Even with the best of intentions, when you parent in reaction to your own parents, you often go too far to the opposite extreme.
People with negligent parents often want to make sure their children know they love them or try to become close friends with them, and as a result they may become overly-indulgent. People with smothering parents want to give their children space, but in doing so, may become too laissez-faire and disconnected. People with strict parents often want to allow their children the freedom they never had, and as a result, may become overly-permissive. People who grew up in chaos may want to provide their children structure and boundaries for their protection, protection they never had, but sometimes go overboard in enforcing too many rules.
When you’re trying to make up for what you didn’t receive as a child, you often unknowingly go too far in the other direction, with some unexpected results. The most painful consequence is that the children don’t appreciate the very thing you’re trying so hard to offer them—that which you did not receive.
Extreme styles of parenting generally work only for the short-term and have unintended consequences.
Children with highly authoritarian parents will be obedient. Yet, they tend to develop a strong inner critic and hide things from their parents.
Children with indulgent parents will be pleased to get whatever they want. However, they may not develop much self-discipline or the ability to delay gratification, which can lead to a lack of motivation.
Children with emotionally-distant parents often become independent, but at the cost of having difficulty sharing what’s in their heart and developing close, interpersonal relationships.
Children with controlling or smothering parents often become rebellious or resentful, hiding their real feelings and thoughts.
It’s best to aim for balance and moderation. Strict parenting in moderation provides secure structure. Indulgence in moderation teaches compassion. Control in moderation offers necessary guidance. Negligence in appropriate moderation allows a child to develop independence and learn from experience.
If you look back how your own parents brought you up, it’s likely that they were either emulating their parents or reacting to their parents. It’s easy to adapt an extreme position—letting your children do whatever they want to, or telling them, “Do it because I said so!” A more difficult but satisfying way to parent is to make small meaningful changes from your parents and to seek a wholesome balance.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD
Watch “Authoritarian vs Permissive Parenting.”