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Apr 28, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

I just wanna say that I really appreciate that you always have transcripts for us. I know that's extra work, but I don't have the capacity right now to listen to another podcast and I do read the transcripts most of the time. So, thanks :)

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ALL credit goes to Corinne, who does such amazing work pulling these together. I also love having them and am so glad to hear they are appreciated!

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Apr 28, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

I thought you'd mentioned that someone else does this before, but I couldn't remember for certain. Thanks, Corinne!!

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Apr 28, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

Same! I'm allergic to podcasts and videos but will read a transcript for an hour.

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Apr 28, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

I love Burnt Toast, love Sara’s work, but the New Yorker piece you’re talking about today had some major problems with definitions and the different philosophies covered. Einzig and Lansbury would never call themselves “gentle parenting” people—that vein of philosophy is respectful parenting (also called authoritative parenting), which is super, super different from gentle/attachment parenting. The Milk Giver/holier than thou/lactivist etc. stuff is far from respectful parenting, and I was pretty frustrated with how that Winter piece elided it all. Both respectful parenting and gentle parenting are responses to authoritarian/punitive stuff, but they differ enormously—respectful parenting supports sleep training (including extinction “cry it out”) and other practices that enable parents to be whole people, while “gentle” parenting is the stuff that says you have to sacrifice every comfort and need to ensure that your child never cries. I would just love to have a longer conversation distinguishing Lansbury and Visible Child from the morass of Kellymom and Insta lactivists!

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This is a VERY FAIR criticism and I'm glad you brought it up. I do see them as all on a spectrum, but you're right that the RIE approach is often at odds with attachment parenting. And then of course, the social media versions of all of these concepts get so easily muddied.

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Apr 28, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

Totally! And it’s extremely fair to look at from the lens of the social media muddle, because that’s how most people interact with this stuff! My complaints are about the New Yorker piece, where I thought the author made some regrettable and unnecessary elisions that were confusing for folks.

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I was surprised she pulled Jessica Lahey into it --I thought THE ADDICTION INOCULATION was a great and incredibly useful read (as someone raising kids with a family history of addiction).

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Apr 28, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

I find that the lack of shared definitions for these various parenting styles and ideas makes it so difficult to have meaningful dialogue, especially in online spaces.

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Apr 28, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

Totally! I do see more clarity in the space that self-identifies as “gentle parenting”, but then people lump a lot of other stuff in with that and you lose the ability to understand it.

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Apr 28, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

Other things that respectful parenting encourages: holding boundaries and not feeling guilty about it!

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Apr 29, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

GUYS- I loved KellyMom when I was first nursing and in panic mode about my oversupply drowning my baby. What did I miss?

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Valid! There is a lot of useful advice on there. It traumatized me because breastfeeding was failing and it does not allow failure as an option -- all the advice is geared around how to make it work at any cost. And I needed someone to say "formula is a great option." (I am not at all anti-BF, and had a great BF relationship with my second child. But I am also now the friend who says "formula is a great option" when folks need to hear it. Because it is!)

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Apr 29, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

Oh, yeah. You’re right. I forgot about the shame-y tone re: formula. 🤦🏻‍♀️

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Apr 28, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

I had so many thoughts going through this, but the part about how kids can see through the condescension of "I'm calmly picking apart your rage rather than acknowledging it in an emotional way" is so real to me as a person who above all cannot stand being condescended to. And I will say, the parents in my kid's pod last year who took that kind of tone with the kids were the ones my kid had the worst relationship with. Like, the one who addresses the kids as "friends" and has a long list of therapy recommendations at the ready? He will have nothing to do with.

But one of the interesting things was another of the sets of parents who had clearly read the books and they were really good, I thought, at selling the message "I hear your emotions but I am setting a calm, loving boundary." Only they eventually discovered that their kid responds well to being spoken to sharply. That the step after the calm loving boundary should, with him, be something more like a real rebuke. It was so interesting because they were the parents who I felt had sort of effectively modeled what many of the parenting advice books called for, and then they were like nope, gotta add another step. (When I say their kid responds well to it ... it's like when they're speaking to him in the calm way, he feels really compelled to try to argue his case through escalating sobs, hyperventilating and stammering and frantically trying to communicate, and when they speak more sharply he seems to kind of go oh, ok, I can just relax now, and he doesn't look cowed, he looks relieved, like I can feel my feelings without trying to prove I'm right.)

