WHERE TO BLAME THE PARENT AND HOW IT AFFECTS YOUR CHILD
When it comes to the four main parenting styles (authoritarian, authoritative, permissive and neglectful), in fairness, a portion of all can be attributable to the way we parent. However, it is when a predominance of one type of parenting style becomes apparent, then it becomes a lot more interesting.
Sadly alas, I was not endowed with much insight or great wisdom as a parent and it would appear my sins were many. I would like to say I had an authoritative parenting style, where I was able to provide structure in an environment of openness and warmth, but alas I leant towards an Authoritarian style where I had high expectations and lots of rules.
Out of the four parenting styles no one really wants the label of being an authoritarian style parent because your parenting style can affect everything from how much your child weighs to how they feel about themselves. And you don’t necessarily want the evidence planted in front of your face every time they walk past you as an adolescent. (I focus on the Authoritarian style as being the worse, rather than neglectful, because being in the death throes of a patriarchal society in New Zealand there is more of a predominance of this style over neglectful.)
I was really pleased therefore to come across a book that approached parenting styles a bit more differently. This book basically categorised parenting styles in a way that sort of made me feel more comfortable of my failings, and also highlighted the other parenting styles and its failings.
MY HOUSE, MY RULES
The category I most identified with was “My House, My Rules” (MHMR) Parent. That was obviously on a par with an Authoritarian style of parenting. The MHMR parent generally expect their children to conform to their expectations, which children usually do, until they hit ADOLESCENCE and that is where the world begins to lose its wheels with parents.
Parental control can be good or bad. I would like to say my control was flexible and fair and I provided structure and supervision, but it appeared I was way down the list in my learning curve and so therefore my goals were directed more at compliance than independence, and my expectations usually not fairly negotiable. My brain also had a short circuit when it came to learning about interacting positively with incentives or using a rewards system.
Did I also mention that I was also endowed with the label “Micromanager”? So, this is where I could give myself a pat on the back… sort of. One could apparently be a micromanager and be a good controller as well as be a “one who has a lot to learn” parent (namely moi). Who was to know that if one threw too many rewards and incentives around, as one could do who micromanages everything, that this could be detrimental or ineffective? So, there you go. I did something right! I can safely say I did not use too many rewards and incentives.
CHARACTERISTICS OF MHMR PARENTS
The MHMR parent tends to have been raised in that environment themselves (don’t forget we tend to parent how we were parented). They generally have high expectations of their children, and are proud of their achievements, but as a rule forget to share their pride with their child and will instead focus on the little bits that got missed. This ends up leaving the child feeling as if they are never good enough.
My mother was a war bride (patriarchal parenting personified era), and I remember the feeling of everything needing to present well to the outside world and the need to not embarrass her which presumably I had an art in doing. I also had the distinct memory of her regaling how wonderful other children were, and how well they achieved, but never actually remember receiving the same plaudits. By the same token to give her credit she was raising five highly independent children, three of which were boys and one set of twins so undoubtedly she was running around gasping, barely keeping up with all.
The MHMR parent also has a tendency to be overinvolved or micromanage all aspects of their child’s life. This includes intruding on the privacy and using any means necessary to remain informed. One suspects that their inability to maintain a close relationship with their child emotionally, leads to the parent trying to maintain closeness on another level.
Another way parents may project control is through emotional manipulation. This can range from emotional blackmail, guilt (oh my goodness my mother had that down to an art!), long lectures (on how we should be grateful of a roof of our heads) (yes!), feigned distress or illness, and verbal assaults. I think that as a parent I endeavoured not to follow that path, because I could see through this as a child, and the emotion raised was resentment. Another variety of emotional manipulation is the exploitation of the parent’s health. Here the parent can play on the behaviour of the child making her condition worse. This can have two effects on a child, the first that the child has an overgrown sense of responsibility towards the parent often assuming the role of caretaker for the parent. The second effect is for the child to distance themselves from the parent because of the manipulation that is occurring.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR OUR CHILDREN
Think of children as mini adolescents. What begins as minor problems escalate as they reach teenage years. Most teenagers are emotional and are often quick to reaction to certain situations. So, if they are confronted by a rule they don’t like they will do anything to get it changed. This can involve telling half-truths, lying, confusing the issue – anything to accomplish their objective.
