Raising Children

      Unfortunately parenting does not come with a manual, nor are our children's behaviours predictable, understandable or consistent. Due to external factors like school, peers, demands, and family difficulties, people behave in different ways. Parents parent differently from individual to individual, therefore conflict is inevitable.

     Some potential reasons for these differences include culture, personality, family size, parental background, socioeconomic status, educational level and religion. Of course, the parenting styles of individual parents also combine to create a unique blend in each and every family.

Parenting Styles

     Psychologist Diana Baumrind (1967) suggested that the majority of parents display one of three different parenting styles:

  • Authoritarian parenting expect children to follow strict rules established by the parents. Failure to follow such rules usually results in punishment.
  • Authoritative Parents establish rules and guidelines that their children are expected to follow. This parenting style seems more democratic, responsive to their children and willing to listen to questions. Authoritative parents are more nurturing and forgiving rather than punishing. Baumrind suggests  their disciplinary methods are supportive, rather than punitive. They want their children to be assertive as well as socially responsible, and self-regulated as well as cooperative (1991).
  • Permissive parents, sometimes referred to as indulgent parents, tend to be non-traditional and lenient, allow considerable self-regulation, and avoid confrontation (1991). Permissive parents are generally nurturing and communicative with their children, often taking on the status of a friend more than that of a parent.

A fourth style, an uninvolved parenting style, is characterised by few demands, low responsiveness and little communication.

     Conversely, children who share a home and are raised in the same environment can grow up to have astonishingly different personalities than one another. Therefore it is safe to assume that whilst consistency ensures boundaries and guidelines for children, one parenting style may not be appropriate for all children. Finding the most suitable parenting style for your children is half the battle. Consider a situation where the mother displays an authoritative style while the father favours a more permissive approach. In order to create a cohesive approach to parenting, it is essential that parents learn to cooperate as they combine various elements of their unique parenting styles.

     Referring to the different styles of parenting, it is helpful to see the ramifications:

  • Authoritarian parenting styles generally lead to children who are obedient and proficient, but they rank lower in happiness, social competence and self-esteem.
  • Authoritative parenting styles tend to result in children who are happy, capable and successful (Maccoby, 1992).
  • Permissive parenting often results in children who rank low in happiness and self-regulation. These children are more likely to experience problems with authority and tend to perform poorly in school.
  • Uninvolved parenting styles rank lowest across all life domains. These children tend to lack self-control, have low self-esteem and are less competent than their peers.

Parenting does not have to conform to one style, however teaching children consequences can start at one's self awareness of the consequences of their parenting, in their children's behaviour, performance, self esteem, motivation and manners.

Parenting Advice

     Practical suggestions that assist in dealing with parenting issues are listed below:

  • Discuss with your partner (if present) parenting styles that fit your values and expectations. There is no right or wrong, as long as the child's best interest is priority.
  • Encouragement, guidance and boundaries are essential in parenting with good results. Excess of any action becomes detrimental. For example, too many boundaries may be suffocating not allowing children to learn from their mistakes, where as too much freedom deprives children of appropriate boundaries and self control.
  • Parenting is relentless and has added difficulties when special needs are involved. Difficulties like dealing with bullying, victims, parenting in blended families, eating disorders, addictions and other difficult issues require specialist help. Do not hesitate to search professional support; children need boundaries, help, and external positive influences.
  • Comparing children is not helpful. Children have their own characteristics and attributes. Appreciate them and help the individual excel in their own specialty.
  • Decipher behaviour from the underlying message. Listening to what your child is trying to communicate is important in understanding rather that the way it is communicated. Often nagging and whinging may be a child's attempt at attention.
  • Advocate for your children, for example with teachers and assist them to advocate for themselves. This results in assertiveness with manners and clarity in their messages. This can start at age 3 when they are having a tantrum, let them finish their outburst then encourage them to speak their message in clear words.
  • Parenting with effort ensures the child is always being attended to and guided in the right direction. Don't underestimate the ramifications of parenting with effort versus parenting with minimum input.
  • Children learn by observation, listening, mimicking, and copying strategies. Setting good examples with your partner displays a healthy relationship.