21st Century Parenting

Before Bea was born, we wondered what kind of parents we’d be. Would we fall into the traditional ideas of scheduling, parent-led raising or would we end up with a family bed and attachment style ideals? We’re only two years in, but I’ve learned that it’s hard to fall neatly into one category. We co-slept with Bea until no one was sleeping and then we sleep trained. We wore her everywhere in the Ergo until she became mobile and squirmy and then we used the stroller (and now the wagon). It takes effort and resolve to embrace one methodology in its entirety.


There’s a lot of information right now about teaching kids 21st Century Skills – inquiry based, student led learning. These skills are meant to help our kids become excavators of knowledge, not just passive recipients of facts. In many ways, 21st century teaching is more intensive than the old, lecture-based format. A teacher has to know her students and know of a variety of resources to guide them to certain outcomes. There are new ways of teaching and of learning and completely different paths to discover ideas and facts. The push-back to all of this is that the old ways were just fine – that adults today have managed to succeed in various professions using the old methods. Some schools are even advertising a return to traditional, desk-based learning.

I’m not sure the old ways were the best ways. Maybe people were able to achieve success through them, but shouldn’t we always be learning, tweaking, and revising our methodology? Isn’t it a great thing that our kids will be educated in vastly different ways than we were? I’d be concerned if Bea’s teachers were using the same methods that mine were, thirty years ago.

I feel that parenting is much the same. There are different camps of advice and methods, from attachment to free-range to traditional and every conceivable combination in between. Both Frank and I value the ways in which we were raised. I feel like we turned out to be fairly successful, well-adjusted adults. That being said, we have chosen to explore different methodologies than our parents used as we raise Bea. I don’t view this as a condemnation on how I was raised – I feel that if we didn’t learn from and tweak what our parents did, we wouldn’t be learning about the art of parenting.

A Facebook acquaintance posted a parenting quandary the other day. Skimming through the comments, a range of advice was issued: Remember that they’re only little a short time; If they don’t obey, spank them until they listen; Process your desired outcome with your child; Toddlers have no reasoning skills…. Fortunately, most of the advice concluded with, You know your own child best.

Maybe we’ve been lucky so far with the “terrible twos,” but I have been able to talk with Bea about my expectations and desired outcomes. Sometimes, in the midst of a temper tantrum, it’s not the best time to negotiate. I usually tell her I’d love to chat and then walk into a different room, allowing her to decide when she’s ready. We’ve used time-outs a couple times, but it’s been more in the spirit of cooling off before we discuss. Often, I find distraction works best. How can I redirect Bea’s behaviors to a more positive action? Mostly, I’m learning to pick my battles. What is it that I really want to teach Bea about being human? Is my being right in this particular moment going to teach a particular skill or is it simply a power struggle? It’s hard, but I try to remember that I’m the adult and have nothing to prove by being right in the midst of a heated moment.

I wonder if it’s because I had training as a teacher, where corporal punishment is not an acceptable form of correction and even time-outs are tricky in the midst of corralling twenty-five learners. I used a Peace Corner in my classroom – an area where kids could go to try and work out conflict before I was involved. Of course, some behaviors meant missing recess or a visit to the office, must most often, kids could figure it out themselves or with guided conversation.

As Bea navigates what it’s like to live in community and Frank and I try to model the behaviors we most want to instill, inquiry-based discussion seems to be how we best get the outcomes of desired behaviors. And, as one solution works one week and mysteriously doesn’t another week, I need to remind myself that, as we learn new ideas and gain access to more resources, the ways in which we learn and grow change. As I guide and teach my toddler, I need to remember that my own resources as a parent are constantly changing to fit her needs and the new ways in which she is learning.

How do you parent? Do you strive to model your own style after your parents or have you developed your own way of parenting?


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Annie Rim

Welcome! I live in Colorado with my family and have taught in the classroom, at an art museum, and now in the playroom. I reflect about life, faith, and books here on my blog.

5 thoughts on “21st Century Parenting”

  1. I’m not a parent, but I taught preschool for several years. You are right about different children needing different styles of teaching and discipline. No two children are the same. With that being said, I think the boundaries of behavior have to be uniform so that children understand what is expected of them. I know you’ve only got Bea (for now) and I’m talking about a gaggle of kids who aren’t mine, but it’s my 2 cents anyway. Good post.

  2. Hi Annie,
    I was a case manager for adults with developmental disabilities for three years, and have done volunteer works with that population for about 7-8 years. A lot of the techniques that I learned there have worked well with my son, who is 3. Setting limits, providing just the right amount of information (as in, not talking about what will happen in 2 days), and offering a finite number of choices have all helped head off plenty of quarrels.

    Yet, there have been plenty of times when we’ve butted heads over simple things, which I try never chalk up to a ingrained personality problem.One thing that I try and do differently from my parents in this respect is not to believe that certain personality quirks of the moment may be lifelong. I don’t like saying “… always been stubborn.” I don’t know about always – he’s only 3. Although, like my parents, I have used spanking as a technique, it’s limited as a 3rd step. If the warning, timeout, and removal of privileges hasn’t worked, then I will do a spanking.

    I don’t feel that most people, even adults, have reasoning skills when they are mad, and I got this idea from Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence – which I recommend reading. To that extent, I don’t use reasoning when emotions are running high with any person, but yes, waiting until calm and then reasoning has worked for me.

    Also – not to be a downer… but the terrible 2’s for me and most parents has been a misnomer and it’s really been the terrible 3s.

    1. Yes, I think that is so important: Not labeling a feeling with a lifelong personality trait. Wonder how many words or labels have defined negative behavior for a lifetime? And, you’re not the first one to warn me about the terrible threes – yikes!! We’ll check back in next year and see how I feel about the beauty of independence. šŸ˜‰

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