Are you a Sergeant Major, Jellyfish, Neglectful or Back-bone parent?

“Didn’t I tell you to clean up your room a week ago?”; “What do you mean why you need to come home by 9pm? Because I said so!” Have you heard these words yelled out by parents at their children? You might think you’ve just listened to a Sergeant Major in the Army talking to his team of recruits! Well, you’re half right!

The Parenting with Confidence program at Focus on the Family Singapore touches on four different parenting types and Sergeant Major is one of them. This style of parenting tends to be overly protective, controlling, tells the children what to do and think. The Sergeant Major parent feels a strong need to rein in their children. It is, therefore, often accompanied by a lot of scolding, criticizing and threatening. Children of a Sergeant Major parent tend to comply out of fear instead of respect. Over time, it can back-fire where the child summons enough courage to rebel against the authoritarian parent.

The opposite of this would be the Jellyfish parent. Think jellyfish and what comes to mind? Yes, soft and squashy! I googled “jellyfish” and was drawn to one particular description of this creature – that it has no brain or central nervous system! Hmmm, I guess that says quite a lot about the parenting style, don’t you think? I personally know of a Jellyfish parent. She lacks rules, ignores misbehavior, bails her child out of trouble (by the latter’s own doing), gives in to her child’s demands. Basically the roles are reversed! What do you think will be the outcome of such a parenting style?

Then, we have the Neglectful parent. The parent basically sends out a message that says, “I’m too busy!” Quantity time, let alone quality time, is close to zilch. However, the parent with this style of parenting does feel guilty for not being “there” and hence could compensate his absence by lavishing material gifts on the children. This is a problem especially common in our society where both parents work (long hours) and have little or no time for their children. Children of neglectful parents tend to feel they need to fend for themselves, so a deep sense of being “abandoned” could set in.

Finally, the parent type most aspire to be – the Back-bone parent. It is strong (it holds the body together) yet flexible when it is required to bend to adapt to changing postures or conditions. This style is confident, consistent and calm even in the face of challenges. It is also not unduly protective but respects needs and honors feelings. I have a good example of a Back-bone parent in my household – my husband. He believes in disciplining the kids when the need arises but he also subscribes to the rule that one must not punish in anger. He shows affection to the children freely, sees mistakes as opportunities to grow, asks questions to promote thinking and lives by the principle of “not sweating over the small stuff”. Thank God for him.

Parenting is a challenging but rewarding journey in life. We don’t always get it right and often learn “on the job”. But it is good to occasionally ask ourselves, “What kind of a parent am I? What kind of parent would I like to be?”

In August, Focus on the Family Singapore is training individuals who are passionate about parenting to be facilitators for our Parenting with Confidence program. Visit www.family.org.sg for more information.

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2 thoughts on “Are you a Sergeant Major, Jellyfish, Neglectful or Back-bone parent?

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