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Balancing Strict and Softy: The Duality of Parenting

lady_justice_standingIf you think Democrat vs. Republican is an explosive conversation, try getting parents on the authoritarian and permissive ends of the spectrum together and ask them to discuss their thoughts on discipline.

Permissive parents are those that think their little darlings are unique and special and deserve to be treated as such. In these families, the kids generally run the show. On the other end are authoritarians, who run things with nearly military exactitude and whose authority must never be questioned.

Lisa Earle McLeod, in this HuffPo piece pimping her new book The Triangle of Trust, says that both ends of the spectrum must come into play in parenting. Set firm rules, and allow creativity; establish authority, and make your children responsible for their own decisions, support them, and demand certain standards.

The point she’s trying to make is that either-or thinking traps us into too much rigidity and doesn’t truly speak to the complexity of actual human beings. Of course, she doesn’t provide real-world examples of how one might handle these two opposite but equal values in a real-world parenting situation, and she mistakenly describes the drill-sergeant approach as “authoritative” when in fact most psychologists call that “authoritarian” while a “third way” approach, not as soft as permissive parenting but not as harsh as authoritarianism, is described as authoritative.

Numerous studies have shown the authoritative parenting style to be most effective, where rules are rules and they are expected to be honored, but the reasons behind them are explained and adjustments are made when necessary.

Despite her miswording, Earle McLeod’s main point is interesting. How do you balance discipline and responsiveness, support and standards? Seriously, I’m asking: How do you do it? Or do you not even try, hewing much more closely to a strict or softy approach?

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