A Lesson in Intellectual Parenting

August 7, 2013  |  

Let’s just put it out there – parenting is difficult.  Nobody has all the answers and kids do not come with a handbook. We parent based on our life experiences and who we are as individuals. I’ve learned the best way to parent my children is by tapping into what makes me who I am–I am an intellectual. I like to be informed before making decisions. I  research, read and analyze to enhance my understanding of an issue so that I can effectively problem-solve if the need should arise. For a while, I thought I was alone, but I am meeting more and more moms who can identify with intellectual parenting, even though many of us had no idea there was an actual label for it.

If you are not familiar with intellectual parenting, I’ll give you the cliff notes. Intellectual parents are analytical, problem-solving, outside-of- the-box system thinkers who rely more on their intellect than their emotions to navigate parental terrain. Intellectual parents seek to make informed parenting decisions without relying solely upon emotions and feelings, but rather on logic and information.  Simply put, intellectual parents appear to love more from the head and less from the heart. This is not a bad thing; it is just a different approach to childrearing.

As a self-identified intellectual parent, I don’t want this to be viewed as anti-emotional or detached parenting because it’s not. In fact, intellectual parenting  is the polar opposite of those more laissez-faire approaches to childrearing. Intellectual parents are more likely to be engaged with their children because it is a data mining exercise. Our primary data source is what we know about our children, their personalities, needs and preferences and it is impossible to learn about those things without connecting with and engaging them on multiple fronts. The intellectual parent thrives on that connection. I’m affectionate towards my children, but I’m also sensitive to the boundaries that form when they no longer like their nickname or don’t want to do any of my silly little art projects. It’s a part of growing up.

I am raising two girls who are 8 years apart and very different in personality type and temperament. Being an intellectual parent has played a key role in helping me to be versatile in how I deal with each of them because they both require something different from me.

For example, if my older daughter has a bad day at school because she’s been teased or some other random teenage infraction, I immediately want to hug her and extend flowery words of encouragement because I cannot bear to see my children in any form of emotional or physical pain. But, based on what I’ve come to know about my child through years of observation, I know a hug and words of encouragement are not the most effective approach to get her back on her square. She’s very sweet and sensitive and takes everything to heart.  Intellectual parenting kicks in and I determine we have to devise a  strategy to remedy the root of the problem or she’ll brood for days. My natural response is to hug her and say it will be ok, but I know that a hug will only ease the pain for a moment. She won’t have the tools she needs to move forward.

So, I’ll  coach her and we develop strategies to  avoid the ire of others and talk about assertive ways she can stand up for herself when necessary. Although, my heart wants to embrace her because she is hurting, my head tells me that the hug could lead to a pity party and perpetuate the feelings of self-loathing.  I’ve learned that she needs balance out her sensitivity with real talk and that is what I give her by responding with a  less emotionally charged response.

Once we’re done, I hug her and encourage her. This way I’ve laid a firm foundation where she can stand on her own two emotional feet and the hug is now a positive reinforcement of the solutions we’ve discussed, not the bad feelings from the teasing.

Do you parent more with your head or your heart?

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