Tag Archive for rules

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 They grow discontent, withdrawn, and distrustful.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.”

How to Raise Happy, Wealthy, & Moral Children

Do you want happy children? How about children who are academically competent? Would you like your children to have a great sense of security today and a greater chance of wealth in the future? Or, maybe you want children who make positive moral choices.  Well, you can have all this by practicing this parenting style! It’s true. A study involving 5,000 responders (learn more here) identified key parenting factors that promote happiness, academic competence, a sense of security, wealth, and moral choices. The parenting style that combined all these factors and contributed to all these wonderful outcomes is “supportive parenting.” Specifically, supportive parenting includes the following key factors.

  1. Spending time with our children. Children spell love T.I.M.E. Spending time with our children communicates how much we value and love them. It also provides us the opportunity to guide them and teach them our values through example and discussion.
  2. Happy family playingBeing responsive to our children. By spending time with our children we come to know them better. We learn about our children’s needs and the subtle ways in which they express those needs. As a result, we can respond to those needs more effectively. In other words, we become present in their lives, aware of their needs, and responsive to those needs. Our children develop trust and security in response. They become more confident and assured, knowing their needs will be satisfied.
  3. Exhibiting confidence in our children. As supportive parents, we believe the best about our children’s ability to learn and grow. By spending time with them and responding to their needs, we have nurtured a relationship that inspires them to do their best and motivates them to try hard. We trust them to actually do their best. As a result, we allow them age appropriate independence and trust their ability to make wise choices. We have confidence that they will learn from mistakes…and we let them do so.
  4. Balanced rules. This study revealed that adults who grew up in overly-strict homes with an abundance of rules became less happy and more stressed than adults who grew up in homes focused on relationships and balanced rules. Rules simply set the parameters of safety. Relationships instill those values. Natural consequences teach wise decision making. Relationships help us internalize that wisdom. So, supportive families implement balanced rules to support safety and growth while making large investments in relationship.

If you want your children to grow into happy, academically competent, wealthy adults who make positive moral choices, put these four factors of supportive parenting into practice today. You will enjoy a more fulfilling relationship with your children and enjoy watching them succeed in the future!

Family Rules: The Guardrails of Safety

From the time my children could walk (and even before), my family has enjoyed walking along the ridge of Mt. Washington in Pittsburgh, PA. Our daughters often ran ahead of us and darted out onto the overlooks. They would run right to the edge of the overlook and MtWash3peer through the fence at the panoramic view of Pittsburgh and the three rivers. We enjoyed those walks. Others did too. We saw high school couples taking prom pictures with the city of Pittsburgh as a backdrop. We even watched one romantic wedding proposal (she answered “yes”). We looked forward to walking, running, and skipping across the ridge of Mt. Washington; and, we never worried about our children’s safety. We simply enjoyed our family while looking over the ridge at the three rivers of Pittsburgh. Know why we never worried? Guardrails! Guardrails lined the ridge and each overlook. They kept us (and our children) from “going too far” and falling over the edge. They protected us. They added to our safety and allowed us to simply focus on enjoying one another in the moment.

Loving rules act as guardrails in families. They clearly delineate the limits and keep family members from “going too far.” They protect family members from hurting themselves or one another. They add a measure of safety to our lives and allow family members to enjoy one another more freely. All families benefit from clear, concise rules that create security. Establishing effective rules can prove a challenge. In fact, the rules may vary according to family, ages, places, or times. But, if you keep these five principles in mind when establishing family rules, you will enjoy the benefits of a healthy security and growing intimacy.

