When we meet the person we want to spend the rest of our life with, we evaluate our mutual likes and dislikes, our hobbies, our friends and family, our eating habits, our sleeping habits, even our financial values and aspirations. Do they make us laugh? Do they take our needs into consideration? Will they be kind to our family? We ask each other whether we want to have children. If so, how many children? But rarely, almost never, do we question or clarify our parenting styles.
This particular aspect of our life only comes into play when this tiny infant with lungs of steel makes its appearance in our lives. And this is when, all our preconceived notions of what it takes to make a marriage work quickly go straight out the window. This little ball of innocence has an amazing ability to rip apart even the happiest of marriages. God help you if you thought having a baby would save your marriage. When you are sleep deprived, unable to think coherently, at the mercy of a wailing child, even the tiniest of flaws in your partner are observed and take on monumental proportions in your mind.
As your child gets older, you find yourself differing from your partner on basic issues. What should your child eat? When should he sleep? Is it okay to let him cry himself to sleep? Does he share our bed? How long will he share our bed? Should he tidy up? How important is homework? The list is endless. Every stage brings its own battleground and issues to fight about with it. The good news is that this is absolutely normal and every family has similar issues. Each of us has different parenting styles and that’s where the problems occur.
Research has shown us that there are four main parenting styles that have been observed. Each style takes a different approach to raising children.
The Authoritarian Parent
This type of parenting style focuses strongly on obedience and discipline. They leave little room for negotiations and rarely take the child’s point of view into consideration. They believe in strict parenting and enforce rules and punishments to regulate behaviour. While this style of parenting does instill obedience, it may also lead to the child lying in order to escape punishments. It doesn’t always facilitate problem solving. Children are often made to feel sorry for their mistakes but aren’t necessarily taught how to change their behaviour patterns.
The Authoritative Parent
Authoritative parents have rules and consequences but take the child’s opinions and needs into consideration. They allow room for negotiation and tend to use positive disciplining strategies like praise and reward systems, rather than punishments. Their child is empowered to voice their opinions but it’s clear that the adult is in charge. They focus on collaborative problem solving to ensure that both the adult and child’s needs are met.
The Permissive Parent
Permissive parents tend to be fairly lenient. They follow a ‘children will be children’ policy. They rarely enforce rules. They tend to be indulgent in their parenting and allow children to lead the conversations. They do threaten consequences but rarely follow through or lift the consequences sooner than stated. They tend to be more lenient on areas of nutrition, behaviour and sleep schedules. They can be easily emotionally manipulated by their children.
The Uninvolved Parent
This parent doesn’t get into details about their child’s life. They tend to have a big picture perspective and are happy as long as the child seems to be happy and healthy. They are caught up in their own busy, adult lives and sometimes fail to notice the minor incidents in their child’s lives. They don’t have conversations about their children’s friends or daily school life. They believe in letting the child be and don’t believe in setting or implementing rules.
You may recognise yourself or your spouse in one of these roles. The truth is, we are one or all of these roles at different points of our parenting journey. Depending on the issue at hand, we take on each of these roles to suit our needs. If you have a hands-on, stay at home spouse, chances are that you end up being a more uninvolved parent. You know that there’s someone else to pick up the slack. If a dirty house drives you crazy, you may end up being more authoritarian in your approach to cleaning duties.
In an ideal world, research has shown that staying as close to an authoritative approach is best. This article isn’t meant to label or criticise your or your spouse’s parenting style. Being aware of how you are handling a particular situation will help facilitate conversation between the two of you. Introspect on the way in which you are dealing with parenting issues in your life and you may realise that your differences are arising from your different parenting styles. By identifying your different approaches, you can communicate better and find a middle ground that works for all parties concerned.