Everyone around you is sleep training their children.
Everyone you see is intent on their baby sleeping in a crib or in their own room.
Everyone you hear is using time outs to gain compliance from their child.
And then there is you….
Driving the opposite way on the parenting highway, choosing to cosleep, choosing to breastfeed for as long as feels good for you, choosing connection over coercion. There you are intentionally choosing to step away from the crowd and not conform with the zeitgeist of the current parenting paradigm.
Perhaps your whole life, your modus operandi has been to not stick out, not shake the apple cart, to not rock the boat. To not cause too much trouble for others. Afterall, we’ve all been raised in a society that rewards the ‘good’ girl or boy.
Yet as soon as you birthed your child, a roar began to gather inside of you, a roar that you could no longer ignore. It was a familiar voice so loud telling you the path of conformism in parenting is not what your child needs from you, not even close. That roar was the voice of your authentic self.
Following the crowd feels safe
In Atomic Habits, James Clear says that “Most days, we’d rather be wrong with the crowd than be right by ourselves”.
By this he means that most of us spend our lives trying to fit in, to please our parents, earn our place among our peers, always believing that most people know better than we do. And so we push down our inner voice and flow with those of the crowd.
Our society rewards us more for what we DO than who we ARE, so while conformity can bring a sense of safety, it comes with a hefty price tag – the cost of slowly, piece by piece, losing touch with our authentic selves. Brene Brown says that fitting in is the opposite of true belonging.
“Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to BE who we are.”Brene Brown
What does science tell us about social conformity?
In the 1950’s Solomon Asch performed a series of social experiments to understand to what degree a person’s own opinions are influenced by the group.
He asked participants to take part in a vision test. All participants were seated in the same room together.
He showed everyone a line segment (target line, as below) and a group of three segments of various lengths (A,B,C, as below).
Asch then asked each participant individually to select which line segment – A, B or C – matched the length of the target line segment.
As part of the experiment, some of the participants were actors and they were asked, on occasion, to unanimously choose the incorrect line segment. The purpose of these experiments was to see if the participants would change their answers in order to conform with the group.
When this happened, those participants who had chosen the correct answer appeared confused. Their eyes widened. They seemed nervous. They double checked their answer and tried to gauge the reactions of other participants. So, what were the results?
Nearly 75 percent of the participants went along with the rest of the group at least one time, changing their correct answer to an incorrect answer. Asch also found that having one of the actors give the correct answer while the rest of the actors gave the incorrect answer dramatically lowered conformity. In this situation, just five to ten percent of the participants conformed to the rest of the group.
These studies have been repeated multiple times with similar results, suggesting that having social support is an important tool in combating conformity.
Why do people conform with the group (even when they’re right)?
At the conclusion of the experiments, participants were asked why they had gone along with the rest of the group. In most cases, the participants said that while they knew the rest of the group was wrong, they didn’t want to risk facing ridicule.
A few of the participants suggested that they actually believed the other members of the group were correct in their answers…and that they must be wrong!
These results show that we’re conditioned to bend to those who sound more confident assuming they know better. We may hold the belief that other people are smarter or better informed than we are.
It all comes down to us feeling a sense of safety in numbers. There is comfort in being validated by the majority. Afterall, if we’re wrong, at least we’re wrong with the crowd!
Conformity and parenting
In the parenting world this effect is multiplied tenfold.
Most of us have never had any experience raising a baby before.
Most of us are parenting in isolation from the social support we deserve and the like minded people we seek.
And, so, consciously or not, we place ourselves lower in the ranks and look to those we believe know more; our own parents, friends, doctors, sleep “experts” or even complete strangers and we may feel compelled to follow their advice, rather than hearing the voice of our own intuition, because the masses couldn’t be wrong – right?!?
We see this in almost every aspect of parenting:
- Homeschool or regular school?
- Diapers or EC?
- Breastfeeding or formula?
- Bedshare or crib sleep?
We see parents all over the world conforming to what society expects with little question as to whether this is what they or their child truly needs.
The important question is though: if you choose to parent from a place of safety and conformity, are you making the best choices for YOUR child?
Breaking Free from The Crowd
There are those who are happy to follow the crowd, never questioning, never taking off the blinkers.
But, as a conscious parent, you can’t blindly follow the crowd when it comes to big life decisions in your parenting and your children’s lives.
The difficult truth is that we either choose our own paths in life, or we follow the path culture has chosen for us. The parenting path culture chooses for us in the west is one of traditional punishment techniques, sleep training and separation.
It’s a relatively simple choice:
Connection or disconnection?
Unconditional love or control?
Compassion or manipulation?
Our children thrust themselves into our lives and ask us to be courageous enough to (re)discover our authentic selves, and in doing so, we allow them to stay true to themselves.
So, for the sake of our children, we need to summon the courage to make choices that are in alignment with our own values. We need to find the confidence to be more nonconformist.
Because nobody can know your children, their health issues, their sensitivities and preferences, or your family’s unique circumstances like you do. Often, the advice of society and the crowd will not be right for your child, their temperament, their biology or their development. It is up to you as the parent to break free and find your own path through the dense forest of parenting advice.
Eventually your authentic self will become too hard to ignore
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”Anais Nin
Going against the crowd, doing things differently from lifelong friends, or taking a different path from your own parents can feel insanely uncomfortable. Yet, at the same time, looking into your child’s eyes and knowing that parenting this way feels right will all eventually become too hard to ignore.
“Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.”Susan David, Ph.D
I’m right there with you on this wild, natural parenting journey. Going against the crowd, following and trusting my intuition is something I have come to excel at and when I hear from mamas who have learned to do the same, my heart smiles! Living a life of authenticity, whether you’re a parent or not, is a birthright we need to reclaim…and a gift we need to pass onto our children.
I would love to teach you how how to forge your own parenting pathway
If you’re longing for a place to belong, no longer want to be out there alone, and fed up with being misunderstood for your natural parenting choices I would love to invite you to join me inside of Gather – the online community for natural parents, just like me and you.
Gather membership includes access to “The Confident Parenting Course” which has been designed for parenting rebels just like you. The content within will have you standing out from the crowd with confidence, and shaking off the expectations placed upon you and your child by society.
Doors are open now and close on February 15th. You can learn more here.
You belong, your choices are important, your village is out there.