Colby and I recently sat down and had lunch with the parents of one of our daughter’s friends. In an effort to stay involved and engaged in our child’s life, we all decided we needed to get together and discuss things we see in our children. Their relationship. Their other friends. Just trying to stay proactive in making sure everyone is on the same page and we all know what’s happening in each other’s family. We had a wonderful time.
I wish more people had the opportunity to do this. Maybe they do, but we just don’t talk about it? We’ve always tried to keep all lines of communication open with our children, but that doesn’t mean walls don’t go up. They do. So, again, we work harder to tear them down. No secrets. Everything out in the open. Even while talking to this other set of parents, we all realized how different we each were in our parenting style–even between the couples. But, the one thing we all agreed on is this: parenting is hard.
Yes, yes. Parenting is wonderful and fulfilling. Yet, just as there are times of exhilaration, there are also times of frustration during child rearing. We’ve read the parenting books, yet we all still make mistakes, and as parents it can be stressful thinking of how our mistakes are affecting the children we love. No one is perfect. But when we’ve made a mistake, we should never feel that it’s too late to turn around and say we’re sorry or change the direction things are going. I am not afraid to say I’m sorry when necessary. I learned long ago how important it is for my children to know that apologizing is okay and can mean a lot for all involved.
Common parenting behaviors
Through various studies and plenty of research, psychologists came up with four parenting styles. Each one representing a dimension of parenting behavior. The styles are Authoritarian, Authoritative, Permissive and Uninvolved. In fact, sometimes, we don’t fit into just one of the categories.
Being Too Strict
We all want our children to succeed. We know their great potential and we want them to meet it. But at times this can come across as unyielding and demanding. Although we don’t want our children to feel as though our rules are more important than they themselves, it can be easy for them to view it this way. The problem is not that we don’t love our children. The problem is when something is lost in the communication of it.
What should a parent do when a child expresses that they are feeling crushed by the weight of too many rules? Have a heart-to-heart talk with your child and try to put aside your own frustrations, even if it feels like your child simply wants to do as they please. Your child is an individual person with their own feelings, hopes, dreams, and hurts. Find a way to compromise and lighten up in any possible areas. Find out once again what you have in common with your child and focus on those areas.
We try to use our own past experiences as a place to start a conversation as to the WHY behind the decisions we make. They may not need to know everything about our past, but sometimes it helps them to understand where you’re coming from. Not to mention, it gives them perspective when they realize you do actually know how they feel, because you’ve been there yourself.
Being Too Lenient
Being too strict may harm a child, but so can being too lenient. Our children need rules and absolutes. They need structure and routine. They need support and the knowledge that their parents have high hopes for them and expectations that match. Helping our children set goals and work towards them is not only a good idea, but also necessary.
Sometimes rules can cause conflict. For some parents, it can feel overwhelming and cause us to relax the rules to an extent that rules cease to exist. This is damaging to our children’s self-esteem and something we need to correct. Sit down with your child and explain to them that you are not trying to push them to the point of exhaustion, but you love them and want them to fulfill their potential. Make a list together of suitable expectations and discuss all feelings towards it, whether negative or positive.
There can be a happy medium between both being too strict and too lenient. You just have to find what works best for you and your child.
Bringing Negative Childhood Experiences into Parenting
A wise man learns from his experiences. The past can teach us to be better and avoid obvious mistakes. However, we need to be careful not to get so wrapped up in our past that it negatively steers the course of where we direct our children.
Perhaps your parents lived vicariously through you and you now avoid giving your child any new experiences for fear they may think you are doing the same. Or maybe your parents’ expectations were too demanding so you have set the bar insultingly low for your own child. Stop living in the past and be the parent that your child needs right now. Make decisions based on your child’s best interest, not what the little child you used to be wished she could have. I struggled with this early on and still find myself, at times, pushing through the struggle to do what’s best for my children.
How do you find the happy medium in parenting?
Parenting is a tough job, but can be extremely rewarding. Take care to notice your parenting behaviors and be open to repairing the mistakes you make along the way. It’s a natural part of the process, plus, your children will be all the better for it. Not to mention, your relationship with your children will be one that will keep them coming back to you well into their adulthood for advice and encouragement.
To really dig into parenting styles, learn more about the four parenting styles–sometimes called the Baumrind parenting styles or Maccoby and Martin parenting styles.