Tag Archive for parent child relationships

Parenting Goldilocks Style

Remember Goldilocks?  She went into the bears’ house, a stranger’s house in the middle of the woods, and tasted their porridge, their food. One was “too hot.” One was “too cold.” One was “just right.” Then, she laid down in their beds. One was “too hard.” One was “too soft.” One was “just right.” She actually fell asleep in the nice comfortable bed. (Why she felt so bold to do this, I don’t know. Anyway….) A study from the University of New Hampshire found the same can be said of parenting. One parenting style is “too cold, too hard, too much.” Another style is “too hot, too soft, too little.” And one is “just right.” Let me briefly describe each style so you can decide which style describes your parenting practice.

Researchers call the style of parenting that is “too cold….too hard…too much” Authoritarian Parenting. Authoritarian parents love their children but believe rules will make everyone safe and healthy. As a result, they tend to focus on discipline more than relationship.  They set very high standards for their children but remain somewhat distant and cold while enforcing the rules. They have no patience for bad behavior and little trust in their children’s ability to behave without a strong structure in place. So, they punish misbehavior quickly and severely. Research suggests that children do not see the authoritarian parent as a legitimate authority figure. As a result, they listen less and rebel more. They grow discontent, withdrawn, and distrustful. No, authoritarian parenting is “too cold…too hard…too much.”

The style of parenting described as “too hot…to soft…too little” is known as Permissive Parenting. Permissive parents love their children as well, but they hate to see their children suffer or experience any discomfort. They believe warm relationships will cure every ail, fix every problem, and mend every flaw. In their focus on relationship, permissive parents tend to be non-demanding and non-controlling as they strive to be their child’s “best friend.” They have few boundaries and rarely enforce the boundaries they do have…after all, enforcing a boundary results in discomfort for their children. At the same time, they are very warm and receptive, nurturing and caring. Research, however, suggests that children of permissive parents are the less self-reliant. They explore less and learn less self-control. When they do explore, they run the risk of personal harm because there are few boundaries in place to protect them. Permissive parenting is just “too hot…to soft…to little.” Children need more.

The style of parenting that is “just right” is known as Authoritative Parenting. Perhaps the most important word in describing authoritative parents is “and.” They establish rules and develop strong relationships. They can be demanding and warm, set high expectations and remain receptive to their children’s needs. The authoritative parent sets rules and limits and remains willing to explain the reasons for those rules and limits. They listen to their children’s discomfort with the limit and still enforcing that limit for their children’s benefit. As their children mature, they exhibit a willingness to negotiate some limits and make age appropriate adjustments. Children view their authoritative parents as legitimate authorities and become less likely to engage in disobedient and delinquent behaviors. They grow self-reliant, self-controlled, and content under the tutelage and guidance of their authoritative parent. Authoritarian parenting is “just right.”

The question is: which parenting style describes your parenting? Don’t worry if you fall in the authoritarian or permissive style right now. You can always change to become the authoritative parent at any time. When you do, you’ll find it more often works “just right.”

If Looks Could Heal…

I stole the title for this blog from the title of a research study exploring the impact of a non-residential father’s involvement in his children’s lives (If looks could heal: Child health and paternal investment). This study explored the relationship between non-resident fathers, their children, and their children’s health. It found, among other things, that “a typical visiting father” who invested one extra day of time per month in his children’s lives “enhanced their health by just over 10% of a standard deviation.” Although this study dealt only with fathers and children who did not live together, I believe it points to an important principle of father-child relationships. A father’s investment in his children promotes their overall health and development in a positive way.  In fact, a father’s investment in his children’s lives promotes healthy children, healthy families, and healthy communities. This particular study suggests a father’s investment impacts physical health. Other studies have shown that a father’s involvement impacts other areas as well. For instance, a father’s involvement in his children’s lives will impact their:

  • Academic Life. School-age children with involved fathers become better academic achievers. They are more likely to have better quantitative skills, better verbal skills, and higher grade point averages.
  • Emotional Life. Father involvement is positively correlated with children experiencing more overall life satisfaction and less emotional stress or mental illness.
  • Social and Emotional Life. Children who have involved fathers are more likely to score high on self-acceptance as well as exhibiting greater personal and social adjustment as young adults.
  • Future Employment. Children who have involved fathers have a greater chance of becoming more successful in work as adults.
  • Social Life. Father involvement is positively correlated with children’s overall social competence and ability to relate to others.
  • Social and Community Involvement. Children with involved fathers are less likely exhibit conduct problems. They are less likely to engage in negative behaviors such as substance abuse or delinquent behaviors that might result in jail time.

