POSITIVE PARENTING – Charms & Challenges

 Dr. Jitendra Nagpal MD, DNB 

Sr. Consultant Psychiatrist
Moolchand Medcity, New Delhi
Program Director ‘Expressions India’- The Life Skills Education & School Wellness Program

Most parents would report that giving birth to a new life, raising an infant, helping the child see the world, assisting him/her with the task of growing up and seeing them as fully grown adults is a journey in self growth. While being parents can be a great experience, it is fraught with its own challenges.

Parenting is the process of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood

Parenting Styles
It has been researched that specific parenting practices are less important than broad patterns of parenting in predicting child well-being. The most popular concept of parenting style was given by Diana Baumrind.

According to her, Parenting style is meant to describe normal variations in parenting. She assumes that normal parenting revolves around issues of control. Although parents may differ in how they try to control or socialize their children and the extent to which they do so, it is assumed that the primary role of all parents is to influence, teach, and control their children.

There are four types of parenting styles:

1. Indulgent,
2. Authoritarian,
3. Authoritative, and
4. Uninvolved (Maccoby & Martin, 1983).

Indulgent Parents
Indulgent parents are sometimes also referred as to as permissive parents or non directive parents. These parents are more responsive than they are demanding. Such parents rarely discipline their children because they have relatively low expectations of maturity and self-control. According to Baumrind (1991), they are non-traditional and quite lenient in their approach and surely avoid confrontation. Permissive parents are generally nurturing and communicative with their children, and often take on the status of a friend more than that of a parent. One example of indulgent style parenting would be when parents let their children watch television as they feel that children should enjoy their childhood, even if the child has to finish her homework.

Children and adolescents from indulgent homes are more likely to be involved in problem behaviour but they have higher self-esteem, better social skills, and lower levels of depression. Permissive parenting often results in children who rank low in happiness and self-regulation. These children are more likely to experience problems with authority and tend to perform poorly in school. Child may become aggressive and uncaring. The children might develop an inability to deal with authority as they basically haven’t been taught to respect authority in their own homes.

Authoritarian Parents
Authoritarian parents are highly demanding and directive, but not responsive. “They are obedience- and status-oriented, and expect their orders to be obeyed without explanation” (Baumrind, 1991). Thus, children are expected to follow the strict rules established by the parents. Failure to follow such rules usually results in punishment for children. These parents provide well-ordered and structured environments with clearly stated rules. However, they fail to explain the reasoning behind these rules. If asked to explain, the parent might simply reply, “Because I said so.” These parents have high demands, but are not responsive to their children. If we take the same example as given above, an authoritarian parent would deal with the situation by communicating in this manner with their child, “Turn off the TV right NOW, and sit down to do your homework, otherwise…”

Children and adolescents from these families tend to perform moderately well in school and are usually uninvolved in problem behaviour. However, they have poorer social skills, lower self-esteem, and higher levels of depression. This style of parenting generally lead to children who are obedient and proficient, but tare observed to be moody and irritable. Also, they rank lower in happiness, social competence and self-esteem. Children that are raised in this type of environment might have difficulty making up their OWN minds later in life since they’ve always been told what to do; they’ve never had to (been able to) figure things out for themselves.

Uninvolved Parents
Uninvolved parents make very few demands; have low responsiveness and little communication. While these parents fulfill the child’s basic needs, they are generally detached from their child’s life. In extreme cases, these parents may even reject or neglect the needs of their children. In the same example, such parents would let the child do what he/she wants and may tell them directly or indirectly not to bother them.

Children and adolescents whose parents are uninvolved perform most poorly in all domains. Such children rank lowest across all life domains. These children tend to lack self-control, have low self-esteem and are less competent than their peers. Child may become hostile, insecure and rebellious.

Reason for Different Parenting Styles
A parent’s behaviour of being nurturing, soothing, caring, teaching, and disciplining are not only learnt from the outside environment, but are directly embedded into the psyche based on their own experiences with their parents. The blueprint from the own family of origin is already set in and this blueprint is the background of the parenting style that a parent will adopt subsequently.

It has been observed that there could be three approaches towards parenting:

Some parents have an unconscious approach to parenting. Here the parents play out the old blueprint again, without much thought as to whether it is an effective style. These parents automatically accept the parenting style with which they are handled without really questioning its efficacy.

Other parents have a more conscious approach to parenting. They begin with the blueprint they are given, but also question some of its practices. They are not comfortable with changing the blueprint totally as it produces anxiety in them. However, they are willing to examine specific practices if they are experiencing significant discomfort with a strategy. For example, parents may come from an extremely authoritarian parenting style background and they accept the basic premise of that style that parents should exert total authority and control over their children. At the same time, they may decide that the use of corporal punishment as a disciplinary strategy is an ineffective practice, and so they come up with alternative disciplinary tactics of time out.

There is a third group of parents who want to know all they can about how to parent, regardless of whether they think they have a good beginning blueprint or not. These parents consciously do research on a variety of subjects including child and adolescent development, discipline, sibling rivalry, education, temperament, and all aspects of parenting. They also clearly define their values and goals for themselves and their children so that they formulate a parenting style that is in keeping with these values.

The Challenge of New Age Parenting

It is hard not to agree that we are living in a society in which people have become more individualistic and self-concerned. It is often stated that the ‘me’ generation has declined in their morals, manners, values and standards of personal behaviour. Children in particular, increasingly think only of themselves and seem less able to cope with discipline, disappointment and difficulty.

New age parenting requires decision about how we want our children to behave. Child will learn parents’ own principles of behaviour, parental value-system and the behaviours which are consistent with it. Parenting strategies will not only vary from parent to parent but also from cultures and nations. The direction the individual child takes will be dictated by the expectations of his community and society.

It is important to remember that it is not necessary to work out exactly how the child should behave in every imaginable situation. Parents own feelings on a range of issues will affect the priorities which they pass on to their children. For example if parents value the principle of non-violence, this will affect their ‘messages’ on a range of issues from playground fights and acceptable kinds of punishment, to the sports they encourage and even the television viewing they permit.

Once a child reaches adolescence, parents have to accept that the time for teaching principles of how to behave is gone. The best that parents can hope is that the teenagers will agree to seek their help in applying these principles to their new self and experiences. During the adolescent years, the question now is not whether the child knows how to behave but whether he/she agrees with parental view of how people should behave.

Other topics include: 

Parenting Teenagers
While parenting teenagers following things should be kept in mind:

The Power of Positive Parenting
Positive parenting has the essential core goal of meeting the child’s basic needs.
Some of the strategies which are in tune with the philosophy of positive parenting … 

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