Saturday, December 19, 2009

Because I Said So!

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I caught the end of yet another episode of World’s Strictest Parents—the good part where parents retrieved their child and the teens showed gratitude and weren’t whining.

For the most part, the parents appeared to be warm, loving and supportive. With seven episodes under my belt, I’d been wondering how things go so terribly wrong.

This time I had an answer. Permissiveness.

What is permissive parenting? Child Psychologist Kenneth Condrell explains the concept well in an article written for Fisher-Price.
He says, “Let’s start with the mom waiting for her 5-year-old son to return home after his first day of kindergarten. As he comes down the steps of the school bus, he is greeted by his mom who is so excited to see him up to the point where he kicks her.

Though the kick is painful and a shock, the mom says to her son, “Robert, why are you so angry?
You know it’s not nice to kick your mom.”Condrell explains: “This mother’s response is permissive and indulgent because it totally dismisses how her child’s behavior affected her, and she doesn’t tell him that his behavior will not be tolerated.”

I thought of Condrell’s example when the parents who arrived to pick up their children from the host families all seemed to be singing the same song to their child. The song went like this: “You hurt me. You are mean to me. You abuse me.”

The light bulb went off: They are the parents whose child kicked them when he was five.

Now that the pain has reached an intolerable point they are saying, “This hurts!”
But they aren’t sure how to fix things. Permissive patterns have been established and are difficult to change.

What’s a permissive parent to do?

Researchers continually tell us that the Authoritative Style of parenting is ideal. Authoritative parents set rules and expect their children to follow them, though the parents understand, as CMT’s website cautioned last week, that the home is not a military academy. Flexibility is required. Other key ingredients include the willingness to listen to your child and being loving, supportive and understanding.

There are actually two phases to this style. With a child fast approaching thirteen, I am already wading in the second phase. As the child grows, a shift needs to take place. More freedoms are allowed as long as trust is maintained, so that the child can become an emotionally healthy, productive adult.

My personality is far better suited to be permissive. It’s my guess that it’s parents like me—parents who love and support their child, but who have a personality not suited or ideal for setting boundaries, saying no and disappointing their child—whose kids end up on World’s Strictest Parents.

If you know this about yourself, you must work around it. I have help. I am married to someone who supports the authoritative approach. I have other tactics I use, too. I create schedules and calendars. In the middle of saying ‘no,’ I remind myself everything will be okay and I have to stick to my guns.

The parents of the teens on the World’s Strictest have given me new vigor for what I must continue to do for at least six more years.
Every time I find it hard to say no, I will remember where permissiveness leads: to teens who backtalk and cuss, who don’t respect authority, who avoid work and who think certain jobs are beneath them.

It leads to children who don’t appreciate or value you or your resources. Bottom line: Permissive parenting leads to TROUBLE.