If there is one solid truth to parenting, it’s that there is no definitive handbook. Don’t you wish that when your child was in the womb, there was some sort of automatic download to your brain to give you all of the parenting knowledge in the world? If only I could invent that, I’d be a millionaire. Sadly, there’s no way to know all of the answers. Even truer is the fact that every child is different, so that download would have to be specific to your child’s personality and temperament to be effective!
That being said, there is a lot of research out there about effective parenting. There are many different aspects to parenting—and a lot to learn—but I first want to challenge you to take a look at your own childhood and the parenting styles you experienced. Believe it or not, those experiences have a huge impact on who we are as parents later on.
Have you considered the way your parenting style was influenced by your own parents?
Close your eyes for a moment and think back… what were your parents like? How did they make you feel as a child? Did you feel heard and acknowledged? Did they ever leave you feeling a bit dismissed? Were they touchy-feely? Were emotions talked about or hidden away? Did they let you get away with things, or were they pretty hard on you?
I’ve got a million more questions—but you get the point.
Parenting is about making conscious decisions about how you interact with your child. But a lot of times, our reactions are automatic…and often learned from our own parents. Sometimes, we end up parenting very similarly to the way we were parented. Usually, this is because we liked the way our childhoods looked. On the other hand, maybe you recognized (consciously or unconsciously) that your parents did some things the wrong way ; maybe you parent in the opposite way on purpose! I would dare to say that usually there is a little bit of both—we liked some things our parents did and disliked others. But until we really take a good look at our parenting styles and consider our own childhoods, how would you know?
So, what kind of parent(s) did you grow up with?
Let’s take a look at a few different parenting styles…
The Dismissive Parent
If your parent falls into this category, they may have been obviously dismissive. Maybe if you were sad and went to your parent for comfort, they brushed you off. Or, it might be less apparent. Maybe you went to your parents when you were sad, but instead of acknowledging your feelings, they told you to be happy or pretended like everything was ok. This is what it can look like to be dismissive. Some emotions may have been undesirable or bad. If you frequently heard, “cheer up”, or “you’re fine”, your parents may have been uncomfortable with sad emotions. It probably wasn’t on purpose or meant to be mean—they likely didn’t realize they fell into this category. (Hint: their parents may have done the same thing.)
The Lenient (Permissive) Parent
This type of parent is one that doesn’t set a lot of limits, expectations, or rules for their child. If this was your parent, you may have gone to them with a problem and received little help on how to solve it. There might have been a lack of guidance, and therefore, you may have had trouble learning to regulate your emotions. It’s almost as if they treated you like a little adult, and let you figure things out for yourself. This type of parenting often leads to children that have trouble making friends, following directions in school, or staying focused.
The Strict (Authoritarian) Parent
This one is pretty straightforward. If this was your parent, you probably already know it. There may have been a lot of rules and expectations—and not a lot of warmth and comfort. Maybe there were a lot of punishments, and they may have seemed emotionally distant. Being a parent meant being in-power.
The Balanced (Authoritative) Parent
This type of parent helps their child regulate their emotions and aids them in solving their own problems. If this was your parent, they were strict when they needed to be, but usually fair. They supported you emotionally and were warm and comforting.
What does this mean for you, as a parent?
No matter what type of parent(s) you grew up with, I encourage you to consider how their parenting has affected your current parenting style. This is really the first step in becoming the parent you want to be. We first need to take a look at our influences and see how we mirror them—or how different we may have become. I also encourage you to reflect on other adult influences in your life. Maybe a grandparent, aunt/uncle, or family friend was a sort of parental figure to you and made a great impact.
Regardless of who you are as a parent right now, I want you to know that it is never too late to make conscious choices about how you parent your child. Whether your child is a toddler or a teen, you have a choice to make in every interaction you have with them. Stay tuned for more posts about becoming the parent you want to be!
Until next time,
Megan Roberts, MA
Megan Roberts is a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern at Breaking Free Services Center for Wellness. Megan specializes in working with teens and adults in all walks of life.