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Thursday, March 25, 2010

T3 - "Balanced" Parenting Style

Before I get into the ins and outs of a "Balanced" parent (also called a Democratic, Active, or Equalitarian parent), a brief history lesson is in order.


Based on what year your protagonists were born (or their parents were born), this information will actually be useful to figuring out which type of parenting style he or she most likely grew up with.

Children born before and during the 1950s most likely grew up with the Over-Controlling parenting styles (Power Patrol or Micromanager). Those generations resembled society in that there was a clear-cut pecking order. The father (man) was the supreme ruler, and mother was to be obedient to him, while children were to be obedient to both of them. This led to some awful things like child abduction and sexual victimization because children were taught to blindly obey authorities at the expense of their own rights.

By the 1960s, though, there was a major shift in society, from a superior/inferior structure to an emphasis on equal rights and self-worth. Civil rights became front and center, and children (especially teenagers) resented adults telling them what to do. They wanted to voice their opinions (loudly, and with music), and Over-Controlling parenting didn't allow for such individuality. Teens turned to drugs and the "sexual revolution" to escape and rebel, and parents had no idea what to do. Professionals who tried to help encouraged parents to loosen the reins, which swung the pendulum to permissive, Under-Controlling (Avoiders or Over-Indulgers) parenting.

These same teenagers of the 60s blamed their parents and authority figures for their problems. As a result, they vowed to raise their children differently and went to the other extreme in their parenting. By the 1980s, the problems in the 60s had reached epidemic proportions. Drug use had increased, teenage pregnancy, AIDS, gangs/violence, sexual victimization...all a result of permissive, Under-Controlling parenting.

The pendulum began to swing back toward Over-Controlling parenting as a way to gain control, but since both styles resulted in negative results for children and society. So it's wise to avoid both of these extremes, because they are inbalanced, and aim for Balanced parenting.

What do Balanced parents believe? They believe that their job is to teach children the life skills they need to be self-sufficient, responsible members of society. They believe that children are equal in worth and dignity, and that they deserve to be treated with respect. They want children to learn how to meet their own needs and not be unnaturally dependent on their parents to do so. They encourage children to learn from their mistakes and avoid blaming or criticizing them. Children are unique, not little Mini-Mes of the parent or balls play dough to mold into what the parent thinks they should be.

How do Balanced parents discipline? Balanced parents try to prevent discipline by telling children what they can do instead of what they can't. They focus on the value of a rule rather than the power of the rule-maker. They teach behavior skills, and then reveal to their children what the possible outcomes of their behaviors could be. Children misbehave and the parent tries to consider their child's goal and help them meet their goal through a more positive behavior. If the child still chooses to behave inappropriately, Balanced parents allow the revealed outcome to happen. They use logical and natural consequences for misbehavior and don't add suffering or verbal abuse to their punishments.

Long-Term Effects (obviously all of these will be positive):

1) Children learn how to operate within limitations and rules.
2) Children make responsible decisions and now how to be responsible.
3) Children are self-motivated/self-disciplined.
4) Children have excellent leadership and communication skills.
5) Children have good time management and organizational skills.
6) Children are less likely to rebel against authority.

So this wraps up our parenting series. If you missed the quiz somehow, and are totally confused about what I'm talking about, go here to take the quiz and find out what style you or your characters are. Ideally, learning about parenting styles will help you portray your protagonists' (or antagonists') backgrounds and histories more understand what type of family they came from. Hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have.

If you have any other ideas for series for the Thursday Therapeutic Thoughts, I'm all ears.

If you haven't left a comment to be entered to win Roseanna White's A Stray Drop of Blood (drawing will be on Palm Sunday for this terrific Easter-themes book), then click here.

Have a great weekend!

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* A lot of the information in this series was derived from Jody Johnston Powel's book, The Parent's Toolshop. Quite a bit is also from my own clinical experiences and opinions.*


Stephanie Faris said...

This is enlightening in so many ways! Of course it applies to our characters but it also reminds us that parenting is a serious job...and what we do today has lasting effects.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeannie!

I have some questions about your analysis on parenting.

First, you listed two "awful outcomes" of the parenting style from the 1950's and before. They were abduction and sexual abuse. Do you have any statistics for these? I don't think they were all that common. It seems the families of America in the 1800's and early 1900's actually did very well on the whole - a lot healthier then than now.

