In Coaching Psychology Online I promise to offer Strategies for a Better Life. If you are a parent, and being a better parent sounds a helpful strategy and less stressful – read on. There is so much written about parenting that I decided to make this article a 3-part one to cover at least a reasonable introduction and background to the issue, and offer you the possibility of making a self-diagnosis about your style of parenting and child discipline, and perhaps to pick up some strategies and tips for peaceful parenting.
A lot of attention years ago was placed on different types of parenting which you can still see operating today. These were the autocratic and rather aggressive type of parenting, the so-called democratic or assertive type of parenting, and the easy-go/passive type of parenting.
Now days we have a larger assortment of parenting styles, some of which I will skip over, to deal with the most important ones. Then after all that I will offer some “icing on the cake” that you can add to your parenting skills. I’ll mention some of the more subtle and toxic ones, and provide an overall view of modern parenting to finish up with.
I wish I had known a lot of stuff about parenting which I now know, but my kids are grown up, and unfortunately missed out on all these goodies I am about to share with you. Strangely they grew up to be decent adults who did not get involved with the law! While years ago I thought the problem was with the kids, most of it, as with most kid behaviour problems, I found out later, is that the parent doesn’t know how to be a parent. I had no idea, and just followed the lead of my parents which wasn’t all that helpful.
Well, who gets a parent training program and parenting manual when you become a parent? No-one, and parents usually just muddle around and do their best. And just when you think you have it all worked out after the first one, if you have a second child, then it’s all different! The second child has a different environment, that is, it has to share it with number one. And number one has a seismic shift to share with number two. Number two has its own personality which is different from the first child. You too are a different person, depending on your experience with your first child you may be more experienced, more or less relaxed, or more frazzled. We are talking about mums here who seem to get most of the action. I have written about stress recently – see Do you do stress rehearsals? and Stopping Self-Sabotage. Check out these articles if you are beginning to feel frazzled at the thought of parentingJ
The children I will refer to in this article are primary or grade school-age as when you are parenting babies or teens there are very different issues which are beyond the scope of a small series of articles such as these. However, the best parenting styles are appropriate for all ages, it’s the interaction and the age details that are different.
So let’s look at the different parenting styles.
Remember that a parent may move between styles according to his or her mood or level of patience at a given time, but we are talking about a style which is used most of the time by the parent.
I was brought up with autocratic or authoritarian parenting. Children were “seen and not heard”, and a parent had absolute control. Great fun! Parents thought that this way of parenting was correct, “Spare the rod and spoil the child” was the mantra of the day, and kids and animals had to be careful to stay out of trouble. Of course the parents knew no better, and mostly were detached from their own, and the feelings of their children. That a child might have had rights or feelings was not a thought on their radar, and this type of parenting often reinforced bad behaviour.
Kids would have heard their parents say things like ”do as I say”, or “how many times have I told you not to do that!?” But not often were they kindly shown a correct way of doing things. “No”, or “stop that!” followed by a whack was a common method of controlling and disciplining a child. It was a mindless type of parenting as the parent didn’t have to think beyond these actions. Amazingly we survived.
Robin Grille in his great book on parenting called “Parenting for a Peaceful World” (and don’t we need that?) says that “punishment and the desire for control have not been altogether abandoned”. The punishment and control methods have become more subtle and less extreme. These other methods will be dealt with in the description of other types of modern parenting styles. Robin states that the older modes of parenting involving overt abuse or neglect are frowned upon but child misbehaviour is still usually blamed on the child, and “punishment” of some description is doled out, or the child is manipulated towards “good” behaviour by rewards or approval.
The passive easy going parent
These were parents who didn’t seem fussed by what their kids did. We envied kids with these parents, thinking that their children had an easy life. But the parents were still detached from their own, and the feelings of their children, and still ignored the child’s rights.
They didn’t encourage any particular behaviour and didn’t seem to care what the child did or didn’t do. “Do what you want”, or “please yourself” seemed a marvellous sort of parenting style to a kid with an authoritarian parent, but there were no boundaries or guidance, and children were left pretty much to their own devices. Sometimes the parents swung from one type of parenting to the other, which was extremely confusing for a young child.
Another type of “parenting” is one where the needs of the child are almost totally ignored. This is “Uninvolved Parenting” where there is little or no empathy, interest, or nurturance of a child, and one has to wonder why this child has been brought into the world in the first place. Teachers would be very familiar with the child whose parent is uninterested in their schooling or homework, does not know or care where the child is, does not spend time, or quality time with the child who actually raises itself! The Very Well Family Website states that these parents usually do not know anything about child development, may be from a lower socio-economic class and overwhelmed with everyday concerns. They and their children can have problems with self-esteem (apart from anything else) and the children usually have (surprise, surprise) significant behaviour problems. However parents coming from a lower socio-economic background are not necessarily uninvolved with their children, many working hard to make a better life for themselves and their children, and they value education as a path for this.
Some parents are downright permissive. They are eager to please the child and be the good guy. They may set rules, but mostly forget to enforce them, and there are few consequences. Because they want to be the good guy the kids can weasel their way out of any consequences, or manipulate their parents to suit themselves. So they get to eat what they like, do much as they like, stay up late, and don’t care much for authority or rules. You can guess that they have problems with food, keeping time, looking after their teeth, or their things, doing their homework, or acting responsibly. Before long they begin to have problems with authority figures, and may make poor choices in life because the parent is a weak and inconsistent guide. Sometimes these parents swing toward being authoritarian when they get desperate for control, and then they have a battle because their offspring is not used to being bossed around.
So what’s a better parenting strategy?
A good basic one is Authoritative Parenting, not to be confused with Authoritarian Parenting! Authoritative parents set rules and explain why they are doing this, and how the rules are going to work. The authoritative parent sets out consequences for rules being ignored, but takes the situation and a child’s feelings into account. The child gets boundaries, knows the rules, and knows that adults are in charge but that they are fair, consistent, and considerate.
Of course all of these descriptions are a tiny overview of these types of parenting styles, and their consequences in the lives of children.
In the next article I will set out some tips and strategies from the best types of parenting in a nitty gritty way so you have some clear guidelines about these styles. But for a really comprehensive description of all types of parenting from the very earliest to the latest in a fascinating history, you can’t go past Robin Grille’s Parenting for a Peaceful World, Longueville Media Publication, and for the very keen, at 390 pp of reading.
I promise to extract some goodies from this book for those who don’t have the time or inclination to read it and also provide tips from other books and notes I used when I taught parenting many years ago, e.g., how to have emotionally intelligent kids. First of all it pays to get some EQ yourself!
© Kathleen Crawford 2018 www.coachingpsychologyonline.com Strategies for a Better Life.
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