Throw Out the Parenting Formulas: Intro to Principles for Parenting

When we knew our first baby was on the way, Hillary read numerous books on parenting while I skimmed some of them. There were other parents who we interacted with during that time who were “those parents.” You know, the parents who read the book with the secret to getting your newborn to sleep through the night. Maybe you were one of those parents. We would all love that perfect universe where there was a perfect formula for parenting. But I believe the perfect formula just doesn’t exist.

When I think of a formula, I think back to my algebra days in middle school where we had equations like A + B = C. These were controlled environments. If you knew two of these numbers you could be guaranteed of finding the third. Nothing would change that.

I wish that there was a formula to parenting like high warmth + high structure = good, healthy kids but I don’t believe one exists. It might work for some but I think it leaves the other parents frustrated, discouraged and stressed. It creates an unhealthy expectation for parents that they just can’t live up to.

So if I am throwing out parenting formulas and highly structured philosophies of parenting, what am I proposing? I believe that there are principles that can guide our parenting. These principles do not guarantee success. I have seen kids of great parents grow up and walk away from their religious beliefs and ultimately their parents. There are no guarantees of success in parenting. That is one of the risks we take as parents.

What is a principle? A simple Google search finds that a principle can be defined as, “A fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning.”

A principle transcends a specific context so that it can apply to numerous different parenting scenarios. In my opinion a formula doesn’t take into account the context and guarantees success regardless. Parenting formulas deal with specific behaviors and tasks to do while well thought out principles help parents to look at their specific context and decide what specific behaviors and tasks are best for them. Parents are trained to think on their own instead of just doing exactly what the book tells them to do.

Getting rid of the parenting formulas and learning to think on our feet based on our principles takes more work but the pay off is much better. Our kids might not turn out perfect but we won’t be left frustrated and discouraged because we put our hope in a formula that just doesn’t work for our kids and our context.

Over the next few weeks I hope to develop some of these parenting principles. Feel free to rip them apart and disagree. They won’t be good principles if you don’t think they work in your context.

Tomorrow I’ll dive into the first principle, “Spouse First, Parent Second.”


I selected this post to be featured on my blog’s page at Dad Blogs.

Posted on June 12, 2012, in Family Strategies, Fatherhood, Principles for Parenting and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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