Friday, October 24, 2014

How NOT To Parent (Bogus Parenting Styles)





According to those who study human behavior, there IS a "best" parenting style.  It's called the authoritative parenting style.  Researchers like Diana Baumrind and others have roughly outlined four basic parenting styles.  These styles are based upon two indicators:  parental warmth and parental control (or now called parental responsiveness and parental demandingness).  The parenting styles are based upon how much of each indicator the parent displays in his or her interactions with the children.  In our discussion of these styles, we will look at them from most controlling to least controlling.

Authoritarian - these parents have a high level of control, but a low level of responsiveness.  They expect obedience from their children without question.  They have a high level of structure and clearly stated rules, and often use punishment as a deterrent to disoedience.  They are also characterized by the high level of psychological control they exert over their children.  Children of authoritarian parents tend to do moderately well in school and do not engage in problem behaviors, but they have lower self-esteem, poorer social skills and more depression.  A higher percentage of obese children come from authoritarian families.

Authoritative - these parents have both a high level of control and a high level of responsiveness, but their discipline is non-punitive.  They clearly let their children know what their standards are, but these parents are able to balance their conformity demands with respect for their children's individuality.  Children of authoritarian parents are  the most socially and instrumentally competent, and exhibit the lowest levels of problem behaviors.  This is the parenting style that researchers SAY is the best.

Indulgent - these parents are more responsive than they are demanding.  They are more non-traditional than the other styles, allow the child more self-regulation, and do not require mature behavior when children have not yet developed the ability to be mature.   Another term for this style is democratic.   In our society, parents who are not demanding of their children are considered indulgent; however, this term has a negative connotation and should be split into two subcategories - those parents who are simply permissive, and those parents who provide a framework for learning self-control that is non-coercive. This styles is truly democratic.

Uninvolved - these parents are low in responsiveness and demandingness.   While most researchers point out that this category includes those who are rejecting or neglectful, for the most part even these parents fall within what is considered normal parenting behavior.


Now, here's the reason I've been discussing these parenting styles - NOT so you will run out and all become authoritative parents.   One commentator states that "children from authoritative homes appear to be able to balance the claims of external conformity and achievement demands with their need for individuation and autonomy" (1).   There is the kicker:  conformity. 

Who decided just what we are supposed to conform to?  Who decided just what behavior is "best" for our children, and for us as individuals?  Our society "demands" a certain kind of behavior from us.  The point is, we DON'T have to adhere to these demands.

I have specifically raised my children so that they know they do not have to adhere to anyone else's demands (except in cases where breaking the law might get them thrown in jail).  I do not require them to adhere to "external conformity and achievement demands".  You see, these researchers, they assume that we all agree about what is "socially acceptable" or necessary, so when they evaluate the children reared with these different parenting styles, they may say that some of them did not turn out to be "socially competent".  Well, maybe that's because not all of us parents agree that being socially competent, by their definition, is what we want for our children.

While I'd like my children to be polite, kind and compassionate to other human beings, I do not want them to feel that just because some supposed authority figure tells them to do something that it is necessarily the right thing to do. 

I do not believe in AUTHORITY.  I believe in people being equals, not one person being in control of everyone else. 

Now people will say, "But in society there will always be someone in authority over us.  Shouldn't our children learn this from the start?  God, government officials, law enforcement, doctors, teachers, parents - don't all these people have authority over us?"

The answer is, no, they shouldn't, and if they do, it's because we have allowed them to have an authority over us that is inappropriate.  Let's explore the false authority that has been given to these individuals.

GOD - This one depends upon your theology.  Most people believe God to be a supreme, perfect being who has the right to tell us what to do because he is higher and greater than us.  I reject this belief.  "God" is the sum total of all the energy in this universe.  The universe is a living organism, of which we are all a part.  We are all EQUAL parts.  There is no one part that is more important or superior to the others.  Each particle of energy is connected to every other particle, and when we are all connected, the organism which results from this connection is "God."  God is not an authority that controls us.  God is the community of which we are all equal parts.

Government officials - our government is supposed to be "by the people" meaning that we govern ourselves by electing officials that will govern the way we want them to.  But it doesn't work that way.  Those who are supposed to represent us don't see themselves as our servants, but as our masters.  They see themselves as the ones "in charge" of our country.

Law enforcement - there only need to be 2 laws.  Don't physically harm another person, or their property.  That's it.  But in true human fashion, we have taken these two simple laws and multiplied them into thousands.  In our society, our leaders see it as their purpose to keep everybody from committing wrongs, when their actual purpose should be simply to teach and rehabilitate people after they have done them.  Instead of just holding somebody accountable when they get in a car accident, they make all these other rules, like you must wear a seat belt and you must not drive over the speed limit and you must have a drivers license, and you must blah blah blah.....We don't need all that.   When somebody else places externally-imposed standards on you, you then don't feel it necessary to monitor your own behavior from within, because somebody has already made your decisions for you.   The more laws are placed upon us, the more lawless our society will become.

Doctors - their favorite saying is "follow doctor's orders" as if they are
in command over us and we must obey.  Doctors in this country for the most part follow one particular theory or model of healing.  If you are going to be treated by a doctor in this country you are going to be subjected to a particular viewpoint about how disease and healing occur.  The trouble is, you might disagree with that model and not want to be treated according to its rules.  Most doctors in this country have only been trained in one model and know very little about other ways of healing.  Once again, a decision has been made by those in "authority" that this one model of healing is the best and the others shouldn't be used.  Well, that is for the individual patient to decide.  No one is going to decide for me what kind of treatment I am allowed to have.  I will go to the doctor to get his advice but I will also consult the chiropractor, nutritionist, herbalist, midwife, acupuncturist, naturopath, homeopath, and many others, and then most importantly, I will consult my own innner wisdom and intuition.  That is what will tell me the right thing to do. 

