Parenting can be a hugely stressful yet rewarding experience. For most parents, the ultimate goal is to raise children who are healthy, happy, well-behaved, well-adjusted and resilient as adults. However, the means to achieve this goal for kids through ‘good parenting’ has been debated for centuries. For example, punishment has been a type of discipline used to curb ‘bad’ behaviour from children. In recent decades, experiential research has made it clear that we cannot discipline through punishment or humiliation and instead we actually need to focus on what the child is doing well by rewarding or affirming ‘good’ behaviour. Another proven fact has been the concept of a ‘balanced approach’ to parenting. There is a risk of extreme types of parenting such as under-involved parenting (or free-range parenting) and over-involved (or helicopter) parenting. Extreme types of parenting will usually encourage children to be maladjusted, unhealthy, and unhappy with poor coping skills as adults.
The many challenges in today’s busy and hectic lives of parents can create a sense of doubt, insecurity, and stress. These issues are the impetus for parents to seek out the many common-sense forms of advice through family, friends and parenting books. But no matter how much research and preparation new parents do – they will not gain insight on their own styles of parenting until they experience it themselves!
There are 8 ways to parent children that help to create a happy environment for both parents and their children. These are:
- Parent with purpose – This provides a meaningful approach to parenting that will help to maintain focus on goals, aspirations and ways to achieve them.
- Parent with clarity – Children need a consistent and a peaceful environment. No child deserves a chaotic environment.
- Parent by negotiation – Each child will have his or her own personality and different things will motivate different children. Parents can use these motivators as ‘currency’ that children can earn.
- Parent by affirmation – Focus on the positive behaviours of the child.
- Parent through change – Parenting is a journey with no simple road. There will be good days and bad ones, but parents must continually work towards goals and rewards. Once goals are achieved, then new ones need to be created.
- Parent by having fun with your kids – Many struggles in life can be approached and resolved by learning through humour.
- Parent in harmony – Both parents need to have a united front when disciplining, creating boundaries, and when rewarding. Disagreements and conflicts between parents need to be ‘sorted out’ in private and away from children.
- Parent by example – We cannot tell our children ‘to do as we say and not as we do’ because our children will choose to follow as we lead.
It is useful to learn about the various styles of parenting, the importance of a balanced approach and what your parenting style is. From this insight, we can progress by learning about what areas each of us needs to improve on to be an effective parent. The two extreme types of parenting are parents who are under-involved or free-range and parents who use over-involved types of parenting. Free-range parents often use passive approaches that allow for the children themselves to determine and define most aspects of parenting such as rules, expectations, and consequences. This type is similar to the overly lenient manager at work who has no boundaries and allows their employee to ‘get away’ with most unacceptable behaviours.
The over-involved parenting or helicopter style is the parent who controls almost every aspect of their child’s upbringing. They may dictate rules, expectations, and consequences and all other aspects of a child’s growth & development without any room for negotiation. This authoritative style can be compared to a micro-manager who chooses to be involved in all aspects of an employee’s work.
Both extreme styles are not effective for many reasons. Under-involved parents usually push a child beyond abilities that match his or her current developmental stage. These types of parents usually give too much freedom, which usually burdens the child with too much responsibility or pressure to function at a higher development stage. Here, the child is more vulnerable to adverse situations and harm. And often when there is a problem, the child will feel that he or she cannot approach parents. This child usually believes that Mom and Dad expect him or her to figure out problems on their own. Also an overly independent child may not be able to interact as effectively in a world with rules, expectations, boundaries, and consequences.
Over-protective parents on the other hand, inhibit abilities that are expected at a certain level of development. And this helicopter style will usually raise children who are over-dependent or rebellious. This is where parents will have to learn to relax, let go and negotiate the child’s co-operation to move towards independence without smothering.
Every child needs love and boundaries. And boundaries need to be age-appropriate and reflective of the child’s development, their temperament and the situation he or she is in. As a child grows and develops, the parent must stretch these limits until the child nurtures their own skills, development and abilities to be an adult. The goal is for the child to continue to actively & successfully function on his or her own one day.
Generally if your parenting style fits somewhere in between this spectrum of extremes, then your approach is most likely more balanced and will give better outcomes for you and your children.
As parents, our job is to prepare our children for the next developmental stage. If we can avoid using strategies of paranoia, fear and anxiety, then we will nurture a reasonable perception of the world. This perception will reinforce responsible yet proactive children who know that when they choose a behaviour, they choose the consequence. And we need to empower instead of cripple our children to learn through gradual steps that are within their capabilities, reasoning and skill-sets. This will encourage your children’s safety and well-being as they grow and develop.