Is it really a healthy parenting style to avoid any suffering, criticism, negative feelings (ie, punishment) on the behalf of misbehaving children? Is this realistically preparing them for the "real world?"

I regret to say, if the schools today are any indication, this "balanced" approach fails. More than half of the kids in my first-graders class behave HORRIBLY. There is no discipline. I've seen attempts (behavior charts, good behavior stars, etc) designed, I bet, to try to "help them meet their goals in a positive manner."

It doesn't work.

Consequently, aside from perhaps moving a frequent offender's desk outside of the circle, the good kids in the class suffer. My daughter comes home very discouraged by the misbehavior of her classmates and the lack of any discipline in the classroom. When I volunteer there I am appalled. The teacher has to wear a microphone to be heard over the noise (instead of insisting the children keep quiet!).

And this is a charter school in the suburbs, not an inner-city public school.

Do you tend to lean more toward the permissive parenting style without realizing it?

When you say "both styles resulted in negative results for children and society" I'd like to pipe up and say that I don't think they are equally negative.

I hope you don't mind a dissenting opinion!

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

hello, anonymous. i welcome your thoughts and opinions, and i think your post will open up some great dialogue and allow me to clarify some things.

the sexual abuse and abduction weren't common--but when they did happen, professionals in later days tried to pin it on a parenting style, and children used to "cowing" to their parents might be more susceptible to these societal ills.

balanced parents who avoid suffering and criticism just means that they don't act like the Power Patrol parents, who added shame and blame to their discipline techniques. balanced parents most certainly DO instill punishments....those are the logical and natural consequences I mentioned. it could be time out, loss of privileges, even corporal forms of punishment, like spanking. i did not mean to indicate balanced parents don't punish.

so with that in mind, it looks to me that the children in your daughter's classroom are still living within that permissive style of parenting. the historical "lesson" i gave about parenting trends really only is in generalities. the idea is that currently, we're trying to swing to a positive, balanced style that is somewhere in between over- and under-controlling.

every time i've done this parenting quiz, everyone has said they were "balanced" in beliefs but "permissive" in actions. so yes, people probably do lean toward permissive parenting.

i should also say that there can be parents who bring their children up in an over- or under-controlling way who don't have the "negative" results that i mentioned on any of the posts. these are just general trends, if you will.

i'm happy to dialogue further if you have any other comments/questions. thanks for commenting. :)

Unknown said...

I think knowing your characters upbringing is essential to understanding who they really are - it is so easy to see how to make them angry, resentful and controlling.
Thank you for your helpful information.

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

thanks elaine (and stephanie!)

Covnitkepr1 said...

If I had my youngins still at home, I'd probably use some of what is in your post...but they have "flown the coop." Maybe WE did some things right cause they both turned out to be productive citizens. AND they both love God...and country.
I support this blog by being a "follower".

Shannon said...

I'm glad to have found this post in the archives. This has been of incredible help in a story I'm writing where a young lad has to deal with 'two fathers'. One of each type, oddly enough. I just hadn't seen them as such. This will add some much needed conflict!

Smitty said...

as a teacher, I found anonymous' comment interesting. One cannot attribute a group of children and their behaviours inside the classroom environment being the product of the teacher's lack of classroom management. Parents need to parent their children to be appropriate no matter where they are. This is a common issue that parents have a lack of ownership for their own children's actions. With balanced parenting, each child, give or take, should come to school with a good understanding and foundation of basic respect. With this being said, there may be many factors that play into the classroom environment that anonymous is not trained to understand...such as, they are little kids who are learning the ropes still, anonymous may not have a comfort level with noise while learning, grade one students are still learning to internalize inner thought vs. outer thought (out loud thinking), and perhaps the teacher is newer to the field and/or has a higher tolerance to a non-silent learning environment. So many factors play into the education environment, I wish parents would have a class in how to prepare and maintain ownership for their children's behaviours outside of the home. I really like the balanced style of parenting and it is not as linear as anonymous may have initially commented, just as classroom atmospheres are with young, vibrant, learning children. Jeannie, I really liked the historical summary of parenting styles.

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