Your parenting style will determine if your home is peaceful or chaotic.Our society values self-evaluation for the sake of self-improvement. Books and magazines pose questions such as, "Are you an extrovert or an introvert? A leader or a follower? A lover or a fighter?"
Dr. Kevin Leman, author of Have a New Kid by Friday, says that parents need to ask themselves an important question on the road of parenting improvement: "Am I an authoritative or permissive parent?" Dr. Leman believes most moms and dads fall into one of these two categories, and which "parenting camp" they fit in will determine if their home is peaceful or chaotic.
Robyn is often frustrated because her two elementary-age girls are out of control. When she speaks, they talk back and argue. Because she feels like a slave to her kids, she falls into bed exhausted each night and wonders if she will ever feel joy again. She gives her kids priority over her husband, and he resents it. Because she wants her children to be successful and can't stand the thought of them failing, she often takes up the slack for them when they act irresponsibly. Her greatest concern is for her kids' happiness. She makes excuses for them to teachers, and coddles them when they whine and manipulate her.
Portrait of a Permissive Parent
Robert is also a frustrated parent. He tries to control his children with his "my way or the highway" attitude; consequently, he makes all the decisions for them. He also uses reward and punishment to control rather than to teach them in love. Not surprisingly, he sees himself as superior to his children, and they resent it. He runs his home with an iron fist and grants them very little freedom.
Portrait of an Authoritative Parent
Which category do you fall into? Are you permissive? Authoritative? Here are some tips to help with both parenting problems that encourage rebellion in kids.
Tips for the permissive parentIt's OK to get mean!
Do you sometimes feel that if you firmly discipline your children that you are being mean and unloving? In his book Have a New Kid by Friday, Dr. Leman writes, "Show me a mean teacher, and I'll show you a good one."
Sadly, many permissive parents believe that "being mean" is the opposite of parenting well. In fact, permissive parents shy away from firm discipline because they worry that they will permanently damage their child's psyche. The result is a chaotic home abounding in disrespect.
When I was an elementary-school teacher, I started out my education career being permissive because it's my nature to err on the side of compassion. I quickly learned that if I wanted to maintain control in my classroom, I had to use firm discipline, which sometimes I felt like I was being mean.
The same applies to good parenting. If you want to maintain a peaceful home and you struggle with being a permissive parent, you'll need to adopt the "Sometimes It's OK to Be Mean Policy." Of course, I'm not talking about being abusive, screaming, yelling or acting out of control but about developing an "I-know-this-is-a-battle-of-the-wills-and-I-will-win" attitude which will help you parent well. When I was a permissive teacher, I was always on the verge of losing my cool because I allowed my students to push me around. If this has been your experience with your kids, perhaps it's time to become more firm.
Don't give warnings.
Permissive parents often fall into the trap of giving too many warnings, when giving an instruction once is enough. Repeating sends two messages to kids: "Mom doesn't really mean what she is saying" and "Mom thinks I'm incompetent because she says everything at least twice." Dr. Leman says, "Your goal is to get your children to listen, listen once, hear what you have to say and act on it."
To stop the crazy cycle of giving too many warnings, start giving instructions once, then quickly use discipline when your kids don't listen the first time. It may take a few times for your children to get your new rules, but it won't take long.
Can you imagine the satisfaction you'll experience from giving directions only once and watching your kids jump into action?
Tips for the Authoritative ParentYelling isn't more effective
Because authoritative parents often feel that they are superior to their children, they frequently treat their kids as if they are stupid. They yell instructions rather than speak them firmly, but quietly.
When I was a teacher if my students were too loud, it was generally ineffective to yell or use anger to get them to quiet down. In fact, the louder I became, the less they listened. However, if I quietly said, "If you can hear me raise your hand" my students would freeze, shoot their hands in the air and become silent so I could calmly give instructions. My quiet but firm demeanor showed I was in control and demanded respect. On the other hand, anger never demanded respect and always showed I was out of control.
When authoritative parents use anger to communicate with their kids, the children may obey out of fear, but they will never do so out of respect. Respect is gained through consistent but firm discipline and instruction.
Make love your goal
If you struggle with being an authoritative parent, it will be helpful to understand that love is a huge motivator for obedience, and disciplining in anger without love will cause children to become rebellious.
Many authoritative parents have the upper hand with their kids when they are small, but as their children grow, they lose control. Why? Because children will only obey out of fear for so long — then they will rebel. The point is this: all discipline needs to begin and end with love. The main goal should be to love your kids into mature adults. This means that your discipline can be firm without being harsh. This means that you never insult, make threats or react. Instead, at all times you remain in control.
Most of all, pray!
When you are dealing with the day-in-day-out duties of parenting, it's easy to forget that God is the perfect parent. That means that He can (and wants to) help you parent well. So when you need guidance and wisdom, pray and ask Him for parenting help! He will give you the direction you need to become balanced — and neither permissive nor authoritative in your parenting style.