A father’s presence in the family and investment in his children’s lives pays dividends for their children’s whole life. A father’s involvement benefits his children, his family, and his community. Get involved today!

(For more specific statistics related to these findings see the following sites: The Importance of Father Involvement, an interesting infograph from the University of Texas; 10 Facts About Father Engagement, from the Fatherhood Project; and The Effects of Father Involvement: A Summary of the Research Evidence, from the Father Involvement Initiative-Ontario Network.)

What We Can Learn About Parenting From FDR’s Mother

I recently started reading a biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), the 32nd president of the United States. (If you’re interested, I’m reading FDR by Jean Edward Smith.) Self-assured and optimistic in the midst of hardship, FDR “rescued the nation from economic collapse” and “led the nation to victory” in WWII.  Elected for four terms, FDR “proved to be the most gifted American statesman of the 20th century.”  The author of this biography made several very interesting observations about how FDR was parented. Perhaps we could learn some lessons from FDR’s parents for our own generation. After all, we could definitely use a more men and women of character in the world today.  So, here are two lessons we might learn from FDR’s mother. (Read What We Can Learn About Parenting from FDR’s Father to learn two more parenting tips.)

Writing of FDR’s mother (Sara), the author noted that “families as wealthy as the Roosevelts usually entrusted newborn babies to the care of experienced nurses and old family retainers. Not Sara. As soon as she recovered from childbirth, she insisted on doing everything herself: ‘Every mother ought to learn to care for her own baby, whether she can afford to delegate the task to someone or not.’ And although a wet nurse was available, Sara nursed Franklin…” herself.

  • Parents learn to care for their own children through sensitive observation. Every parent becomes a student of their child through everyday interactions and careful observations made during daily childcare. This creates intimacy in the parent/child relationship that will enhance your child’s desire to please, obey, and follow in your values. It also builds security in the child, making them feel significant and important.

“Sara (FDR’s mother) was determined to keep her son from being spoiled by too much attention yet at the same time wanted to show her affection. ‘We never subjected the boy to a lot of don’ts,’ she wrote. ‘While certain rules established for his well-being had to be rigidly observed, we were never strict merely for the sake of being strict.'”  Later the author noted, “America’s confidence in FDR depended on Roosevelt’s incredible confidence in himself, and that traced in large measure to the comfort and security of his childhood. As his daughter put it, ‘Granny (Sara) was a martinet, but she gave father the assurance he needed to prevail over adversity. Seldom has a young child been more constantly attended and incessantly approved by his mother.'”

  • Did you notice the balance between structure and relationship? FDR’s mother was described as a “martinet,” a strict disciplinarian. She “rigidly observed certain rules for his well-being.” But, she was not strict merely for the sake of strictness. On the contrary, she offered unwavering “approval and constantly attended” to his needs. She pursued a relationship with FDR based on her careful observations of his needs but was not afraid to enforce the rules for his own well-being. Structure and relationship—the two pillars of strong parenting and secure children. Our children would benefit from a more careful and thoughtful balance between firm structure and deep relationship today.

Our country benefited from FDR’s confidence and assurance. The author of FDR seems to believe much of FDR’s confidence and assurance came from his childhood and the parenting he received. Our children, and our communities, would benefit from parents taking the lessons of Sara’s parenting. Our children will mature confident and self-assured as we implement the same three principles describe in FDR’s mother:

  • Become students of our children through careful observation.
  • Establish firm structures in our children’s lives.
  • And, pursue a deep relationship with our children based on approval and attention.

