Parenting … is there really a “better” way?
I was listening to a broadcast by Jeremy Vine on BBC Radio 2 discussing parenting on the way into work today. He has now done a few on the topic and the focus on todays was “Strict vs liberal” – which is best -kind of idea.
It got me thinking about how I was brought up and also raised the question for me – “is there really a way that works ‘best’?”
They were discussing by and large, by way of lookin at this topic, a particular book on parenting. The author was a distinguished, clever academic, basically discussing – in her view – what makes for good parenting in relation to her experience in bringing up her own children.
Her view came across by and large basically that tough love was the best way. And a few called into the show to testify to the same. The view of these “strict” parenting activists was the idea of how can you say you care about your kids and accept anything less than the best from your kids. For instance permitting bad results. Their view was that you shouldn’t praise your kids for that because that then festers in them the notion that it is acceptable to have a low standard. They were basically implying by and large that if you have a liberal attitude to parenting your kids will not turn out well or reach their full potential. That was the long and short of it as I understood from the half an hour or so drive to work.
On the “liberal” camp there was the view that this “hard love” could hurt and therefore cause more damage to the child. An example from the authors book which a few were commenting on was how the Authors 4 year old girl made her a card for her mums birthday. The author looked at it and told her child that she had box where she puts all her special cards and this wasnt going in it because it wasnt the best her child could do. The liberal side thought this was a bit heartless, and unloving to some extent. However the Strict parenting camp said this was acceptable because it leads to the child achieving for excellence and therefore they will excel.
There were alot of other opinions, stories and views passed forward and backwards and you can listen to it by clicking here. But you know after listening to both sides, none of them really had me convinced.
I am not a parent but I believe I had one of the best example of parenting in my own. And looking back on how they raised me I would have to say that strict and liberal parenting really cant work on their own. There must be some of the “pulling the reigns in” attitude but also some of the “letting them run free” mindset. I say this for a few different reasons: Firstly each parent is different, some simply cannot be strict whereas others it is in their nature. Secondly each child is unique and requires a slightly different handling in my opinion. Some kids respond to strictness better and others can be more hindered by it than helped.
I need to state here that I am all for encouraging children to do their best and do well. But to the extent and indeed strictness the author puts forward I am not so sure that is best.
You see the only evidence each side can have that explicity proves their method works is their own children. However, here lies the rub: each of the sides I am sure have a ton of proof that their method works in that the majority of their children turn out, by and large, decent citizens. So their must be a common factor, or maybe even a few, between each of the parenting stand points that is the reason for this. Their must be a common denominator somewhere along the long line of variables.
It is clear from behavioural studies by child psychologists that what helps a child develop most is love, and some sort of systematic routine. They have found that in homes where there is no regular routine children seem to behave badly, eratic at times. Where as when there is a clearly defined structure that the child understands and is comfortable in then their behaviour improves. This ideaa of a routine is totally different from strictness I believe. A child needs love and consitency.
Listening to both camps on the radio one common point was clear: they loved their children. They cared for them and are interested in them. And that I believe is the key. Love.
The parent must always be motivated by love in however they deal with their child. Children intuitively, I believe, know when they are being disciplined because they have done something wrong and the parent, as an act of love, punishes them to teach them what is the correct way to behave. After the discipline they know it was for the best because their parent loves them. Even though they can’t really articulate this. That is totally different than a parent who punishes out of anger and rage for something that may or may not be the child’s fault.
Children also know when they are being loved. This feeling of love helps the child to feel accepted and valued which helps and aids the proper development of the child.
Another key I believe is fear. This word may surprise you, but the fear I am stating here is a reverant fear which induces respect. It is imperative the child has this fear for their parent. For all the love a parent shows to their child if this fear is not there the child will never heed correction. All form of parenting will be null and void. It is the respect the child gains for their parent, which should grow out of their parents love for them, that determines how effective the parenting will be, whichever type of parenting it may be.
Growing up I knew my parents loved me. However the person I feared most in this earth was my mum. My mum was the more disciplinarian side of my parents. However she never explicitly forced upon us how we should do in school or how we should behave. Unless it was something we did that was totally wrong she never really forced anything on us. We learned it through how she brought us up. Taught to always be polite and show manners, taught to respect others and their property. This wasnt taught by her shouting at us how we should act but rather we learned through example and correction. My parents took an interest in us and how we acted towards others and because of this we learned how we should act towards others.
The reason I did well in school wasn’t because of my mum forcing anything upon me but rather I did well because I loved and feared my mum enough that I didn’t want to dissapoint her. And this is effective parenting … when a parent shows love in all they do towards their children and when this then adopts a reverant fear in the child which induces respect the child will always work towards the end of not wanting to dissapoint their parent which will drive them to do the best they can. And whatever the child attains will be fine because it will be their best and because of their parents love for them what they attain will be sufficient.
This then permiates into all of their life. Because the child doesnt want to dissapoint their parent this influences their decisions in their life. This is indeed one of the biggest factors why I never turned to drink, smoking, sex and drugs during my teenage years. A lot of my contempories did one or all of these before being legal to do so, and some still live a life that really isn’t productive because of this drive. My friends were going out and getting drunk, trying drugs, having sex. Why I never did it isn’t because I was a “wimp” but I knew this type of living would dissapoint my parents and that was greater than the allure that any of these things and the peer pressure which goes with them had.
So in my opinion, and looking at how I was raised and indeed realisng that each parenting technique must work on the premise that each side can show success from their parenting, successfull parenting boils down to the following. When parents simply love their child and that motivates everything they do in terms of their child. This combined with a parents active interest in their child shows the child they are loved and valued. This then adopts a respect in their child for them and the combination of this leads to the child wanting to do their best to please their parent.
If any part of the chain is gone as discussed in the last paragraph then that is when potential behavioural problems can happen.
For instance if the parent doesn’t show love or an interest the child will seek to attain these in some way. They may seek something to replace the love that in turn leads them down a bad road, or in an attempt to get their parents interest they will start behaving badly to get noticed. These ideas are indeed noted by behavioural pshycologist but in more length obviously I discuss here.
Also if for whatever reason the child doesn’t grow to respect their parent, they may love them, but for some reason the respect doesn’t grow, this can also cause problems. Sometimes for all the love parents give the child for whatever inexplicable reason goes against their upbringing. And I believe the reason for this is because the respect hasn’t for some reason developed in the child for their parent, or for some reason it has been lost. Maybe some circumstance like bereavement, or maybe even parents divorcing causes this.
So that is my take on parenting. Love, interest and fear/respect are the keys I believe.
Feel free to comment, disagree, whatever below. Happy to hear other opinions!