Parenting and Parenting Styles

Becoming a parent is one of the biggest challenges in life

For most people, becoming a parent is one of the biggest challenges in life. It challenges us to our limits and probably a bit beyond those limits. Of course, it brings benefits and rewards too. Thankfully there is much in the way highly pertinent advice and help for parents which has emerged over the years. Of these PET (Parent Effectiveness Training) is probably among the best-known and most highly-regarded. It is interesting to note that even though the author, Thomas Gordon, passed away in 2002, his book on PET is still gets very positive reviews on the likes of amazon. It’s fun to see (and a very strong endorsement) that some of the reviews are from people who were raised by the PET method, by their own parents, and are now using it to raise their kids.

Reacting to our Own Parents’ Parenting Style

We need to overcome our reactions to our own parents parenting style (if they even had one).

One of the challenges all parents face in learning to parent our own kids; is that we may need to overcome the issues we faced in the style of parenting we experienced form our own parents. Of course that assumes that our parents actually had a style, as many parents just, sort of, muddle along.

I may have loathed aspects of my parents style of parenting and be in reaction to it, but that does not mean that it would not be good style for one of my kids.

We may be seeking to avoid our parents’ parenting mistakes, or make up for where we feel that they lacked. One of the problems with this is that different kids may need different things. What we needed, and perhaps did not get from our own parents, is not always a reliable guide to what our own kids need. It could even have been the case that what we needed for our development as a person were the very challenges that our parents provided for us, intentionally or not. One child may feel happy and secure with an amount of structure and disciple that another child may feel stifled and oppressed by. Up to a point, even an Authoritarian Parenting style may be good for a particular child, if is not overdone; while another child may just see those same parents as horrible monsters they long to escape from. One child may thrive on a loose and easy parenting style, such as permissive parenting, that causes another child to feel neglected. How is a parent ever to get it right? Well, communication is a key, which is why books like PET, which encourage good communication between parents and children are still best-sellers. I may have loathed aspects of my parents style of parenting and be in reaction to it, but that does not mean that it would not be good style for one of my kids.

Sometimes, as a parent, the biggest challenge is to get to a place where we feel that we are coping reasonably well; never mind actually getting it right.

Helicopter Parents

If a parent become overly attentive and overly fearful of their child and their ability to handle the challenges of life they become what is known as a “helicopter parent” (also called a “cosseting parent” or simply a “cosseter”). The parent’s fear is usually triggered by issues outside the home. With some parents who do Home Schooling, it is sometimes hard to tell whether the parent is doing so for the child’s sake; or because they are a helicopter parent. As long as the child is doing alright with it, and has a chance to learn to socialise with other kids, fair enough. Some kids thrive on social interactions with a group of other kids and some seem to do much better just one person at a time.

However, if it turns out that a child is being home schooled by a narcissistic parent, who wants to control every aspect of the child’s life, that would be terrible for the child. Having a narcissistic mum, or narcissistic dad, is bad enough; but its even worse if the child can’t at least escape from them by going to school.

Forgiving Our Parents for Their Parenting Style

Another key to effective parenting is forgiveness. That is, forgiveness of oneself as much as forgiveness of our kids when they act out. All the helpful advice aimed at parents is a wonderful thing, but it can also leave an overwhelmed parent feeling inadequate and ashamed as their lack of skill is brought to their attention. A bit of self-forgiveness can be a real help here.

Teaching our kids how to forgive, even if we need to learn it ourselves first, may save them a lot of problems later. They might even need it to forgive us! (Download free The Four Steps to Forgiveness)

In fact, when it comes to issues around parenting even a little bit of forgiveness goes a long way. For one thing ideally as parents, we teach our children how to regulate and express their emotions in ways which are healthy and constructive. We want to do this in order for them to eventually become healthy and well-adjusted adults able to have resilience and competence in dealing with the challenges of life (or at least so can actually stand to be around them). Yet, if we ourselves grew up without being taught the skills of how to regulate our emotions effectively then we need to teach ourselves those skills in order to be able to pass them on to our kids.

The ability to forgive is a skill that many of us have never been taught. Yet, we somehow expect ourselves to be able to do it. Even a cursory look at families, child development and society in general, makes it plain how important forgiveness is for emotional resilience and psychological wellbeing. Within families, people can be holding on to resentment about things which happened many years ago. We might have one relative who never talks to another relative, or at least never talks to them in a civilised manner and without getting into an argument. We might have a brother who avoids one of our sisters, or vice versa. We might have an uncle who nobody likes for some unspecified reason and so on. Some of these conflicts may be due a simple misunderstanding or lack of communication.

As parents we wonder what effect this is having on our children. What are they learning and picking up on from what they see the adults around them doing? Are they learning to hold grudges and be bitter and resentful towards others? Teaching our kids how to forgive (Download free forgiveness ebook), even if we need to learn it ourselves first, may save them a lot of problems later. They might even need it to forgive us!

Parenting Styles: Conscious Parenting, Gentle Parenting, Authoritarian Parenting

“Oh no, I shouted and raged at my daughter this morning and I sounded just like my mother!”

Then there’s the effect that we ourselves have on our kids, either as parents, or co-parents. We need to forgive ourselves for not being the perfect parent we would like to be. We may need to forgive our own parents for the less-than-perfect upbringing they gave us. This less-than-perfect upbringing can impinge on how we relate to our own kids. A single mother friend of mine recently exclaimed, “Oh no, I shouted and raged at my daughter this morning and I sounded just like my mother. That is exactly what I don’t want to do!” She remembers only too well the negative effect that her mother’s overly authoritarian and controlling parenting style had on her and wants to avoid doing the same with her own kids.

