Many couples struggle with their different parenting styles, one being generally strict and one laissez faire. We also struggle within ourselves-if we are too permissive and things become chaotic, we may explode with anger. If we are overly strict and that doesn’t work, we may give up completely. We don’t want to be authoritarian, that is, using coercion, blame, and threats; nor do we want to be permissive, that is, doing anything to please or giving up boundaries completely.
How do you balance the desire to develop responsibility and freedom in your children to bring them up as capable and loving individuals?
There are positive motivations underlying both authoritarian and permissive parenting. Yet when parents are too strict or too lenient there are harmful consequences.
Some parents are strict or permissive in only one or two areas and then the opposite in other areas, such as doing homework, use of technology, eating habits, and bedtime. Both philosophies have wonderful values at their core, but can be used to such an extreme that they backfire.
Authoritarian parents want their children to be capable, successful, responsible, and independent.
Excessive authoritarianism can be harmful in the following five ways.
1. Relationship is ignored. The relationship with the child gets ignored, and there’s little appreciation for playfulness, imagination, and creativity.
2. Harsh inner critic. The child develops a voice in his or her head that is overly self-critical, replicating the parent’s voice.
3. Target for bossy people. Having learned to be obedient, the child is primed to be submissive to other authoritarians.
4. Sneaky and secretive. Obedient children often can only satisfy their own curiosities and desires by sneaking around and lying to their parents because they are afraid of their parents’ strict reactions.
5. Hatred and anger. If there’s a lot of shame and punishment, the child may end up hating themselves and/or their parents. Such hatred and anger may also lead to a violent demeanor.
Permissive parents want their children to be happy, to feel loved, to be creative, and to enjoy the moment.
Excessive permissiveness, however, can lead to the following four harmful effects:
1. Demanding children. When parents’ fear of conflict leads them to overindulge their children, the children learn to become entitled and demanding.
2. No self-discipline. An over-indulged child doesn’t learn to postpone gratification, a key quality to success and happiness in life.
3. Anxious and insecure. Ironically, when children are allowed to do whatever they want without boundaries, they feel less self-empowered and confident. They don’t know how to place boundaries on themselves or on others.
4. No respect. If the parent is always trying to please the child, the message is sent that the parent feels very uncomfortable with any kind of anxiety or discomfort.
How to balance responsibility and freedom
1. Discipline with respect. Provide discipline with respect and kindness. You can set boundaries without being overly demanding or authoritarian.
2. Listen with empathy. If you listen to your children, you’ll be able to know where they’re coming from. As a result, you’ll be able to speak to them more effectively. Also, when you listen to your children, they are more likely to listen to you.
3. Be reasonable. Don’t be afraid to be flexible or amend a rule or a consequence, especially if you set the consequence when you were in the heat of anger. But this doesn’t mean you change reasonable rules and consequences simply because they beg you to do so.
4. Don’t try to be liked. You can be kind and enjoy being liked. Yet the moment they sense that you desperately want them to like you, you lose your authority and the respect they have for you.
5. Stand firm when necessary. Don’t be afraid to insist on rules and consequences that you believe are reasonable and important. Stand firm, not by losing your temper, but by using your personal power, which is often steady and quiet. Avoid begging and pleading. That only shows lack of personal authority.
In conclusion, try to role model having self-discipline and respect, while still being able to enjoy life, and have a relationship with your child.
by Dr. Alison Poulsen