It's sad that so many people had such horrible childhoods!
I feel very very lucky to have had the parents I do and the parenting I did. While they did make some mistakes (esp. in my teen years) that have had lasting repercussions, those are far outweighed by the things they did well.
I was breastfed until I lost interest around 20 months, cloth diapered, mostly gentle-disciplined, read a nightly bedtime story until I was 14, fed a healthy diet, allowed all kinds of creative play, encouraged in my individual interests, and surrounded by love and respect.
I was treated as a full-fledged person and family member from the beginning. My parents talked with me about all kinds of subjects, so I knew they were interesting and wise people and worth hanging around. They taught me, by example, to be a rational and kind person, to value resources and use them wisely, and to be skeptical about popular culture.
As we prepare to become parents and think about how children ought to be treated, I find that I keep using my parents as examples. This is the latest anecdote that came up:
Mom used to buy my brother and me each a bottle of juice if we had behaved well in the grocery. She didn't say as we went in, "If you're good, I'll buy you a juice bottle"; she didn't mention it until the end of the shopping when we were standing in front of the juice, unless we were misbehaving, in which case she said in a sad voice, "Gosh, when you do that, I don't feel like doing nice things for you, like buying you special juice."
The juice bottles were glass. After we got home, she would wash them and use them for juice in my school lunch. A lot of people wouldn't dream of giving a six-year-old a glass bottle--she'll break it and get hurt, right? Well...once I dropped my lunchbox on my way out to the carpool. I opened it and saw the cracked bottle and the soggy sandwich and was just about to start crying when my mom came out of the house, took the lunchbox, handed me some money, and said cheerfully, "Today you can try the cafeteria lunch!" This happened ONCE. The next day there was another glass bottle in my lunchbox, and that was fine.
My parents are definitely more Continuum Concept than Total Mothering, which is great IMO. I got all the caretaking I really needed, but I also got a sense of capability and responsibility from an early age, and that's been immeasurably useful. I also saw my parents as real people with their own needs and interests, not as servants whose primary focus was on me.
Some of the details of my parenting will be different, but the basic philosophies will come directly from my parents, or more accurately from my family: My parents learned most of their parenting from my grandparents, and most of my aunts and uncles are similar. Extended family always lived far away, but when we got together they also treated me as a respected person and set good examples of how to treat younger kids. MrBecca's family is similar, so when he and I talk about how to do things, not only do we almost always agree, but usually we both feel that our way is the obvious way!
It must be so different if you weren't raised this way. You may be just as able to see what's the right thing to do with your kids, but as you do it, it must feel more like repairing the continuum than like moving naturally along. When I'm with kids, doing something I remember adults doing with me, there's a warm sweet sense of having come full circle. If you never got to be the kid in that circle, it must be a very different experience.
It's hard to reject the ways you were taught (even if they were horribly wrong) just because they were the only ways you knew when you were at your most impressionable, so at some deep level they seem right. I'm so impressed by the parents I see here who are working on healing from that and doing right by their own kids. I've got it so easy by comparison! Strength and blessings to all of you!