for you to offer information that someone wants. These are the people who are most often receptive to the sharing of helpful practices in parenting and life. Similarly, people who actually want information do something with it.
Your example speaks profoundly to the world as you live it. People whom you may never deeply connect with watch and feel you as you interact in the world. Your example of natural parenting practices are far reaching when you live them as much as or more than you talk about them.
Be an example because you are living your values, you live what feels right and true to you, and you have really thought and felt out how you parent. This may not be fully possible if you’re a new parent and don’t have a lot of experience with certain practices. That doesn’t make what you have to offer less valuable, and there are some ways to directly share natural parenting practices as you work to embody what you share.
Listen and ask if someone is open to information. When we’re feeling really excited, like bubbling-over excited, we may want to share whatever we think we know with whoever will listen. Good friends are great for that. Other parents whom we don’t know so well, or our parents, may or may not be.
We may also feel inclined to share natural parenting practices with people when we feel like it could be beneficial for their lives. One way to start is by listening. When we listen to what the person is saying, how they are feeling, what they might feel frustrated or unsure about, and what they would really like as a parent — we can consider offering our knowledge or experience as a potential solution. The caveat to this is assuming it will be a solution. There are so many solutions to be had; when we allow what we share to be one of the many, we won’t seem pushy and we won’t be attached to the person using the information we offer.
As we listen, if something pops to mind for sharing, we can ask the person if they are open to some information. If so, share! If not, listen some more. Possibly there will be an opening later, or maybe this is an experience we are both learning from and wisdom will show itself later. Stay open to solutions coming to the parent in other ways, too.
Engage with interested parents. There are as many ways to connect with parents who want to learn more about natural parenting as there are parents looking for the information. If you want to share what you are learning with the world, consider starting or joining an existing parenting group such as La Leche League or Attachment Parenting International. While there are certain requirements for being part of a group already set up, you may find you have a lot in common and can offer support to parents who are just beginning to explore their options.
Face-to-face connections can be so helpful when navigating the journey of parenting, as can virtual relationships. If you are in the position to support others and share information, make a list of all that you would like to share and match that up with a like-minded group, or search certain parenting subjects online so see where you may enjoy interacting. You may also consider contacting local organizations that may be interested in what you have to share such as schools, churches, community centers, or other family-oriented places. Possibly you can facilitate a class or discussion centered around natural parenting practices and make some valuable connections in the process.
If you feel adventurous and would like to start a group, consider a potluck or play group for families with a monthly focus on a specific natural parenting practice. Maybe parents can take turns sharing what works for them and other families.
If you enjoy writing, consider starting a blog or submitting informative articles or stories to family oriented magazines. People learn in various ways and there really are never too many voices speaking to what may be helpful in family life.
Speak your personal desires and boundaries. Another way to share natural parenting practices is in our everyday lives with those we love and come in contact with. This may be our immediate or extended family, friends, co-workers, or others. We may feel a need to share practices with people close to us because we want them to understand, appreciate, and possibly even come right along with us and what we value. And it’s possible that they will, if we honor them in the process.
If the reason we want to share practices with another is because they’re offering us advice or information that just doesn’t fit, a first step is in listening ourselves both to the person and our own feelings. This can be a practice in itself and is definitely an example of responding with sensitivity.
Once we’ve established a connection with the underlying message, concern, or at least the human offering it, we can consider what is really important for us to share. If it’s information that we want a caregiver to know, we might want to sit down and write a list. What parenting practices do we need to share? If it’s our parent or friend, what practices can we share that will help them connect more deeply with our kids, their own, or themselves?
In the moment, check in with yourself, consider your relationship, and share what comes to you with love. Allow the sharing of natural parenting practices to be an opportunity for connection with another human being. We’re all in this together, and the more we remember that when sharing and receiving various bits of parenting information, the more we can actually enjoy the journey of parenting together — even in the potentially uncomfortable moments!