  • MtWash2Keep rules to a minimum. Too many rules become a burden and take the focus away from enjoying the relationship. Besides, you don’t need a rule for every situation. Some things are simply taught during daily interactions and don’t require a formal rule. Rather than making a rule for every situation, focus on rules that promote safety and respectful interactions. (Read Lincoln on the Parental Tyrant)
  • Establish reasonable rules. Rules are most effective when they make sense, when they have a logical foundation. When children ask about the reason for a certain rule, give them a clear and concise age appropriate reason. If the only reason for a rule is “because I said so,” you might want to reconsider that rule. (Read Because I Said So to learn more)
  • Make sure the rule is enforceable…and that you are willing to enforce it. Nothing undermines a good rule like lack of follow through. Enforceable rules focus on actions and behaviors—not attitudes, feelings, or thoughts. We cannot enforce an attitude, feeling, or way of thinking. However, we can enforce appropriate behaviors reflective of those attitudes, feelings, or thoughts. Effective rules focus on those behaviors. They define specific behavioral expectations and the realistic consequences related to them.
  • Effective consequences match the behavior. In other words, make sure the punishment fits the crime. A four-year-old who neglects to brush their teeth requires a very different response than a sixteen-year-old caught drinking. The rules and the consequences need to fit the situation and the child. (Parenting Advice from Horton the Elephant offers more)
  • Effective rules are undergirded by loving relationships. Vague, ambiguous rules result in too much slack and free reign to children who do not have the experience or wisdom to make some of those choices. Too many rules and rules based on “absolute black and white thinking” result in a lack of needed flexibility. They create a rigidity that prevents children from internalizing the “spirit of the law” and making it their own. The balance between these two extremes, between permissiveness and rigidity, is found in rules that flow from loving relationships. (Read Relationships Rule for more)

These five principles will help you establish loving, clear, effective rules that will protect your family from “going too far” and allow you to more fully enjoy your family.

Because I Said So

I was talking to a young man last week about his struggles coming home from college between semesters. One of his struggles involved his parents setting rules with no parenting challengeexplanation. When he asked about the reasons for some rule, his parents would simply say, “Because I said so. I’m the parent and you need to listen. I said so…that should be enough!” I’m sure we’ve all heard that explanation in some form or another…and most of us have probably said it at one time or another. But, is it really true. Should our children obey simply “because I said so.” When we tell our children to obey “because I said so…”

  1. We expect them to respond simply because of we have authority and power. This may work while they are young. However, parents’ power wanes as their children mature. Parents’ power and authority will diminish if they attempt to control behavior only with power. As children mature, effective parental authority and power is directly proportional to the relationship they develop with their children. Teens rebel against their parents’ power not their parents’ love. They will use a strong parent-child relationship as a secure base, a place of safety, while attempting to discover their independent power.
  2. We send the message that our children are incapable of understanding the reason behind the rules and incapable of learning self-control. This message demeans our children. I understand the difference between a toddler and a teen and a college age child. Still, children can begin to learn self-control at any age. We can begin to offer age appropriate explanations for the rules when our children are young. I am not suggesting you offer long explanations and debates to your toddler, just a simple, short reason for the rule. “No cookie before dinner. It will ruin your appetite.” “Time for bed. You need rest to have the best time tomorrow.” These explanations can grow more involved as your children mature.
  3. Our children will have little to no motivation to follow the rule. They may even become resentful of the rule and the parent who enforces the rule. Opposition will increase. Parents will likely resort to nagging and lecturing since the only tool they know is asserting power. Children will dig in their heels or comply out of fear. The parent-child relationship suffers.

On the other hand, when we offer our children age appropriate explanations for the rules…

  1. Our children learn to follow the rules based on rational reasons and natural consequences of misbehavior. They learn to trust us as the reason for the rules match their experience. For instance, they learn staying up late really does impact their mood in the morning.
  2. Our children learn to obey their parents’ rules out of respect for authority. They learn authority can be trusted. Authority has their best interest in mind. Authority is benevolent and loving. Authority is positive and worth listening to.
  3. Our children learn self-discipline by internalizing our explanations over time. As children grow, they can learn the appropriate times to discuss various rules they would like to change. This discussion will involve both parent and child listening to one another and one another’s rationale…and, it may or may not lead to a change in the rule. Either way, it represents a child become more self-disciplined and self-controlled, the goal of discipline in the first place.

