How do you make educated parenting choices?

The following is by contributor Vanessa Brown of I Never Grew Up.

I am about to give birth to my fourth daughter, and I am realizing this time around that I have a completely different mindset on parenting. The processes I use to make educated parenting choices are quite different from when I was having my first and second child.

With my first two children, I remember being very stubborn, know-it-all, set in my ways, obsessive with research, and sometimes a bit too judgmental towards other parents. With the arrival of my fourth child, I feel much more relaxed, open, ready to learn, and more confident in myself and parenting choices.

Even though I fully realize I still don’t know entirely what I am doing and I don’t always know how to deal with these kids going in and out of new phases as they grow, I am always trying to keep up!

Photo by Vanessa Brown
My process for making educated parenting choices is a bit difficult to sit down and explain, but these are the things I find myself doing when making important decisions:

1.Asking for advice from others

I ask for suggestions, advice, and input in a different way. I am careful with whom I ask and how I ask. For example, with family I will ask for stories or past experiences in certain subjects from their lives — instead of putting them in what can be a compromising or sensitive position to comment on my parenting skills. I also don’t just ask anyone and everyone about a certain subject; I will go to parents I really respect and admire when I need input on certain parenting subjects. At times, I have just asked for book and article recommendations from friends on certain subjects.

2.Religious beliefs

I have learned that after I do the research, talk with others, ask professionals, etc., I can then turn to my religious practices to help me make an educated choice. With my religious beliefs, it is prayer. I make a decision and pray to know if it was the correct one, sometimes along with my husband. Your religious beliefs might include prayer also, or attending a type of service or meditating.


Google, talking to a professional, blog posts, articles, websites, books, studies… man, the list goes on and on! I am careful with what I do read, I’m careful to listen to my mind when it has reached the point of overload, and I realize that I need to interpret all the research and not just believe it to be fact all the time — because it could be wrong for my child or a certain situation. Sometimes, I find that there are points of the research I should apply to our lives and other points I should leave out.

4.Be open

There was a certain type of homeschooling that I didn’t understand and would harshly judge without even really knowing anything about it. One day I sat down with an open mind and read all about it. I was surprised to find out that I had no idea what it really meant. After really learning about it, I even integrated part of its curriculum into my children’s own homeschooling studies. Be open to listening and learning about everything; things will surprise you!

5. Listen to your inner Mom/Dad voice

You are your children’s parent for a very important reason. Be confident in yourself and be careful with second-, third-, or fourth-guessing yourself. Most of the time when I don’t go with a decision that I knew in my heart was right, things don’t turn out well. Just listen.

Photo by Vanessa Brown

How do you work through the process of making educated parenting choices? What have you learned the longer you have been a parent? What types of websites, articles, authors, etc. do you trust?

About Vanessa

Vanessa Brown blogs over at I Never Grew Up. She has four little girls, two old dogs, and one dog training expert husband and is currently residing in Costa Rica.

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  1. I really like your point about how you ask advice differently now than you used to. Asking specific people about specific subjects or for stories on a certain topic instead of opening up the door for any topic is a great idea.
    Steph´s latest post: On Not Using Our Personalities As Excuses

  2. We changed a lot of our parenting style from our first to our second. They are different girls but we are also quite different the second time. Much more intuative, and aware of little details and how they are affected. I read both Steady Days and Simplicity Parenting this summer and really appreciated the balanced perspective they give. SP has become one of my new recommendations to other parents.

  3. I seek out friends whose kids are older than mine, but whose parenting styles I admire. These people have become “parenting mentors” who I go to regularly.

    Since their children are in a different life phase than mine it’s easier for us to support each other through the rough patches in our kids’ lives. Mostly the support I get from these parenting mentors is in the form of reminders that what I’m facing is in fact only a passing phase. This sage advice is so refreshing when I most need it.

    Friends with older children also remind me of how quickly the parenting of young children passes. Their wisdom helps me to stay grounded in the present moment with my family.

    I also read numerous parenting books and find these to be very useful, but there’s nothing as calming as the wisdom of a friend who’s been through the phase I’m in, and made it to the light of day on the other side.
    Suzita @´s latest post: “Kids, What Are Your Teachers’ Pet Peeves?” A Creative Way to Raise Children’s Social Awareness

  4. I feel a need to reform a lot of things, including the way I parent. I praying that an older, wiser woman will come along to be a gentle mentor in this process.

    Meanwhile, I am somewhat comforted that 1) most children turn out okay in spite of their parents mistakes as long as they know they are loved, and 2) all human beings are works-in-progress.
    Julia´s latest post: What We Are Not Sorry to Leave: No Child Left Behind

  5. I tend to make my parenting choices on a combination of educating myself and doing what works for my family. Not every kid is going to abide by every parenting technique, so sometimes you have to fidget with things here and there. But education myself, whether it’s reading books, asking doctors, family, and online, gives me a good stepping stone to start off with.

    And lastly, the thought that I keep in mind is that I will always have something to learn and improve upon. I’ll never get to that point where I can say, “Yep—I’m the best mom there could ever be” because I’m always changing and so is my family.
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