Monday, 01 October 2018 14:40

What Type of Parent Are You?

Written by  Avery Berry, M.Ed., ALC, NCC
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It’s no secret that parenting is, by far, one of the most difficult jobs in our society. The idea of bringing a new life into this world and raising  that life into a self-sufficient, happy, and healthy adult is not only daunting but, to many, terrifying. One of the most common problems when it comes to parenting is healthy discipline and boundaries. Where do we draw the line? Where do I find the line? What in the world is the line? For many, this concept is clear and traditions of discipline have been passed down from generation to generation. For some, the concept of disciplining children is hazy and anxiety provoking.


 Hebrews 12:11 tells us “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” I believe that this verse puts many parents’ concerns into perspective. As a parent, one has natural instincts of wanting to protect and not harm or punish. The idea of making one’s child uncomfortable or upset is not pleasant, but without it can true discipline be achieved? Can rules be learned and understood without discipline? From a developmental standpoint, the answer is no. Research has shown that healthy attachments to caregivers (parents, guardians, teachers, etc.) are formed through nurturing, consistent, and structured relationships. These relationships are built on trust, stability, and a respect for one another.


In Proverbs Chapter 22, verse 6 we read “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” This passage is basically reinforcing the concept that parents have a responsibility to support, nurture, and raise their children but how do we develop a healthy boundary with children while still showing love? There are four basic parenting styles and experts in Human Growth and Development have agreed on the most effective, but let’s first discuss some of the less-effective styles first.


The first is Authoritarian Parenting. This style is characterized by parents having a controlling and power-assertive relationship with their child. While authoritarian parents are high in discipline, rules, and respect they may not pay attention to things like support, fun, and the showing of love for their children. When I think of an authoritarian parent I always think of the character Mr. Banks in Marry Poppins before he has his revelation and becomes kind. 


The second is Permissive Parenting. This style is extremely high in support and love, but lacks much discipline or rules--it is a very indulgent relationship. For this, I always imagine Mr. Salt from Willy Wonka and Chocolate Factory. He gave everything and anything to his daughter, Veruca, and we all saw how that ended up.


Finally, and on a more serious note, is a parenting style known as Rejecting-Neglecting. This style is characterized simply as being uninvolved, uncaring, and unloving. All of these styles have their own faults, so what is the best direction?


The theorized answer is a parenting style known as Authoritative. Authoritative parenting is classified as one where a loving and respectful relationship between parent and child is reciprocal. The parents practices loving, nurturing behavior, while also practicing discipline and remaining consistent in their rule keeping. For this, I always imagine Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. Research has shown us that this parenting style is, in fact, the most successful at developing strong and secure attachments with our children. It seems clear that the line in the sand can be made but through nurturing, consistent, and structured relationships that are based in love. I think that it is important to remember Psalms 127:3 “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” Parenting is not just a job, it is a privilege and an outlet for all of us to practice God’s greatest gift to humanity: the ability to love.


No matter your parenting style, it is critically important to be engaged in your children’s lives, particularly their school lives.  Think about it, your children are sent off for 7-8 hours per day, five days a week and influenced by a totally different group of adults...teachers, principals, administrative staff.  You need to know these folks and they need to know you. 


Recognizing this need, the Alabama Department of Education dedicates October as Parent Visitation Month.  Check if your school is participating and go visit the teachers, principals, and administrators who will be influencing your child this year.  Get engaged!


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