Teachers - well, before you can accept that a teacher is necessary, you must concede that there is something you cannot teach yourself, or you must believe that what the teacher has to impart to you is true and accurate.  I concede neither of those.  In a classroom, a teacher teaches what he or she has been told to teach by those in charge of the system, in most cases, our government.  In public schools, children learn what the government thinks is important.  In a private school, children learn what those who own the school think is important.  In a parochial school, children learn what the leaders of that religion believe is important.  Everywhere, in every school, the school itself is organized around a group of core ideas that the leaders believe are important for everyone to know. 

Well, how about each person deciding for himself or herself what is important?   What is important to you may not be important to me.  Schools are designed to control students while they learn to socially conform to what others want.  Even the knowledge that is deemed important is censored so that only part of what there is to know is ever taught. 

No,teachers are not necessary or desirable.  A person can teach themselves anything they want to know, because they themselves have deemed it important, not because they are forced to by someone else. 

Parents - is the purpose of parents to control children?  Some would say so.  No, the purpose of parents to lovingly care for children's physical and emotional needs while they grow and develop into whoever they decide to become.  It is NOT a parent's job to mold their child into something, or to make them accept some ideas and reject others.  You may WANT to....you may wish your child would adopt your ideas or ways of doing things, but that is not fair to the child.  Each person should be allowed to decide for themselves what is important to them and how they will live.  But parents for the most part don't allow their children this freedom.  They want their children to adopt their religion, cultural practices, political views......but why?  Because they believe their way is right.   It is the height of human arrogance to think our way is better than anybody elses.   One person decides to accept certain values and live a certain way based upon a myriad of different factors, most of which have nothing to do with right and wrong, and everything to do with social conformity and pressure.

In essence, the only reason that the authoritative parenting style is accepted as the best is because it produces children which
socially conform the way most of society wants them to.  But that does not mean YOU have to accept the norms of society. 

I do not place external conformity and achievement demands upon my children.  I want them to achieve what they have decided is important to them, not what somebody else in society decides is important.   I model for my children on a daily basis behavior that is polite, loving, kind and fair.  They model this because they see it demonstrated.  All other behaviors are optional, they decide for themselves.  They go to bed when they want, eat what they want, wear their hair and clothes the way they want, see the movies they want, study what they want, wash dishes and take out the trash when it is necessary, not because it's a rule, and are allowed to fully unfold and develop into the people they choose to be.  We all, as human beings, have that right and obligation.

According to the researchers, children of authoritative parents display fewer "problem behaviors." What are those?  Being disobedient, skipping school, staying out late, drinking or smoking, being disrespectful, etc.  One reason I don't have a problem with my kids is because I do not consider these to BE problem behaviors.   I don't expect obedience from my children, but I expect respect because I show respect to them.  People used to ask, don't you expect them to do what you tell them to do?  No, but as kind and decent individuals, they often do what I ASK them to do.   My husband used to want to assign chores to the kids and give them punishment or withdraw privileges if they didn't do them.  I told him it wasn't necessary.  When I need help, I just ask them and they usually give it, unless they have a good reason not to.   And if they have a good reason not to, that is good enough for me.  I treat them just as I would want to be treated.   That is why they show me respect.

Skipping school - it's like a prison, not a place for learning.  I'm happy they are skipping it, and educating themselves instead.   When you try to force people to learn, it doesn't work.

Staying out late - my kids know they are free to stay out and go wherever they want, but somehow they never stay out later than the latest movie or restaurant is open, and they usually call and let me know where they are.  They have cell phones so I can call them whenever I need to.  

Everyone always says, if we don't force kids to go to school they won't voluntarily learn anything, and if we don't give them rules they won't do the right thing.....well, mine DO, and so do lots of others.  If we give them mutual respect and model good things, they will pick up on it.  It's no wonder they rebel against parents who expect them to adhere to a lot of unnecessary rules and don't trust them to do what's right.  If you know someone disrespects you on a basic level, why would you want to follow what they say? 

People say kids don't know how to make good decisions, that they don't know what is dangerous and what isn't....I think kids very definitely can make good decisions.  Jean Liedoff's research which lead to her book "The Continuum Concept" showed that our expectations of children influence their abilities.   As she lived in the village, and watched the native mothers care for their children, it became evident that the native mothers knew more about their children than we do about ours.  The mothers would sit around and chat, and let their babies crawl here and there.  There was a huge pit or hole in the ground near where the babies were crawling, but the mothers never showed any concern.  The babies would crawl up to the hole, sit on the edge, dangle their feet over, and crawl away, all without any concern from the mothers.  Liedoff said that in all the time she was there, no baby ever fell in the hole.  They were aware of it, and so were the mothers, but no attempt to restrain their freedom was made, and no accidents occurred.

So, love your kids, be a good model for them, trust them, but don't force them to accept your ideas or anybody elses.   Let them become who they want to be, without coersion.

A good model for parent/child relationships as well as all human relationships is Family Effectiveness Training by Dr. Thomas Gordon.  This model teaches democratic parenting based on partnership relationships rather than relationships based upon authority.  This is more respectful and makes more sense as a model for how we treat everyone, including children.   The Center for Unhindered Living teaches Family Effectiveness training on a regular basis. 
Signup for a class right now.


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References:

1.  Darling, Nancy.  (1999).  Parenting Style and Its Correlates.  Available Online:  http://www.athealth.com/Practitioner/ceduc/parentingstyles.html#Baumrind91

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