Picture Credit: Pixabay, Artist: Kalhh
Most of us are aware of the controlling parent and the lenient parent. A controlling parent manages their kids’ behaviors using dominating techniques such as threats, yelling, shaming, sarcasm, or punishments. Parents who use control don’t like it but feel compelled to use it. Moreover, with time, the threats go up in intensity. Otherwise, they don’t work. While this method might produce obedience, it doesn’t teach kids why the desired behaviors matter. Further, kids learn to find less desirable ways to get the things they want, such as sneaking or lying.
Lenient parenting, on the other hand, has its own pitfalls. A lenient parent may decide not to be involved in actively managing kids’ activities (e.g., getting homework done, screen time decisions, junk food) to avoid conflict. They let kids make their own rules! This early and absolute independence can affect kids negatively in the long run. With an underdeveloped brain, kids often cannot make safe or healthy decisions and have a hard time with limits as they grow into adults.
In today's age, most parents unconsciously swing between these two parenting styles! Let’s understand how. Even though most of us don’t agree with the controlling style of parenting many of us were raised with, it can be really difficult to invent a different parenting style for our kids. We end up employing a milder version of the same controlling style! We leave out the harsh punishments that were aversive for us, but we find it difficult to get rid of the milder counterparts, such as sarcasm, shaming, or lecturing, which serve a controlling role. And we feel justified in doing so because we think kids need to learn the right way!
But any form of control inevitably leads to a disconnection from our kids. When the disconnection becomes too bothersome, many parents stop controlling and let the kids take control instead. This shift into a permissive style continues until the parents realize that kids can’t manage on their own, ultimately bringing out the dominant parent once again.
If you find any of this familiar, don’t fret. Such “pendulum parenting” is more common than you think. More than anything, it is important to realize that these alternating parenting styles we adopt over time are simply coping mechanisms to manage our own emotions! This leads us to the question: What’s the right way to parent? How do we get our kids to listen to us without being dominating or lenient?
The answer to these questions is a transformational way of parenting that has evolved by diving deep into the world of emotions, feelings, and needs. This new style emphasizes that the feelings and needs of every member of the family matter. The practice of accepting what you are feeling and needing and what your child is feeling and needing allows you to shift your focus from behavior-based parenting to connection-based parenting. When you parent from curiosity and connection, kids are receptive to parents because they don’t feel judged.
Making the shift from behavior-based parenting to connection-based parenting, however, isn’t easy. It takes practice, patience, and a willingness to mess up! You can start by self-examining your fears concerning your child, expectations from your child, expectations from yourself as a parent, your own disappointments, and your history and conditioning. All this is a lot to unpack, and it can be overwhelming without an objective and trained guide. It is usually helpful to seek structure and support. While this journey toward transformational parenting can be bumpy, I highly recommend it to parents who want to enjoy their parenting and see their kids living fulfilled lives.