5 Tips for Being a Good but Stern Parent
Do you wonder if it’s better to be an authoritarian parent or a permissive parent?
In the authoritarian style, things can go drastically wrong. Boris and Sarah Sidis, Ukrainian Jewish immigrants to the United States, had a son, William. Although, he was a bright child, they wanted him to be a genius. They focused on educating him from the day he was born. By the time he was 16, he graduated from Harvard, cum laude. Unfortunately, his life did not go well, he broke off relationships with his parents and lived a short, unsuccessful, and unhappy life.
In the permissive parenting style, things can go just as wrong. According to Helen Williams, a great researcher on parenting advice, “Findings for the permissive parenting style show that it appears to have more negative than positive effects, with children often being impulsive, aggressive, and lacking in independence and in personal responsibility.”
The best parenting advice appears to be the sweet spot between the two drastic styles. With that in mind, here are four ways to be a good, but stern parent:
- Avoid black-and-white thinking. It’s fine to permit your child to explore new possibilities, but you also have to draw boundaries. If your teenager earns enough money from working odd jobs after school for many months to buy a motorcycle, do you squash their adventurous initiative by declaring it unsafe? No. You make sure they take classes on how to ride safely and, additionally, make sure they purchase a motorcycle insurance policy. This way, you are rewarding their initiative while making sure they take full responsibility. So, it’s not a question of saying “yes” or “no,” but about looking at all sides of the issue.
- Be a role model. Suppose you want your children to wash their dishes and make their beds when they wake up in the morning? You must do these things yourself. You have to do these things even when you think no one is watching. You can’t expect your kids to respect your rules about how to live a clean, well-organized life, if you are not consistent in following them yourself.
- Don’t follow dumb parental advice. Many parents follow completely destructive parenting advice based on what their parents did or what they learn from other parents. Perhaps one of the worst advice is ““spare the rod and spoil the child.”
Here are just a few of the terrible things that can happen when you follow this stupid advice:
- You traumatize the child through corporal punishment. They are now confused between your loving advice and your violent behavior. You have broken the bond of trust.
- Your child is much more likely to bully other children and resort to aggression to solve problems.
- You create a cycle of domestic violence that can perpetuate through generations. Your child associates love with physical violence. Child and domestic abuse arises because children saw and experienced violence in the household as part of the process of growing up.
- It does nothing to enforce discipline. The child will do the exact opposite of what you are trying to enforce as soon as your back is turned.
- It damages self-esteem and can create neurotic behavior when the child grows up. This can range from mood disorders like bipolar disorder to a life of consistent underachievement.
- It’s fine to be a loving parent.
Many parents are actually afraid to show too much affection. They feel that this makes the child weak or docile, unable to face the challenges of a harsh world. The result is the child grows up feeling unloved and unappreciated. They may either over-perform or under-perform. In most cases, they under-perform, living mediocre lives. In some rare instances, they may over perform but develop a dark side to their character. Aristotle Onassis had a strict father who withheld affection from his son. Although, he became a shipping billionaire, he was well-known for his unprincipled and egotistical personality.
- Be adaptable as a parent.
Your child has a particular nature. Some children excel at academics; others excel at sports. Some have quiet, contemplative natures; others are robust and socially outgoing. Many parents make the mistake of trying to shape their child to become more like them, or to do what they never managed to do. So a sports-loving father may push his child to excel at sports, while a studious mother may push her child to do well in school. Little attention is paid to the child’s natural strengths. The result is that the child chooses professions that make them feel discontent, but since they have lost touch with their original natures, they are confused as to why they feel so empty and unfulfilled within despite worldly success and achievement.
Striking a Balance between Extremes
Over the past few years, authoritarian mothers like the famous Amy Chua have earned the nickname “Tiger Mom” from the press because they focused on their children’s success over their happiness. The opposite of powerful, coercive parents who exert their will over their children are permissive parents, who set fewer rules. They focus on their children’s happiness over their success. In truth, neither style works well. A good and effective mom and a strong and inspiring father have to balance out the two parenting styles.