If you want to raise children who think for themselves, respect authority, and practice self-discipline you might need to offer more explanation for a rule than “because I said so.” It takes more work and more time, but the long-term reward will be an influential relationship with your respectful, loving young adult child.

Parenting Advice from Horton the Elephant

I really enjoyed the 2008 movie Horton Hears a Who. Of course, I love Dr. Seuss. Who doesn’t? He has given us wonderful children’s stories that include the deeper, more significant lessons of life for kids and adults alike. For instance, Horton the elephant offers a HortonSayMeantlesson every parent needs to learn. Horton states this lesson several times throughout the movie when he says, “I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An elephant is faithful one hundred percent.” That is great parenting advice! Think about it with me for a moment.

  • When parents mean what they say and say what they mean, they erase ambiguity by communicating clear and truthful messages. As a result, their children know what to expect. The rules are made clear; and the consequences for appropriate and inappropriate behavior are made known. Children know what is expected of them and what to expect from their parents and family. All this adds predictability to a child’s life. Predictability gives security for a child.
  • When parents mean what they say and say what they mean, children learn to trust. They do not have to worry about false promises because they know promises are kept. They can rest in the trustworthiness of their parents’ word. Once again, when children trust their parents’ word, they gain a sense of predictability; and, predictability leads to security.
  • When parents mean what they say and say what they mean, they discipline more effectively. Promised consequences occur within the stated time frame and in response to the stated misbehavior. As a result, children learn there are no “empty threats.” A promised reward comes to them within the stated time frame and in response to the stated behavior as well. There are no broken promises. In addition, children know the rules and expectations because their parents mean the rules/expectations they say and they say the rules/expectations they mean (to paraphrase Horton). With this knowledge, children respond more readily to reminders, requests, and limits. They find it easier to obey the rules and live up to expectations because parents have made them clear in word and action.

 

Horton is one wise elephant when it comes to parenting. We would do well to learn this lesson from him: to mean what we say and say what we mean. This great parenting advice, when put into practice, erases ambiguity, builds predictability and trust, increases security, and leads to effective discipline…especially when a parent “is faithful one hundred percent.”

Through the Parenting Maze

The art of parenting has gotten lost amidst media hype and controversy. Instead of focusing on effective common sense aspects of parenting, the popular media turns our attention to the sensational and controversial. Tiger moms, free range parents, helicopter parents, attachment parents…a dizzying array of parenting styles presenting the opportunity to debate and argue, which may be great for media ratings but not so good for effective parenting. What is a parent to do?   In reality, each of these parenting styles actually has benefits; and each can have a negative impact when taken to an extreme. Take a moment with me to consider the pros and cons of each of these parenting styles.

 

Exhausted MomTiger Mom Parenting. Tiger moms balance high expectations with love for their children; and children tend to live up to the expectations of those who exhibit great love for them. Tiger moms teach that persistence and effort leads to success. This helps children develop a “growth oriented mindset” shown to result in persistence, effort, and resilience.

On the other hand, tiger moms can become intrusive. Their children may experience difficulty establishing an identity apart from their overinvolved and demanding parent. Children may even rebel in an effort to establish their identity apart from parental expectations and demands.

 

Helicopter parenting. Helicopter parents obviously love their children. They delight in their children and want them to grow into successful adults. To aid in this growth, helicopter parents maintain an awareness of their children and their children’s world, create opportunities for their children, and leverage the environment for their children’s success. This can lead to some wonderful opportunities and successes for their children.

Helicopter parents can also become intrusive. If they do not allow their children to experience failure, they rob them of the opportunity to learn persistence and resilience. By fighting their children’s battles, they rob them of the opportunity to “fight for themselves” and problem solve under pressure. In the long run, children whose parents manage their environment and time too closely will prevent their children from learning to manage their own schedule and assure their own safety.

