Monday, August 13, 2012

Parenting 101: You're Doing It Right

Three cheers for authoritative parenting, which seems to be the most successful style of parenting in terms of raising well-adjusted, successful kids (socially, emotionally, academically and financially). Not surprisingly, this style handily beat out helicopter parenting and tiger moms; both styles are too much into a kid's business and hinder a kid's ability to develop autonomy. This is perhaps why some kids parented this way rebel so fiercely; they are clawing their way to independence.

So what is authoritative parenting and why does it work?

1. You are the parent, and your job is set limits and rules. Your job is also to respect the person your child is trying to become, and chances are pretty good it is not a little mini-you.

"The central task of growing up is to develop a sense of self that is autonomous, confident and generally in accord with reality. If you treat your walking toddler as if she can’t walk, you diminish her confidence and distort reality. Ditto nightly “reviews” of homework, repetitive phone calls to “just check if you’re O.K.” and “editing” (read: writing) your child’s college application essay."

Please stop doing your kid's homework. PLEASE. I have asked nicely.

2. Authoritative parents allow their kids to make mistakes and give them time and space to try again. In the article above, the author gives as an example parents who do not allow their walking toddler to walk. That child will quickly learn that being carried is easier, so why walk? To wit:

"Think back to when your toddler learned to walk. She would take a weaving step or two, collapse and immediately look to you for your reaction. You were in thrall to those early attempts and would do everything possible to encourage her to get up again. You certainly didn’t chastise her for failing or utter dire predictions about flipping burgers for the rest of her life if she fell again. You were present, alert and available to guide if necessary. But you didn’t pick her up every time.  You knew she had to get it wrong many times before she could get it right."

Let your kids fail. It won't kill them. Seriously.

In a nutshell,

"A loving parent is warm, willing to set limits and unwilling to breach a child’s psychological boundaries by invoking shame or guilt. Parents must acknowledge their own anxiety. Your job is to know your child well enough to make a good call about whether he can manage a particular situation. Will you stay up worrying? Probably, but the child’s job is to grow, yours is to control your anxiety so it doesn’t get in the way of his reasonable moves toward autonomy."

You can do it. I have faith in you. Be gentle when you fail (like when you yell at your kid for eating the cooked chicken that you were saving for something else but that wasn't really any big deal at all but you lost your temper because of something non-child related. I'm just sayin'.), apologize to your child when you make a mistake and attempt to be the best person you can be so your kid can see the try. Don't let your kid be rude, obnoxious, entitled, self-centered or mean. This is where discipline comes in, but not the kind that beats them down forever and makes them feel ashamed - the kind that a kid can learn something from and try to do better the next time.

Enjoy your kids. They are only with us for so long and then they are off in the world. Let's all try to make it count.

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