6 Family Priorities to Consider

I remember when my wife was pregnant with our first child. I was excited…and a little bit nervous. I wanted to provide a great family environment and be a “perfect father.” Eighteen years later I know I fell short on the “perfect father” part. No one does this “parenting thing” perfectly. We all make our mistakes. However, that time of nervousness did make me think about the family priorities I wanted to instill in my children. Having values in mind helped cover my imperfections. Rather than dwell on my mistakes, I could pull back to our family values. Chaos ahead signOur family priorities became the foundation on which we could build a healthy family…the roadmap that kept us on the track toward a healthy family life. I realize now that without clearly defined priorities, each family member eventually drifts away and does their own thing…alone, without support or direction. Family values and priorities make up the glue that holds our family together when times get rough.  They are the life-giving “meat-n-potatoes” of our days together. Everything else is just icing on the cake.

 

Aye, that gives me an idea. Sometimes we focus on the icing. I mean, I love icing, but, if all I eat is icing I get a headache, my stomach hurts, my thoughts become fuzzy, and I get downright mean. I need “meat-n-potatoes” to live a healthy life. Our family needs the “meat-n-potatoes” of values as well. So, where do you focus your attention: on the “meat-n-potato” values and priorities that make for healthy family life? Or, on the sweet icing that leads to headaches, fuzzy thinking, and conflict? Take some time now to consider your family values, the meat-n-potatoes of your family life. To help you do so, consider these ideas. Which do you value more?

  1. Do you value successful performance and achievement or learning resilience and perseverance? Of course we want our children to succeed. More importantly, we want them to learn to persevere in the face of difficulties. We want them to “bounce back” from seeming failures. Learning resilience and perseverance encourages them to try new things and not fear being less than perfect. It encourages them to keep working for improvement. When we focus on performance, our children become afraid to try new things, afraid to fail…afraid to disappoint.
  2. Do you value structured routines or time with family? I believe in having structure based on routines and respect in the home. At the same time, those structures remain secondary to family relationships. If a structure begins to interfere with family relationships, we need to change it. In some cultures this means that bed times, although generally structured, are changed and modified for times of family gatherings.
  3. Do you value the independent person or the person who accepts help and helps others? Our culture tends to emphasize the self-made man, the independent person who has pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. However, do we really want our children to believe they are completely independent?  Don’t we want them to reach out to others and offer assistance when appropriate? Isn’t it beneficial to have the ability to reach out to others when in need? Surely we have to establish a balance in this area.
  4. Do you value getting great grades or becoming a well-rounded, socially adept, and hard-working person? When your child is 30, no one will remember whether they got a “C” or an “A” in Physics. What will really pay off when they are 30 is that they learned to work hard for the best grade they could earn. And social skills will most likely have a greater influence on their long-time work success than their high school GPA. So, we may want our children to develop a well-rounded education that included academics, social activities, and a variety of interests.
  5. Do you value getting the athletic scholarship or learning self-discipline, humility,To live by and teamwork? We love to see our children score the winning touchdown, block the shot to save the game, or outmaneuver their opponent to move the ball down field. It is exciting. But we have to face the facts…only a very small percentage of excellent high school athletes actually earn a living playing their sport. On the other hand, athletic practice and competition is an excellent arena to learn self-discipline, teamwork, how to bounce back after a failure, and how to lose (and win) with grace and humility.  Which will you emphasize?
  6. Do you value your reputation or your child’s character? It is easy to get caught up in our children’s behavior…to believe their successes and failures are a reflection on us. We push them to achieve on the sport’s field or earn high academic honors or get the star role in the musical or band…all for the parental bragging rights. Sure we are going to be proud of our children’s achievements…but won’t we be even more proud to witness our children’s character of humility, integrity, and selflessness toward others!

 

There are many other areas of priority to consider, but these six represent an excellent starting point. Take some time to think about these priorities. What do you want for your family? How will you model these priorities for your family? What practical steps will you take to assure that you and your family live these values over time? It takes some thought…and then some effort…but the long term returns are a celebrating family filled with honor and grace!