Updated: Jul 18
While most people think in black and white terms, most of life happens in gray areas. We hear that something is good, so we go all in, thinking more is better. It is easy to fall into the trap of becoming an extremist in many aspects of life. When it comes to parenting, balance is the key to success.
There are many difficult decisions parents must make starting from infancy. Do you choose attachment parenting with babywearing, or do you put your child on a schedule? Do you hover over your child to make sure they do not get hurt or allow them the freedom to explore and learn on their own? Do you buy your child the things that they want or do you make them save up for those things?
As children grow, parents must find the balance between doing things for their children and placing responsibility on their children. The decisions are not easy, as every child is different in their temperament and ability to make good choices. A good rule of thumb is to stay somewhere along the middle ground. Too much to one side or the other could come with long-term consequences.
When children become teenagers, parents must decide how much freedom to give at what time. Some parents choose to hold onto complete control until the child moves out of the home, while others give their kids free rein to do as they please. What are the pros and cons of each choice?
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There are three main parenting styles: authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive. Parents will typically gravitate to the parenting style they are raised with. If they were unhappy with the way they were raised, they are likely to go the opposite direction thinking it will lead to better results.
This is a strict, “do what I say” type of parenting style. Rules are rigid and discipline is quickly enforced when rules are broken or when a child is disrespectful. There are positive aspects, as children learn self-discipline, respect, and hard work. However, the quality of the relationship is often poor. It is more performance-based and fear-based.
Permissive parents have few boundaries and allow their children to do what they want. The aim is often to make the kids happy, which they believe will lead to fulfillment. Parents are often aloof and uninvolved. Kids tend to make poor decisions and can become disrespectful to others. They can also develop a sense of entitlement.
This parenting style is the middle ground. Parents are concerned about the emotional well-being of their children, but also set expectations, boundaries, and consequences for their children. Discipline is done from a loving perspective and communication is open and warm. It takes the positive aspects of both the authoritarian and the permissive styles to find a balance between giving freedoms and responsibilities.
It sounds easy enough, but parents know that parenting is hard! It takes patience, careful consideration, trial and error, and a daily dose of humility to succeed. It is like a daily dance with your kids, giving a little and then taking power back as needed. It is constantly assessing maturity, motivation, power structure, current needs, and the child's ability to make good decisions. Even children who make good decisions and show maturity thrive when they have protective boundaries around them. The boundaries are loosened as they grow and mature.
The glue that binds the relationship between parent and child is connection. Connected parents seek ways to spend time with their children, engage in meaningful discussions, participate in the activities their children are interested in, and seek out ways to create lasting memories. Successful parents aim to pour their values into their children. They are a safe haven where kids can go for comfort and support. They are responsive to the emotional needs of their kids. They are dependable and consistent, giving their children the confidence that they can grow and learn without fear.
Parenting is no easy feat. It is not for the faint of heart or the uncommitted. The days are long, but the years are short. It is a full-time commitment to the well-being of another. But, when you look into the loving eyes of your beautiful child, it is all worth it.
Photo by Shiva Smyth: https://www.pexels.com/photo/closeup-photography-of-stacked-stones-1051449/