 

Attachment parenting. Parents who practice attachment parenting delight in their children. They become active students of their children and their children’s world. Children of attachment parents come to see themselves as valuable, significant, and loved. They learn to talk through and resolve concerns and disagreements they might have with other people.

Taken too an extreme, attachment parenting can result in permissive parenting. Children may not have clearly defined limits reinforced by a consistent “no,” whether spoken or unspoken. Although they learn to solve problems with like-minded parents, they may experience difficulty working through the drama introduced by other children who have not learned these skills.

 

Free range parenting. Children who experience free range parenting learn independence. They learn creative problem solving as they experience various obstacles in their life. In addition, children of free range parents learn how to manage their safety. They learn what they can and cannot without adult help. Free range parenting also allows children to learn how to manage their own time and schedule effectively.

Free range parenting, when misapplied, can result in neglect. If parents are not aware of their children’s developmental needs and unique vulnerabilities, they can place their children at risk of harm or overwhelming failure.

 

Overall, we find parenting strengths in each style of parenting. We also see that any parenting style can be taken out of context and misapplied in response to our particular fears or weaknesses as a parent. Rather than getting caught up in the debate and controversy of the latest parenting fad, take the time to learn what makes each parenting style effective (whether you want to call it a balance of love and limits, rules and relationship, or structure and love). Then—whether tiger mom, helicopter parent, attachment parent, or free range parent—practice that balance with as much consistency as you can muster.

Cut the Puppet Strings

Children are not our puppets. We cannot control them. (Learn more in Children Are Not Our Puppets.) In fact, if we hold our children on puppet strings, we do them a disservice. We interfere with their healthy self-image, intimate relationships, and ability to assertively take a stand for what they believe. What can you do as a parent to cut the puppet strings and let go? What can you do to keep your children safe while not controlling them? These five actions can help you let go of over-control while encouraging your children to mature.

  1. grandfather and granddaughter with computer at homeGet curious. Encourage conversation with your children. Learn about their interests and opinions by asking open-ended questions. Learn about their friends, their dreams, their fears, their hobbies. Our children are fascinating! Get curious and learn about them by talking with them often.
  2. Get your own life. Don’t live your life through your children. Don’t encourage your children to fulfill your dreams. Get your own life and let your children have their life. That will mean allowing them to become involved in activities without you. It will mean allowing them to meet other adults they can look up to and go to for advice. Let your children have their own life may mean allowing them to have no interest at all in something you find exciting. Let your children have a life that is separate from your life.
  3. Be consistent and flexible. Children need us to be consistent in our love for them and our expectations of them. They need to know the rules and the consequences of breaking those rules. As they grow, they benefit from knowing the reasoning behind the rules as well. Our children also need us to be flexible. They need to have the opportunity to talk about the rules and give their explanation for why they believe an exception or a change is called for as they mature. They need to know we will listen and consider their opinion. They need to know we are willing to make changes in the rules or expectations when they make sense and show maturity. We grow as they grow. The rules changes as we all mature.
  4. Accept their choices. Children and adolescents need to make choices. Let them make age appropriate choices. You may not let your preschooler choose where to go for vacation, but let them choose between two outfits to wear for the day. As your children grow, let them have more choice and responsibility. They might make choices you disagree with. Sometimes these choices are merely opinion, like whether to wear a pullover shirt or a button up shirt. Other times their choices will just be wrong. When these wrong choices are not dangerous or life threatening, accept them. They will suffer the consequences. Let them. We learn when we make wrong choices and experience the results.
  5. Lean in. No matter what your children do, lean in to your relationship with them. Our children really need to know we want a relationship with them when they do suffer consequences for bad choices. They need to know our love is unconditional. When they do something that makes you proud, lean in to the relationship. When they make a mistake or fail, lean in to the relationship. When they disobey and you have to discipline them, lean in to the relationship. For love covers a multitude of sins.

 

These five practices can help you cut the puppet strings and train your children to become real boys and girls. No, they will become even more than that. They will become mature and responsible young men and women.