Still in the teenage mode, the teenager reacts to parental authority with arguments. This might cause the parent to impose further punishments, or it might cause the teenager to act out behind their backs and withdraw their affection. Others dissociate emotionally by using drugs and alcohol or staying away from home. Or there are those children who crave for the attention they are not receiving and resort to stealing to feel good. Teenage girls may become anorexic or promiscuous and teenage boys may be impulsive or bully others. Some in their defiance, can physically act out by slamming doors, throwing things. If you are starting to feel ill here at the thought of all this, multiply all this by the number of children you have and then run….
Wipe the sweat off your brow because not all your children will become defiant at your MHMR tendencies. Some children just roll over and allow their parents to manage many of the details of their personal lives. They were obedient as children and stay obedient as teenagers. But be aware of all the little underplaying subtleties that will be playing out, because if a child does not rightfully reach their potential and progress is being tempered through the actions of a dominant parent, then issues will begin to manifest. This could range from anything to problems with weight, lifelessness, depression, and other manifestations which include emotional reactions.
Then there are those teenagers who if they are going to rebel do a really good job of it. They will use drugs, run away from home, be promiscuous, join gangs, become anorexic. Some parents may stress scholastic achievement, so the teen ends up a drop out. For a parent, just the general run of the mill hair pulling, drink inducing, loss of sleep reactions to their wayward child.
This is a huge worry for a lot of parents. If a teenager is controlled by their parents there is a strong possibility that they will be susceptible to being controlled by their peers. This can also be true in romantic relationships. They can often be drawn to peers who are impulsive and rebellious. And truly you can be run ragged trying to keep ahead of their little ploys and plans in subterfuge and attempts to undermine your authority and wishes.
Think of teenagers as budding flowers, that keep getting rained on, damaged by hail, trodden on, it is quite amazing the damage that can be done and the resilience they have. The same picture is run in real life for teenagers. If they are not allowed to open up to their potential, then there are going to be emotional issues. The most common issue for kids these days seems to be anxiety and depression, which can be caused through the stressful home life and high expectations and constant demands. They can also withdraw and numb their feelings. Social skills and self-esteem are also lower.
It is common sense that if a parent is applying pressure, and a child is achieving just to please their parents, then grades are less likely to be viewed as important, the child’s motivation can be reduced, and there is even the possibility as an adolescent they will drop out of their university study.
WORK AND CAREER
It may surprise you that your child will be influenced into adulthood by your parenting style.
If compliant as a child, they will often be submissive in their work environment. They might become resentful and often are not able to express themselves. Others who have endured high expectations become perfectionists themselves, pushing themselves to meet their expectations. They can often be difficult to work for, and be critical of others, having unrealistic expectations of them.
For MHMR teens, love is about meeting expectations, and some may be reluctant to become involved because of the responsibilities required. Those poor poor girlfriends, or wives. Perhaps as teenagers these girls should be given psychology lessons so they can understand what they are about to enter…..as if they would listen! To achieve a healthy adult relationship your teen needs to have mastered the tasks of adolescence. As a MHMR child that is just not going to happen. They can even get involved in a controlling relationship, which could be abusive.
If the controlling parent finally lets their adolescents leave, they maybe critical of their child’s partner. Their child may have a greater sense of responsibility towards their parents, over that of their family. They might only have a superficial relationship with their parents.
The long-term consequences of growing up with MHMR parents can result in lower levels of motivation, less internalisation of morals and values, poorer self-regulation. It not only manifests in children but continues into adulthood where there success and happiness may or may not be determined.
If the MHMR child can be allowed to make some decisions for themselves it can result in them developing their personalities and also result in the ability to focus on their futures and any possible talent they hold.
So the challenge for the MHMR parent is to relax their expectations and demands and allow their children and teens to have a more active role in decision making, and realise that a certain amount of “attitude” is normal and even healthy.
This is one of a five part series, of the different parenting styles. If you have enjoyed this please share with a friend, or visit MY Free Online Parenting Course for more tips and strategies