Let's Talk About Parenting: One On One
Parenting is a lifestyle that requires sacrifice, commitment and determination. But every one of us knows that there can never achieve perfection in this area - there are too many variables to ensure that that does not happen! On a serious note as a mother of two, aunt of over a dozen neices and nephews, ex-director of a montessori and later a daycare where I observed hundreds of mothers and fathers over the years: I have come to realize that one of the greatest assets that a mom or dad can have is a relaxed mind. When we are able to lay aside the stress of our day to day lives - we are more focused on our children's needs, wiser and able to react in a manner that is more logical and for the benefit of our children. That's my two cents, now let's hear what the experts have to say about parenting styles.
An authoritarian style is the 'take charge' style. A slogan for this style might be "Rules are meant to be obeyed - otherwise we will face the consequences". This style operates with the mom or dad (or both) being in full control with strict rules to keep order and maintain discipline. Stricts standards of conduct are set that often require hard work on both the parent and the child to achieve.
It is easy for users of this style to become critical of their child when rules are broken, therefore I would encourage moms and dads to switch the focus to rewarding good behaviour. Then the respect that the child shows will be a healthy one that can in the later years breed a good relationship.
The advantage of this style is that the parents can play 'good cop, bad cop' and the "bad cop" can be the authoritarian. The amazing thing about this is that my daughters still declare their undying love for their father - even though he makes use
of this style on a regular basis.
The disavantage of the authoritarian style is that the child may become so used to rules that making a decision without the guidelines of rules may become challenging as they grow older. In other words, thinking for themselves may become difficult.
This is the exact opposite of the authoritarian style. A fitting slogan for this style might be "kids rule". The child is in control and there are very few (if any) rules. Those rules that do exist are not consistently enforced, creating a 'free for all' environment that has little or no leadership. This results in very few boundaries, no clear expectation of the child and as a result, moms and dads end up feeling powerless and unable to change the behavior of the child at the time when they need to. A very scary thought if this is widespread in our society!
This style is said to warmly accept the good, bad and ugly behavior of the child, making little or nor comment about it. Or if comments are made, they are in the line of "it's your life" or "do it your way". Unfortunately, this does nothing to frame the world of the child.
The view point of these moms and dads is that they want to create as many choices for the child. The only problem with this is that the child may not be in the position to make good choices. Further more, if the child is not emotionally mature enough, it may even be unfair for the parent to relinquish their decision-making responsibilities onto the child.
Democratic Or Authoritative
If there were a slogan for this style it would be "balance is the key to life". The democratic or authoritative parent is the kind who sets and maintains boundaries. They provide realistic expectations with decent explanations that the children can understand - and they provide the consistency that every child needs as we frame their world for them. The beauty of this approach is that there is a lot of focus on the positive, with much reinforcement of good behaviour.
Choices are given to the child that are age appropriate and teacheable moments are made use of as often as possible. A lot of effort goes into being a balanced mom or dad and for the many people who have children outside the norm, this approach may not be an option.
My Take On Parenting Styles
While the US Department of Education seems to be in favor of the "democratic and authoritative" approach, as a practicing mom and teacher I think that an effective parent needs to be a little bit of all of these things. If both mom and dad are still together, playing 'good cop, bad cop' tends to work very well too. In other words, there is a time and a season for everything in this life, and part of being a good mom or dad (and the mature adult in a scenario) is being able to read the season of life that your child is going through and assess which method or style works best at the time. For example, a teenager will simply rebell against an 'always authoritarian' dad and definately run rings around a persistently permissive mom. On the other hand do you really expect a child going through the ''terrible two's' to respond to a democratic approach? Of course not! They are not mature enough to understand how it works.
Our place as the grown up in the lives of our children, is to do our best to read the situation, and apply the method that we think will be of the greatest benefit. Will we always get it right? Absolutely not! And that's why we need to bear in mind that there is no such thing as the perfect parent. But just like the millions that have gone before us, we will make it.
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