We often have a vision of what kind of parent we will be — we want to share the wonder of discovery with our offspring, impart our values to them, as well as develop in them a positive attitude, sense of humour and robust sense of self-worth.
However, by the time your child has turned 1, this vision becomes a little fuzzier, especially after a particularly fraught clash of wills over meals, bedtime or outright defiance. When junior has looked right at you and done just what you said they’re not to do, you may have asked yourself, “Wait a minute, who is this child?” Or even, “Who is this frustrated, screaming parent? Why is my spouse letting them get away with this? Things are not going according to my parenting plan!” This means that it’s time for you and your spouse to have a rational, unemotional discussion about how you feel you can best parent your child.
Fiona Walker, principal of schools and CEO, Julia Gabriel Centre, Singapore, explains that as soon as you realise you have different opinions on what acceptable behaviour is, you’ll need to have a discussion to come up with a game plan that is mutually acceptable. If you two don’t make a strong team, your child can and will divide and conquer!
She explains that parenting requires an enormous amount of patience, boundary setting and consistency. You want to avoid falling into the “good cop/bad cop” trap as this often leads to inconsistency, family disputes and may even cause a rift in your relationship with your spouse. It is important to be clear about your parenting style and your significant other’s parenting style.
The four important dimensions of parenting:
• Disciplinary strategies.
• Warmth and how to show emotional support and loving care.
• Communication styles.
• Expectations of maturity and control.
Studies that focus on parents’ responses and attitudes towards these dimensions have enabled four parenting styles to be identified.
1. Authoritarian parenting
Children are expected to follow strict rules set by parents, who will often respond to queries with “Because I said so” and may believe that children should be seen and not heard. These parents are very focused on obedience and training their children.
Impact Children can be obedient and proficient, but often have low self-esteem, poorly developed social skills and rank lower in happiness indexes.
2. Authoritative parenting
While these parents establish clear rules and guidelines, they are much more responsive when their children question authority. They are more nurturing than Authoritarian Parents when their children fail to meet expectations and are assertive, but not intrusive or restrictive.
Impact Children generally are happy, capable and successful.
3. Permissive parenting
More non-traditional and lenient, such parents are generally nurturing and communicative with their children and have relatively low expectations of maturity and self-control. They often seem more like a friend than a parent.
Impact Children generally rank lower in self-control and happiness. They are also more likely to have difficulty with authority and this may affect their performance in school.
4. Uninvolved parenting
This style of parenting is characterised by very little communication and low expectations as the parents are largely detached from their child’s life.
Impact Such children unfortunately rank lower in all areas, including happiness, self-control, self-esteem, social awareness and academic competence.
Parents vs children
Says Walker, “Children will naturally look at how they can best get their own way and this often comes when they realise that their parents aren’t on the same page. In our house, my husband is much more likely than I am to remove our kids’ privilege of playing games on the Xbox or on the iPad. Therefore, they’ll often ask me if they can use these devices. So, I’ve now learnt that I must always ask ‘What did Dad say?’ If I just say yes, then they’ll run back to Dad saying, ‘Mum said I could!’ As soon as the children have you pitted against one another, then they have won!
“Parenting is not all about cuddles and sweet times together. You soon realise that it’s probably the hardest job you will ever do, one that is filled with challenges and a very steep learning curve. In order to create a positive and supportive environment in your home, you will need to support each other. Even if your marriage does not last, you are in this parenting job together!”
“I’ve now learnt that I must always ask ‘What did Dad say?’ If I just say yes, then they’ll run back to Dad saying, ‘Mum said I could!’"
She explains that positive interactions between parents not only makes boundaries and expectations clear to their children, it also plays a large part in the development of their self-esteem. “Our children’s happiness and development are very dependent on the quality of their relationships with their parents. If parents clash frequently, we often find that their offspring face behavioural and developmental problems.
“As a team, you bring balance, peace and security to your family. At the same time, your children will develop trust — both in themselves and their environment. They will know you are there together to protect, nurture and guide them,” she says
Parenting is a journey — there’ll be good days and bad days, as well as ups, downs and sharp turns. As Walker says, we need to take the time to know ourselves and our children, and most importantly, to invest in positive communication and teamwork. This will help make parenting a rewarding journey — one that you will cherish for the rest of your days.
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