Episode 3 - Parenting Styles
Hippy, Happy or High Standards…..
While it’s great that in the movies and on TV parents have the perfect relationship with their children, generally family harmony is hard fought and won.
There are plenty of tactics that can help - for some it is a family pow wow with outcomes that work for the whole family while the other end of the spectrum has a lot in common with a military camp with Mum and Dad issuing orders and the ranks following them.
Being fascinated with how families work is not a new past time. Boffins have been studying how families function since the 1920’s. Thanks to this we now have the notion of Parenting Style. This is basically a way of describing the tools parents use to interact with their children and run their families.
Figuring out your parenting style means looking at how you respond to your children’s needs and expectations but also how you make what you need to have happen.
Some people give a lot of thought to how they want to assert their expectations as parents while others just go with instinct. Generally your choices will be influenced by your experiences with your own parents. That's your main role model, or perhaps how extended family were parented if you are from a larger whanau. Most of us copy or rejected (deliberately or unconsciously) the type of parenting we experienced. Some believe the hippy style of parenting of no boundaries came as a result of children having grown up with strict rules and boundaries in the 40's and 50's: they rejected how they were parented themselves and did the exact opposite with their own offspring allowing them to do as they pleased.
Many of us may not have given much thought to, and in particular discussed with our partner, what we want to do, or indeed reflected on our own experience until actually faced with child rearing ie until it is screaming at them in the form of a squirming bundle of joy. Very smart people, like Barbara Coloroso in her book, “Kids are Worth It”, sum up the three styles of parenting: Jellyfish parenting, Brick-wall parenting and Backbone parenting. Doctors tend to call it permissive, authoritarian and assertive parenting. In the title up the top, we've gone for Hippy, Happy and High Standards. Whatever label we want to slap on it, the questions are much the same: Which sort of parent am I? Which sort of parent do I want to be? Is there a map to get to where I want to be? How do I take the first step? Start by knowing a bit about them:
The Hippy or Permissive Parent
If your main aim is to keep your household peaceful, this is you. All your energies and tactics go into making your child happy. This means avoiding meltdowns and hissyfits so you will generally give the nippers what they want. You often provide a lot of choices for them, all day everyday: do you want muesli or porridge or toast for breakfast? Jam or Marmite or honey? For lunch do you want a sandwich and yoghurt or fruit and a biscuit?
The idea is that giving them choices is the way to go in the hope that they choose well even when they don't have the knowledge or maturity to do so. You also hope that if they get choices and are not dictated to, this will make them happy. In a way, you are treating your child as an equal. You will apologize when you upset the offspring and often offer a prize or reward to make amends - things like lollies or time on the computer for older kids. You hope that by setting a good example off being kind, considerate and fair that they will follow your lead. You want a happy and harmonious home but like all parents will loose your rag now and again. For Permissive Parents not getting angry is like a badge of honor so when you do you will apologize and generally talk through with the kids how mummy (or daddy) shouldn't have done that and they are sorry.
The High Standards or Authoritarian Parent
If you are this style of parent, you will be wanting to raise your children to be very compliant.
It's not quite the "children are seen and not heard" camp but you will expect them to do as they are told and generally the first time they are told. If children do not comply, you will have a set of consequences for disobeying and you will use them.
You will never issue the threat of a punishment and not follow through: you value consistency highly and you will expect your partner to back you and ensure punishment is adhered to. When one parent likes to keep their children happy and the other likes to keep them under strict control, a lot of tension ensues so this has to be a two-headed approach. You are aiming to ensure obedience but also to teach your child to know you mean what you say and to understand choices have consequence. You may see your job is to toughen up your children for what they will face in adult life. After all, you know how the world is and you see your job is to teach your child that the world doesn't revolve around them and that tantrums get you nowhere.
The Happy or Assertive Parent
This approach combines the above two in very loose terms. Your approach will be to support your children within reasonable boundaries. You will punish inappropriate behaviour but not have rules for everything they do. You want them to make small mistakes they can learn from while protecting them from doing things that will truly harm them - you let them go barefoot and then pick out the prickles or patch up a cut while explaining wearing shoes would stop this happening next time. Behaviour-wise, instead of allowing your child free reign to do anything they wish like the Permissive Parent or declaring what the consequence of not obeying will be like an Authoritarian Parent, you will make your child understand what is expected and wait for it to happen before other things can - a bit like "eat all your veggies and you can have ice-cream" or the naughty step/time out approach. You won't mind if your child gets upset or if you do: tears and tantrums are part of family life and hopefully don't last too long.