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Oh that's fascinating and such a helpful example of - take what works, but then do what works for you. Which is where a lot of the parenting ideologies fall down because there's guilt if you break rules/do it your own way/etc.

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Apr 28, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

I appreciate how you broke down what you meant by “responds well to it” because in these conversations, I think we all operate from different ideas of what “works well” means depending on our core values, goals, etc.

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Apr 28, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

Really enjoyed this. Something I think about a lot, as someone who was raised in a religious family with authoritarian parenting, corporal punishment, etc. is: no one actually knows how to raise humans “ideally,” right? We have this idea that if we parent just right, our kids will grow up to have wonderful, uncomplicated relationships with us, nothing to work out in therapy, will always make good choices, and that’s just not how this works.

I appreciate some of the gentle parenting stuff for giving me different ways to think about and approach a situation than what I was raised with, because there are plenty of things my parents “solved” by hitting, and that’s not what I’m about. So tips on deescalating a conflict, getting to the bottom of big feelings, solving the problem underlying the behavior is useful. But I definitely do think it’s predicated on this anxiety and perfectionism and undercuts our confidence in how we know our own children. It’s one more way that parents (and particularly mothers) can feel like they aren’t enough: patient enough, creative enough, empathetic enough, present enough… but I know my kid. Sometimes he needs a hug and help talking through his feelings. And sometimes my attention is fuel on the fire and it’s time for a break in his room. I’m his parent; I’ve known him his whole life; I can make this calls better than a scoldy gentle parenting meme on Instagram.

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Really glad you shared this perspective. And yes, nobody knows the ideal way to raise humans -- because there almost certainly is not one ideal way!

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Apr 28, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

Certainly you'd have to define what the "ideal" outcome is, and that definition can vary wildly according to culture and familial values.

The bit in here about the therapist who is so glad her kids will be able to avail themselves of therapy to sort out things from their childhoods floored me. (Imagine the gif of the man putting his hand on his chin as his jaw drops; that's me reading that line.) I think a lot of us are accustomed to thinking of therapy as the thing our adult children will have to do in response to all the ways we screwed them up, so therapy is indirectly an indictment of our parenting. And I think that's one more way that we unconsciously buy in to the pressure applied to parents in at least contemporary Western society. We're expected to keep our kids safe from every possible harm, the physical harms requiring doctor visits, and including the harms that require therapy to heal. But like anything else, we do the best we can and hope that what we can't protect them from (including our own foibles) will be recoverable with the right support.

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Apr 28, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

I think you’re right. I think gentle parenting is in response to the not-so-gentle parenting done in the nineties (🙋🏻‍♀️). I love having ways to validate my granddaughter’s feelings, but sometimes she just needs a firm no.

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Exactly this!

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I recently read about Richard Rohr’s concept of transformation in three stages: order, disorder, and reorder. It felt like an apt description of what you’ve described and I’ve also experienced in parenting (and other deconstruction journeys--like diet culture!): noticing the order I was raised with, learning new ideas that throw that system into disorder, and reordering my beliefs and practices. Learning gentle/respectful/whateveryoucallit parenting has served as a vehicle for unlearning my childhood conditioning, which was really important. And like you said, our own intuition and relational knowledge is also really important. We’re allowed to both learn/unlearn as much as we can AND find our own way.

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So much appreciation for this conversation. I just listened to Sounds Like a Cult’s episode on Instagram therapists and I’m a longtime listener of Maintenance Phase and it’s been so fascinating to me how much overlap there is between what you are all saying in these pieces about social media, and media in general, around #wellness.

I’m a licensed therapist, a parent, my wife is a pediatrician and I still get sucked innnnn sometimes. It’s super helpful to have this kind of discussion to remind me to do some better critical thinking, listen to my gut, and investigate the sources. The line between helpful resource and misinformation gets so incredibly slippery!

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Sooo slippery!

