Today I drove down the road — thinking. (Yes, thinking while driving is quite dangerous, but the thought police have not enacted a law against it as of yet.) Anyway, driving and thinking about the side of the road where there were no guardrails and quite a drop if I would happen to slip off the road for some reason. I don’t like these kind of places. I like guardrails to give me some kind of safety buffer from almost certain death. That’s never happened to me before, (well, duh! Do I look dead?) but I fear it none-the-less.
From there, my mind wandered to the guardrails, actual guardrails or a stand of trees or something else to stand between me and potential disaster. They may not stop me, but they make me feel safer.
From there, I thought, “Well, I guess I’d rather go off the road at a drop off (depending on how steep) than to hit an immovable object, such as a rock wall. At high speeds, I’m guessing that’s pretty much a
death sentence gonna hurt! Going between the cuts in the hills, solid rock on both sides, might mean disaster for the unwary motorist.
This thought reminded me of parenting styles, and I began to go into analogies. (I know — welcome to my world.) Most agree with four styles of parenting. Authoritarian, Authoritative, Permissive, and Uninvolved.
Permissive parenting is like driving with no guardrails. Guardrails provide boundaries. They say, “This far and no farther.” Children need guardrails or boundaries to feel safe and to be safe. They depend on parents to set these guardrails for them. Yes, they will push against them and test them, but that’s part of the process too. Permissive parents are often indulgent, with low expectations and rare discipline. These are the ones who want to be their child’s friend. Just like the road with no guardrail, the children often feel unsafe with no boundaries.
Authoritative Parenting is a somewhat democratic process. The children have their guardrails or boundaries along with expectations of following them. But, it’s not a ‘my way or the highway’ type of parenting. Children ask questions and receive answers. The children feel respected and loved and know exactly what the parents expect of them.
This correlates with Authoritarian Parenting. The parents make strict rules with no room for failure to follow them. Harsh discipline followsany infractions. These are the ones who likely expect their children to obey because they were told to. Children are not allowed to ask questions or negotiate. They must obey. This also leaves very little room for building relationships between parent and child. A statement, attributed in some sources to Grant East, states that, “Rules without relationship breeds rebellion.” Just as hitting an immovable object in a speeding car would probably lead to death, hitting an immovable parent brings about the death of relationship and often breeds rebellion.
ADDEND: If you’ll notice in the comments below, a question engendered a new aspect to the immovable object. ALL PARENTS NEED IMMOVABLE OBJECTS! “Go play in the traffic.” “Here drink this chlorox.” “Feel free to stay up all night and miss school in the morning if you’re too tired.” “Sure watch that horror movie. Every child should have nightmares.” You get the picture. In the case of the authoritative parent, all the rules are immovable. Whether important or trivial, they are expected to be obeyed – PERIOD! The child becomes frustrated by the extreme strictures and the inability to do anything about it other than rebel. Bedtime at 8 is a fine rule for younger children, but it should not be inflexible. Children should be able to negotiate some of the rules, and they should begin to earn autonomy in their decision making gradually as they grow. In other words, rules should change with growth. After all, at some point, they will have to make their own decisions without you. I think Ann Marie Dwyer said it best, “A lot is said for allowing teens to have precursor adult decision making. They need the experience while parents can mitigate (but not eradicate) the consequences.”
The last style of parenting, Uninvolved Parenting, is like driving down a road in which there are no guiding lines of any kind: no lane lines, no clear edges, no shoulder, no guardrails, no guidance.
OUTCOMES: Just as a miss on the road can have differing severities based on where it happens, parenting styles bring about differing penalties as well.
Authoritarian/Immovable Object - The outcome here is children who obey (or rebel). Unfortunately, these children struggle finding happiness, liking themselves, and getting along in the world — either because they need those strict boundaries and don’t get them or because they resent it and have problems with authority figures in their lives.
Authoritative/Guardrails - This parenting style breeds children (and adults later) who are happy, Able to fend for themselves, and able to operate successfully in the world.
Permissive/No Guardrails - Children raised by these parents also have less happiness in their lives. They also have trouble with authority figures (having had no example) and in regulating themselves. Without the guidance of parental pusing, these children will likely struggle with school work as well.
Uninvolved/No guides - This type of parenting produces the worst outcomes in children across the board. They have competency, self-esteem and self-control issues that make life difficult for them.
Questions to ponder: What style parent are you? What style did your parents use? Did you have parents who gave you a ‘push/pull’ as they each used a different style? If you have children, what style do you use? Do you find yourself slipping into the style of your parents, despite best intentions? Do you have any thoughts on how a child (now adult) would overcome the negative aspects of their raising?
No one gets it right all the time. We’re human and we kind of learn it as we go.
I hope you all enjoyed the ride! Come again soon.
Source disclaimer: The above information was crammed into my head during several college classes many moons ago. No copyright infringement is intended.
- Overly Strict, Controlling Parents Risk Raising Delinquent Kids (webmd.com)
- Helping kids learn to make better choices (about drinking) (addictionts.com)
- Family Interaction Patterns: Bullying and Victimization in Children (education.com)