We may have had an odd mix of parenting experiences when we were a child with one parent being self-absorbed and narcissistic and the other parent being overbearing and authoritarian. This can either leave us feeling muddled and confused in which way to go with our own parenting or go the other extreme and be absolute in our choice of parenting style. However, we might find that different children respond better to different styles of parenting as alluded to earlier.

As parents we try to do our best, especially if we are working with “conscious parenting”, or “gentle parenting” styles. We know only too well the importance of setting a good example. You want to be patient with “little Johnny” and teach him how to handle strong emotions in a constructive way. But you have just blown your top at him when he moodily threw his toys all around the room for the third time this morning. All your carefully considered concerns about his child development stages are forgotten as you wonder if a trade-in is possible.

All any of us can do is take responsibility for the feelings arising in us which caused us to react, forgive ourselves, apologize to the child, and move on. Does the idea of apologizing to your child fill you with horror? If so. consider this. If you model the ability to apologize to your child they may well at times apologize to you and be easier for you to get along with.

Self forgiveness (see Self Forgiveness exercise in The Four Steps to Forgiveness) is very helpful because if we tend to blame and shame ourselves for our own adult style upsets (which may not be all that different from childish “tantrums”), or the times when we just “lose it”, then we will be likely to blame and shame our kids for theirs. We need to break the cycle of blaming and shaming and instil skills in how to be emotionally resilient within ourselves and in our children. Blame and shame, in the long-term, just tends to make people suppress emotions; when what is needed is the skills to resolve them in constructive ways. The ability to forgive can break multi-generational patters of blame and shame.

Parents are Not God

Every child has to learn to handle not always getting what they want.

Looking back on it I can only wonder at the challenges my mother overcame in trying to create “a happy home” while dealing with us five squabbling kids. My mum would look at us mis-behaving and sometimes she would shake her head and say, “I blame the parents…” Then she would grin and say, “Oh no, that’s me!”. When a friend of mine was at her wits end with her kids, I would put on a cheesy smile and in a breathy voice said, “Home is about creating a beautiful, safe and loving place where children can argue, squabble and fight with each other.” That made her laugh. Yet, I was also making a point. It may well be that kids bring their own issues with them into the world and the parents’ job is to help them work through those issues. The issues kids seem to have with their parents may be more about issues they have with life itself. Part of the art of handling life is to learn how to constructively cope in situations where we don’t get what we want and the younger we learn that the better. Yet, some people even as adults, and now parents themselves, still resent their own parents and have not forgiven them for such things,

The general atmosphere in the home is bound to effect our emotional state. We might be a single parent who feels like we are really struggling to raise the kids, and possibly resentful about the ‘missing’ parent. Or the other parent may be physically present, but unwilling to participate in family life. We might have ongoing struggles with the other parent or a tension-filled truce. Such things can all too easily build up and make us slip into unconscious and reactive behaviour with our children. Leaning to forgive the other parent may well be an essential part of creating harmony in the home. However, that does not mean we have to put up with harmful behaviour. (See the Tough Forgiveness chapter in free ebook, The Four Steps to Forgiveness).

Conscious Person, Conscious Parenting

We all learn that to be a good parent we need to stop stuffing down our own feelings of disappointment, frustration, anger and despair and learn to handle them consciously. That enables us have a bad day without needing to take it out on anyone. That way we become a better role model and teach our kids how to handle problems and mistakes by letting them see how we acknowledge and handle our own.

It is better to ask for what you want than complain about not having it. – Forgiveness is Power.

How we respond in highly-charged moments is one of the keys to the emotional resilience needed for good parenting. Those highly charged moments are not necessarily “the problem”; it is how we handle them is the problem. If we are out of touch with our feelings, or resist expressing them till we explode; then this is sign that we need to learn to emotional resilience and also how to negotiate what we want in better ways.

If we want something badly it can be hard to ask for it, because if the person we ask refuses or rejects our request that can feel very hurtful. This can cause us to only ask for what we want with a lot of “charge” (with a tone of “you better not refuse”), or we may resist asking till it comes bursting out in anger or frustration. We may think that this is “asking” but really it is more likely complaining, and complaining very strongly at that. We may well be expressing our needs as demands. Yet, does anyone like to be at the receiving end of demands? I doubt it. That can soon result in chronic resentment in the other person and lead to a failed relationship, so it is better to learn to negotiate and use demands sparingly if at all.

Part of this is the tendency to assume that we can keep our deepest needs a secret and; simultaneously expect certain people to read our minds in order to meet those needs. As a man I have to say I am rubbish at reading a woman’s mind. Nor have I come across any courses that claimed to help me do that. If I ever see a course titled: “How to Read a Women’s Mind”, I will certainly sign up for it and I am sure many other men would too. But, till then it’s best that women know that us men can’t necessarily do that very well.

Interested in learning how to forgive so that you can have a better relationship with your kids and everyone else in your life? The links on this page give you access to your copy of, The Four Steps to Forgiveness, a free ebook that will help you learn how to forgive. The book is available as an immediate download, so you don’t even need to enter an email address to get it.

All the best to you in your journey as a parent and in learning how to forgive.

Written by William Fergus Martin, Author: Forgiveness is Power and The Four Steps to Forgiveness.

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Four Steps to Forgiveness

A powerful way to freedom, happiness and success.

William Fergus Martin

ISBN: 978-1-63443-344-0