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Apr 28, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

I am really appreciative of your exploration of this topic. I feel like the whole obsession with gentle parenting took me in a really difficult direction. I found Dr Becky and the messaging felt so right to me so I committed myself to using the scripts. However, I never saw the promised outcomes and instead constantly felt resentful of putting myself and my needs behind everyone else. It actually took some solid therapy sessions to work through what was going on (it was taking a major toll on my mental health). About a week ago I saw that Washington Post article and had an aha! moment that maybe it wasn't a defect in me or my children. So much of it seems to fit with what I'm trying to do with our anti diet house and raising intuitive eaters but yet, something's falling short. Would love to keep this conversation going.

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Apr 28, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

I'm inclined to add one more thing. Every time I read a post of yours or listen to a podcast I feel so seen and validated and like yes! I have found my people. I just really appreciate what you put into the world.

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That means so much, thank you!

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Apr 29, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

Oh yes - I am trying various strategies that I see modeled (Janet Lansbury when my kid was younger, Big Little Feelings, How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen (my current favorite)). They often don't seem to yield immediate results, but this is something that is not always clear in these social media parenting advice spaces -- what is the outcome that this technique will achieve? Is it a long game or a short game, or somewhere in the middle? My partner is a therapist and we talk about the long game of parenting often, but I get frustrated and wonder if I am "doing it wrong" when it's not as simple as "push button, get reward" (i.e., the tantrum stops). I felt like this conversation with Virginia & Sara was such a breath of fresh air about the challenges of putting these approaches into action.

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GREAT point about the long game. We are often looking for immediate fixes (make the tantrum stop!) and they just... don’t always exist. And I think the social media distillation of these ideas often over-promises.

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Yes, yes, yes. This was very much my experience too. (Clearly.)

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Apr 30, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

I almost cried listening to this. I have what is (kindly) described as a “spirited” child. I follow all these gentle parenting accounts and just keep feeling like something must be seriously wrong with me/my daughter because none of these scripts or tips ever work. They’ve also just never felt right, and you guys explained the reasons why so perfectly. I feel like gentle parenting is the libertarianism of parenting philosophy. In an ideal world where we have endless patience and resources at our disposal, maybe this would work? But probably not because parents are also people with emotions and frustrations, which tbh shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing or something we need to hide from our children. Thank you so much for the work you do!

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So glad it resonated. I feel you on these “spirited” kids!

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I am also a parent of a very spirited child who is now an older teen. For the first ten days of parenting, I read all the books and tried all the things, and they still blew through all the boundaries. The only thing that has actually helped is working on my own reactions and my own feelings. Parents of “easy” kids can be quite judgy and can act is if their parenting is the reason for their kids’ compliance, when often their kids are just more compliant by nature. I have an easier kid, and just about any parenting works for them. Sending solidarity.

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Oof I feel that (presumed) judgment, as a fellow parent of a spirited one. Temperament is a big factor in how kids (ahem, all humans) show up in life. And even if compliance were available to us, it’s really not my goal (at least, not in the long-term; in the moment, of course I want my kid to just put the freakin’ coat on). It’s really hard to feel accepted and at peace about it in a world full of messages that “right” parenting = compliant kid.

I’ve reached a similar place of focusing more on triggers and feelings and needs, for both myself and my kid. How I parent feels important but more so in terms of our relationship and sense of self than my child’s behavior itself--because I do not have nearly as much control over that (both the “good” and the “bad”) as our culture would like to think.

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Apr 29, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

Friends, this is going to be a touch long.

I completely agree with the way a lot of gentle parenting 'coaches' have taken the gentle part to a degree that is unsustainable in real life situations. I also tried to get on board with Janet Lansbury when my oldest was a toddler, and her thing is to "remain unruffled" in the face of tantrums and general ass-hattery of the toddlerdom. And, I remember screaming "I'm feeling very ruffled" as I lost my bananas over a particularly bad fit from my 3 y/o. Also, agree that the scripts tend to be BS. When my oldest said to me that my voice sounds nice but my face looks angry, I knew I was doing it wrong.

