When looking at the four different Parenting Styles (Sergeant Major, Jellyfish, Neglectful and Back-bone), it is easy to identify that the Back-bone parent is the ideal. Indeed, most parents endeavor to have the strength and flexibility to support their child and bring the best out of them. However, it is hard to strike the right balance. My parents are not perfect, but they have in general set me on the right track to take off and embrace life. Allow me then to share five practical ways I feel my parents have established authority while giving room for autonomy.
Do Not Spare the Rod
I use this phrase in the loosest sense for my parents refused to use a cane or even a ruler to punish us when my siblings and I were young. What we did get were slaps on the hands and pulls of the ear. I know some parents hesitate to use physical punishment and instead rely mainly on verbal punishment, removal of privileges and reasoning. If that way of punishment gets through to the child to prevent misbehavior or even gets him/her to think twice before repeating the action then that’s great.
I personally think that at younger ages when the capability to reason is not fully developed and children do not understand much of what you say, controlled physical punishment can be a good deterrent. Evidently, the rod should be put away as a child gets older. Getting a teenager to understand why he/she is being punished is far more important that the form of punishment itself. A young adult would be better off identifying his/her own mistakes and could rely more on parents as a listening ear and source of advice.
Let Them Cry It Out
My usual response to receiving the ‘rod’ when I was little was to cry or throw a tantrum and my mother would actually tell me to carry on. She would say, “the more you cry the better your singing will become.” There may be a morsel of truth to it as the girls in my house do sing a lot better than the guys! A child’s first reaction to being punished or not getting what he/she wants is to cry. I have seen many parents respond by doing anything and everything possible to appease the child. Once I even witnessed a parent scold his son, and then proceed to apologise to him when he started crying! The message this sends to the child is that, “crying gets whatever I want.” Realizing that my mother’s response was sarcastic and that crying would just lead to further trouble, I either accepted her decision or found an alternative way to get what I wanted.
Stay tuned for part 2 of Abraham’s story in the next couple of days. Abraham is an Economics student at the Singapore Management University.