ARE YOU TOO WEAK OR TOO STRICT?
by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families
When you were a child, did you have strict or weak parents? Perhaps you had one of each! Where does our parenting style come from? I would say it usually comes from the role models our parents were. We may automatically fall into the same mode or we may rebel against the kind of parenting we experienced and do the opposite.
Let’s talk first about strict parenting. We had friends back in the day who were incredibly strict with their seven children. When Mom and Dad said, “Jump” they did. Granted, there was a lot of fun and laughter in the home, but in our view the parents were so strict that when the children were out of their sight, the kids became quite unruly. Why was that? I believe they were put on such a narrow behavior path that they didn’t know how to act when nobody was telling them what to do. Either that, or they never had a chance to just be themselves at home. So, with no restrictions, they just went crazy.
Home is the place to learn how to behave. However, when children are told exactly what to do in a regimental fashion with no leniency, they never get the opportunity to make decisions for themselves. Home should be a safe place to learn appropriate behavior and allowance should be made for mistakes. Home should be a place to be encouraged and not browbeaten into submission. When a parent is constantly monitoring a child’s behavior and pouncing on every error, there is often little evidence of love and praise.
Why do parents become weak? Perhaps with one strong parent, the other becomes weak to counteract the apparent ‘tyranny’. Perhaps they want to be their child’s friend, rather than impose any restrictions. Perhaps they have no skills in effective parenting or choose to give in to allay arguments. Perhaps they are afraid of their children.
When you have inconsistency in parenting styles, several things happen. The child will always seek the ‘weakest link’ to get what they want. The child will say the strict parent is not fair and the weak parent will say their spouse is not being fair to them and is way too hard on their child. With one strict and one weak parent, cracks can quickly appear in the marriage and this creates stress and dysfunction in the home.
So, what does it take to create a united parenting front? Ideally, you should discuss parenting methods before you even have children. However, it is never too late to change, no matter how old your kids are. If you are not sure where to start, look around at your friends’ families and find a parenting style that demonstrates a happy home, with well behaved kids who are free to develop their own personalities and reach their own goals. Look for a family that is parent directed (two parents who stand in agreement on parenting style and who back one another up in their disciplinary decisions). Seek their advice for your family. Read books on the subject and attend parenting sessions in areas where you feel you need help. It may mean that in a home where one parent is very strict and the other is weak with discipline a compromise may be needed where both parents move off their pedestals and find some middle ground.
Go to the drawing board and decide on the important values you want to uphold within your family. These would include respect, honesty, commitment, forgiveness, trust, integrity and caring. Decide what these attributes should look like in yours, as well as your children’s behavior? Discuss the types of discipline you will issue for infringement, AFTER you have trained your kids to conform to the expected behaviors. Save the strongest discipline for the attributes you feel are most important. Praise will always yield better results than harping on about mistakes or disobedience.
Hopefully your children will want to emulate your parenting style when they have their children. That would be thanks indeed.
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