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Thursday, March 11, 2010

T3 - "Avoider" Parenting Style

This weeks marks the turn from looking at "Over-Controlling" parents to "Under-Controlling" parents. Also called permissive parents, these parents are the polar opposite of their imbalanced counterparts.

As you can see from the diagram, there are two types of Under-Controllers, the Avoider being the most severe (thus at the bottom on the scale) and the Over-Indulger. Though these parents aren't harsh or critical, that doesn't mean there aren't drawbacks associated with each style.

(For a peek at the Power Patrols, click here. For Micromanagers, click here. If you missed taking the quiz to determine what style parent your character is or has, click here.)

Avoiders are the type parent that doesn't do enough for their child. These are the parents who aren't physically or emotionally available for their child, and probably the parents Child Welfare gets calls on for being neglectful. They don't supervise their child, teach their child, discipline or even set limits for their child, and they certainly don't bother with correcting their child. That's just it...they don't want to be bothered with their child. Eventually one might wonder why an Avoider even had a child in the first place, as they are clearly a nuisance.

Avoiders are more than likely going to be your sanguine Otters. (Click here for more info on Otter personality types.) They are easy-going, friendly and engaging. They avoid responsibility and commitments, though, because they like to just laze around. They have a hard time following through, and will break promises at the last minute (yes, to their children, too).

What do Avoiders believe? The believe that their children will eventually "get" what's expected of them just from trial and error. They'll learn not to mix colors when washing their clothes on their own...after that first batch of pink t-shirts come out. They also believe that children shouldn't inconvenience parents.

How does an Avoider discipline? To say that they don't would be accurate. To them, a child's negative behavior will just magically go away if they ignore it or pretend the child just doesn't exist. They have a hands-off approach to parenting. A child can run wild as long as the parent isn't inconvenienced.

If a child grows up with an Avoider for a parent, there are some potentially bad long-term effects. Does your hero or heroine have any of the following tendencies?

1) Tendency to be impulsive.

Children of Avoiders are left alone so much of the time that, being left to their own devices, they often default to being bored. This boredom can lead to poor decision-making. Since their parents never took the time to really explain the reasoning behind why not to do something, these children don't learn from their mistakes.

2) Poor sense of self-worth.

How would you feel if your parents never really took time to be with you? That you weren't worth their time or effort. This would lend itself to probably the biggest personal challenge to overcome in adulthood.

3) Tendency to deny responsibility.

These children pick up on how their parents do things, and eventually, denying responsibility for the things in their lives will become like second nature to them. It's what mom and dad always did, so why wouldn't it work for them? They'll make excuses for their inaction or irresponsibility, and you might frequently hear from them that "I'm too busy," or "I don't feel like it."

4) Bent toward sloppiness.

Let's face it...if your parents aren't on your case to clean your room, make your bed, and fold the towels, you probably won't. A lifetime of not being made to do anything makes it difficult to go into adulthood where expectations are made. What would happen if you had a child of an Avoider who never does dishes marry a neat freak? Yikes! (But good to think about for your WIP as far as tension!)

5) Reckless seeking of attention.

Since I mentioned in #2 that these children are most likely going to have low self-worth, I thought I'd mention a consequence that would come as a result of that, and that's seeking attention any way you can find it. For girls, the consequences of this might be far more dangerous, but both men and women can get in "trouble" when they are looking for it. This kind of goes along with #1 in that they make make impulsive decisions, but attention from any corner is better than no attention at all.

These are just some considerations for your manuscripts. These behaviors and habits wold be great vices for your characters to overcome. Keep in mind that when working in generalities, some stereotype descriptions/outcomes might be prevalent.

Q4U: Any of you have a character with a parent who really didn't want anything to do with them? How did you portray that character? Seeking attention? Irresponsible? Impulsive? Or something else? Please share!

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Jessica Nelson said...

Interesting stuff Jeannie! I think the mom of my current heroine was like this. She was busy working and didn't pay much attention to her kids. My heroine has had a really negative lifestyle until she hit her thirties. I never thought about the mom playing into this but it's good to know it works. lol

Natalie said...

YES! The parents in my last novel were definitely avoiders (which worked for the story because the kids had to get into serious trouble and the parents had to be oblivious). I think irresponsible and impulsive would aptly describe the kids. And they were probably seeking attention too.

Jill Kemerer said...

My last MC had characters who really didn't make any effort with her and still don't. This post was very informative. Thanks, Jeannie!

Mary Aalgaard said...

I think this type is self-absorbed for some reason. They're usually addicted to something from alcohol to work.

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Both comments and questions are welcome. I hope you enjoyed your time on the couch today.