Sunday, July 12, 2009

Because I Said So

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“I overheard some girls talking about how much they hated their parents,” my daughter told me.

I knew a few of the targets were really good parents, and suspected the ones I didn’t know were too.

What makes children claim they hate their parents? While there can be serious issues hidden behind closed doors, for many the “hate” comes from the caregivers’ role—restricting activities and constantly telling children what and what not to do and when to do it.

Not long ago several girls at my daughter’s school got in trouble for cutting themselves—one child was mad at her parents for grounding her and not allowing her to see her boyfriend.

Another child also blamed her parents: “They expect too much from me,” she told friends.
All parents and children have a similar dynamic going on—parents restrict, nag and sometimes yell, children try to break free. But it’s been my observation some parents and children seem to still have solid relationships while others are continually at odds.

How do we balance being the disciplinarian and a loved and respected caregiver?

How do we balance our job of restricting and allowing freedom while keeping our child safe and emotionally healthy?

And isn’t part of restricting and making rules enough to make a child declare “I hate you” at times?

An expression of intense hatred or self-mutilation demands we evaluate what we are doing. If I found myself in this situation, I would seek expert counsel for me and my child.

For the rest of us—who are dealing with every day issues and the normal vicissitudes of life—what is the best way to restrict, discipline and nurture our children?

Over the years research demonstrates the best parenting style is an authoritative style. Using this style means directing our children’s activities in a rational manner. It involves communication and requires a caregiver to give reasons for decisions as well as listen to the child’s objections or concerns.

It may be the toughest style to use—it requires establishing rules and controls while not hemming in the child with restrictions and no choices. This style combines warmth, nurturing and love with controls and rules—but rules that can be flexible when reason or a situation demands a different scenario.

Truth be told, I tend to be authoritative with tendencies toward permissiveness. My problems arise because I dislike schedules and rules, and get tired of playing nag. This means I have to fight a tendency to not demand enough.

Because I recognize this about myself, I create follow up systems or reminders for myself.

Thankfully, my husband is a walking model of authoritative parenting, which also helps.

To be more authoritative, practice being demanding. Create and enforce rules and have expectations about what will and will not be done—like chores or curfew. Be responsive to your children.

When they need your attention and/or help, be available. As your children grow, you’ll need to give them more freedom. Establish consequences, if the child violates the ground rules, but do allow a re-testing of the waters again when appropriate.

Parents really do have so many lessons to teach and behaviors to correct, while keeping their children safe. Being in control while not being overly restrictive requires discipline and attention from the parent not just for the child, but for herself.

And the reward for balancing our job of restricting and allowing freedom? Keeping our children safe and emotionally healthy, while enjoying them as they grow and develop into adults.

© Allyn Evans 2009

If you wish to use this article on your web site or in your E-magazine, you are welcome to, as long as you include my bio with it: Allyn Evans is author of Live a Powerful Life (originally titled, Grab the Queen Power: Live Your Best Life), as well as the upcoming How to Help Your Daughter Live a Powerful Life. Allyn is a professional speaker on teens/tweens, a paid consultant, presenter and advisor. She has been published in numerous print and on-line venues, including inclusion in Be the Star You Are! For Teens. Currently, her column runs in Metro Family, the Bolivar Commercial, the Magnolia Gazette and Today's Mississippi Woman.

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