HOWEVER, once I reframed the the idea from gentle parenting to compassionate parenting, and really internalized that my strong willed children's behavior is not a REFLECTION ON ME, it started to make sense. My 9 y/o describes my family as 'yell-y', so OBVIOUSLY I still yell. But, once, I'm able to reset, I make a point of coming back to my small person to apologize/process where things went sideways to repair. I also try to help the older ones (my 2 y/o isn't ready) learn how to recognize when they need connection, and then ASK for special time/hug/a few minutes to talk about or process something, rather than throwing their shoes at the lamp while I'm cooking dinner. And sometimes, that looks like my saying (yelling) "What do you need right now?" instead of "What is wrong with you?"

Also, I have 3 girls, and I would like to mention that most parenting coaches/ writers for this style only have 1 kid or maybe 2 very chill kids. DON'T FREAKING TELL ME HOW TO BE PATIENT WHEN I'VE BEEN SLEEP DEPRIVED FOR 10 YEARS, LADY. Basically use what works, and leave what doesn't. Some non-pretentious recommendations are Hand to Hand Parenting and Lori Petro/Teach Through Love. I really want to love Laura Markham, but she grates on my nerves.

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I love all of this! Thanks for sharing. Agree, the shift to “their feelings are not a reflection on me” is HUGE. (And hard to make!)

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Apr 29, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

I have found many parenting "experts" to have nuggets that are helpful and need to be reframed to fit my life.

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Agreed. It was just hard to get there at the beginning because I was so desperate to be told what to do. SIGH

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Apr 28, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

Oh my goodness, I’m not even done with this episode and I feel like I’ve had three therapy sessions. This is so helpful. My kid is seven and I went hard in on all this and took on all the guilt trips. I was recently diagnosed with OCD which was so helpful - my OCD manifests in concerns around being good or moral, and you can imagine how some of this mama content was fuel for that. (To be clear, my brain has challenges with this stuff anyway, and OCD is great at taking external things and running with them - not blaming these influencers for my OCD.) I could not set boundaries because the attachment stuff would loop in my brain about how bad it would be for my kid. I like Einzig and Lansbury more, but their scripts never worked well for my family. Part of my recovery work in OCD is challenging all the things I had compulsions to do to be “good,” and parenting is the big piece I’m focused on right now, so I kind of mean it when I say this is therapy to hear you two talk so critically and plainly about the pitfalls of these approaches. (Plus you both are funny!) thank you.

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Oh so glad it was helpful in this way!

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Are you doing exposure work? I have contamination OCD and have found it so helpful.

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Yes! I’m doing ERP with a really great therapist. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done but is so worthwhile.

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Apr 29, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

It really is (both of those things). I guess I’m lucky (??) that a lot of my exposure is “in the wild” as stuff changes surrounding mask mandates. Those in the wild things scare me more, which makes it hard in turn to do the more controlled exposures in my house.

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Apr 30, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

I can’t even imagine how hard contamination OCD would be to deal with these last few years. ❤️

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Ahhh ty ty ❤️ It has absolutely been rough, but it was also the reason I started an SSRI and found a therapist who specialized in treating OCD! I definitely got to the point where it was no longer sustainable, and I’m really glad I’ve found this treatment.

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Apr 28, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

I would love some time if you guys would reach out to one of these people for comment—or otherwise actually include them in the conversation. It seems like that might be helpful in this conversation? As someone with an online presence myself, if one of my posts was used this way in a conversation I’d love the chance to be involved in talking about it. And it might be a way to get at more of the issues at okay here, especially since many of these people you mentioned today are very credentialed. (I don’t disagree with your commentary, just I’ve had this thought each time you two have chatted and thought I’d mention it.)

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Yes. I think a lot about when are we critiquing a post as a cultural text (so, as a stand alone piece but also more a way to talk about broader issues and less a dissection of the author of the post), and when are we trying to understand an influencer or other creator’s motives for their work.

The former, I put more in the category of a book review, where I might not like what someone writes about my work but I don’t expect or want to be interviewed or involved. But when it’s the latter, reaching out for comment makes a ton of sense. And I know this episode probably crosses into that camp quite a bit. So note taken!

