What Kind of Parent Are You?
by Willie Batson, MA

What kind of parent are you?  That question leaped off the page of the parenting seminar handout.  Honestly, the question frightened me.  I always thought I was a good parent.  But, maybe, this material would reveal something different.  Something that might prove me to be less than a good parent.  So, I put it away.

Risking the possibility that you may do the same thing, I have chosen to deal with this question.  Many of us think everything will be alright if we just make sure our children have straight teeth, the right lessons, drink their orange juice, and go to Sunday School.  Our legacy as parents is determined by much more than these things.

A significant factor is our style of leadership in the home.  In this area there are basically three kinds of parents:  authoritarian, permissive and authoritative.  Most of us will be a blend of two or more of these styles.  But we might tend to be more like one than the others.

An authoritarian parent is dictatorial.

There is no doubt as to who’s the boss.  Decisions are handed down from parents to children without the opportunity for interaction.  It’s like living with an Army sergeant or a Marine drill instructor.  I don’t know anyone who enjoys that.

Authoritarian, demanding parents will justify their actions by saying that they are giving their children the structure and discipline they’ll need to achieve success in life.  However, they fail to realize that structure and discipline are best developed in an atmosphere of love and warmth, not tension.

The opposite extreme is the permissive parent.

In this home the children seem to be raising themselves.  The parent is often preoccupied with his own interests and does not provide any kind of leadership for the family.

The message received by children of the permissive, disengaged parent is: “You are not terribly important to me.”  Children who live in this kind of home often rebel because of a lack of bonding within the family.  They may seek to draw attention to themselves through whatever means are at their disposal.

The authoritative parent gives choices, formulates guidelines for and with the children,
and holds them accountable for their actions.

Children are encouraged to voice feelings and opinions within the family, which gives them a sense of participation and confidence.  This enhances family unity which has been described as an ability to relate to others and to create a climate in which others are free to relate to family members.

DK1588-028In striving to be authoritative, parents need not feel they are abdicating their God-given authority in their families.  There are times when we must make decisions for our families.  There are times when we must be firm but loving in our guidance.  The nature of the decision, the age and understanding of the child and who will be affected by the decision must be considered.  In matters which are of concern only to the parent(s) and at times when compromise seems impossible the parent will make the decision regardless of the child’s opinion.

As parents we must accept the final responsibility for all decisions.  But this does not mean we have to assume a domineering, dictatorial style of leadership which ignores or rejects the feelings and opinions of other family members.  A key component of the authoritative parent is the ability to listen to and consider the perspectives of everyone in the family.

Children can be consulted on many decisions a family faces:  where to go on a family outing, what to have for some meals, how the family room can be decorated, where to live, what to watch on TV are just a few.  As they feel respected, they will tend to be more respectful regarding the needs and feelings of others.

What kind of parent are you?

It’s not too late to be the kind of parent that builds a legacy of love in their child’s life.  Let me recommend a book to read, Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours by Kevin Leman.  Cindy and I have benefited greatly from Dr. Leman’s humorous, practical, and direct style of helping us be the kind of parents we want to be, and that God wants us to be.

Undoing years of habit may seem like an insurmountable job.  But with God, it is never too late.  He is ready to put his arms around you and walk you through the necessary steps.

©2002 William Batson – All Rights Reserved
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