Evolution usually knows what it’s doing
Culture is different all over the place, and can often be ignored
Kids are resilient
Wow… that’s really it in a nutshell. I guess I can expand on each of these points.
Our rule has always been: do whatever works. Don’t do what’s hardest, do what’s easiest. With a note that screaming babies are not easy to deal with. We didn’t have a napping schedule because it was easiest to just let DC nap whenever DC was tired. DC ate when hungry because that was easiest for us. When DC wanted to start solids, we started solids and didn’t fret about forcing them before that. We coslept when that was easiest and transitioned DC into hir own bed when that was easiest. Our methods of discipline etc. changed with age and DC’s changing needs, and if something didn’t work we tried something else. What’s easiest for DC2 will probably be different than with DC1 (although enciente, DC2 seems remarkably like DC1, perhaps even more so) and we’ll go with that.
Evolution is pretty cool
Evolution doesn’t solve everything, or else breast-feeding and natural childbirth would be a lot easier. But… an infant’s cries force immediate reaction from most mothers (not so much for mothers who were themselves neglected as infants :( ). It’s natural to want to pick up a crying baby and comfort it. A toddler’s cries don’t set off that kind of reaction and are much easier to ignore.
Readiness for solids is linked to their gut flora, something called a tongue-thrust reflex, and their desire to put foods in their mouths. If you put the food in and it comes straight back out, then that’s a sign the tummy isn’t ready for solid foods yet, and that’s ok. And different tummies are ready at different times.
There are many other of these links that evolution built up. These links help with the laziness theme… you’re not a bad mom if you pick up your crying baby no matter what your neighbors say about spoiling an infant. It wouldn’t feel so bad not to pick up the baby if you weren’t meant to pick up the baby. If your kid isn’t ready for solids yet, you’re not losing some sort of parenting war. The kid just isn’t ready for solids yet. By kindergarten that tongue thrust reflex will go away (actually, by age 1… if it’s later than that consult your pedi).
Culture is different depending on where you live
A lot of parents, especially on the internet, seem to want to make parenting harder for themselves. Around here that means forcing your kid to a schedule even if the schedule doesn’t really work for your individual kid. In other parts of the country, that can mean checking off some list that your Non-Violent Parenting instructor gave you at your weekly 8 hour Saturday class.
Extremes about what to do seem to ignore individual differences, and these individual differences can result in a lot more screaming and crying, and who wants to spend precious childcare time with that? Once you’re confident that laziness is ok and evolution can mostly be trusted, then feel free to follow your own path. Just try not to get into any heated arguments with other moms, or their mother-in-laws.
Kids are pretty resilient
Even kids whose parents brought them up with one extreme or the other will probably be fine by the time they hit college. Obviously kids who are abused need help, but the majority of parenting philosophies don’t call for true abuse. Time-outs will not cause kids to become convicts later in life, even if some philosophies call them violent. Even if a kid is a holy terror as a toddler because hir parent is learning how to not discipline at child-centered parenting classes, once ze gets to school ze will straighten out.
More to the point, anything I do (within the reasonable universe of things I do) will probably not scar DC for life. Ze will learn just as much from my “mistakes” as from my perfections. When I snap at DC, ze learns that sometimes behavior is inappropriate or ill-timed and even when people snap, that doesn’t mean they love any less. I try not to, and I generally apologize after (another good lesson by example), but when it happens I don’t beat myself up about it. That’s as much a learning lesson as our (more mature) frank explanatory talks about appropriate behavior.
So… bottom line: If something works, why change it? If something isn’t working, why keep doing it? Parenting should be fun. Everything is a learning experience. There’s no place for guilt in parenting.