(And you know how much I appreciate you, and also Mia O’Malley, who has been on the pod to talk about her work as an influencer, and share perspective from the inside! Sara has also been interviewing a ton of momfluencers for her book.)

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Apr 28, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

I am glad that this didn't happen, for the purposes of this podcast episode. I really appreciated the observatory overview in the way momfluencers sell prescriptive and aspirational behavior and things to buy. If you participate in this way, and parent online, you already did take part in the conversation, and I am glad the episode centered the target audience. But here, we are all able to participate on the same level. Here - in the comments - is a place for you to comment! What would you like to respond to, and why?

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That's a helpful framing, Nancy, thank you!

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Apr 28, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

I love how you and your guests always show me that I don’t know what I don’t know. Why wouldn’t gentle parenting be the way to go? Oh, here are some reasons. No guilt, no shame, just information and ways to further explore.

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Yay! So glad it landed this way for you. And we can all take or leave what we find in our explorations.

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Apr 28, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

I haven't finished listening but I was laughing at the description of Virginia's daughter's reaction to the gentle parenting scripts because it reminded me of my then 12 year old daughter's reaction to my husband trying to use reflective listening techniques. "I know what I said. I don't need you to repeat it. I need you to respond."

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Ahaha PERFECT

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Apr 28, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

On Instagram @mommacusses is up my alley. She uses gentle parenting in a way that allows for her to set boundaries and be herself (a woman not immediately inclined towards “gentle” anything; like me and so many others) and reinforces it’s more about responsiveness than it permissiveness. Thanks for this discussion!

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Excited to follow her and I like that framing (responsiveness vs permissiveness). Thanks!

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Jun 12, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

One thing that gentle parenting and diet culture have in common is that it always feel like “it” - whether “it” is a tantrum, a kid who won’t listen, or me finally yelling after trying SO HARD SO MANY times to be kind but firm about something nonnegotiable like brushing teeth (this also comes after trying very hard to be kind but firm about everything else that humans need to do to function. Like, if we don’t leave the house, I will lose my job, which we need in order to continue living indoors…) - is my fault. I didn’t do it right. My tone wasn’t right. I wasn’t close enough to guide my child physically (maybe because I have more than one kid? Or because of the dishes aren’t done it’s going to be real hard to cook and serve the next meal? Or because there is no magic fairy who is going to come do the chores that are also pretty essential to keeping things running?).

I hate hearing that my kids’ reactions is “dictated” by my tone and affect. Like, my kids are now five and eight years old. Surely they have some agency by now? And also, they have many opportunities to put on their shoes after I tell them to in a nice voice? Why isn’t it ever their responsibility that they choose to ignore nice/firm voice?

Also, I am a human being with feelings. I cannot stay calm and unruffled while people are screaming at me, hitting/kicking/pinching me, hitting/kicking/pinching each other, or some combination of those things. I am self regulating so hard just to get through the moment.

Diet culture is the same way. Whatever happens or doesn’t happen with our weight, is because we didn’t follow the rules the right way, weren’t consistent enough, missed some nuance, followed the wrong guru, etc. There is never any acknowledgement that factors beyond our control might have a significant impact. It’s all our fault, always, no exceptions.

Ugh. I have so many feelings about this, and I’m so glad you wrote about it. Usually, what I need most in my parenting is for someone to tell me that it’s not my fault. And telling me that my emotional state is the cause for all my kids’ difficult behaviors and feelings is pretty telling me that it’s all my fault, all the time.

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Yes YES, thank you. Truly brilliant intersections in here.

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Apr 28, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

This one was SO good to read. I've had so many of these thoughts about these parenting practices but never fully articulated them, so thanks for wading through all of it.

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I’ve been mulling over this topic all week. While I’m tempted to jump into a detailed discussion of parenting styles, there’s really just one thing I want to add to the conversation: Parenting in our culture is really freaking hard. Kids are still-developing humans who are dependent on adults for a very long time. It’s not that their needs are invalid or too much. It’s that they’re too much for parents alone to meet--all day, every day, for a couple of decades--while also doing all of the adulting. No one’s full humanity is being honored. We have a systemic problem, and we need community and structural support for children AND parents AND literally every human.

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