Parenting is often rewarding, but it’s not the easiest job in the world! Many parents wish they had a manual that they could follow – and manuals abound (with over 61,000 results in a “parenting” search on amazon.com). So where can a parent find reliable information that addresses their two biggest concerns – raising safe and successful kids? Luckily, there is an abundance of research in psychology and brain development that points to what could potentially be the most helpful approach. At Family Anatomy, we’re calling that approach Genuine Parenting, and it’s about getting real with your kids.
The Experts’ Opinions
Over 61,000 parenting books. Obviously, there’s a demand for information, and as I noted above, safety and success tend to be the overriding concerns of parents. But when you boil the experts’ recommendations down to their essence, these books generally fall into two camps:
Authoritarian Parenting: Diana Baumrind coined this term to describe parents who expect their kids to follow the rules but don’t enter into a dialog with their children to decide what those rules should be. Compliance is the main concern, and the parent is the boss. A focus on obedience and adjusting to routines and expectations set by parents is seen in many parenting manuals. An example of an approach that fits into this school of thought is the Ferber Method of teaching babies to sleep through the night – parents expect their children to follow their sleep schedule and the infants have to adjust to the parents’ expectations.
Consultative Parenting: Baumrind called this parenting style “authoritative parenting,” referring to parents who have high expectations for their children’s behaviour, but who are willing to discuss the rules with them. Authoritative parents respect their children’s feelings and teach them to regulate their emotions. Children may be punished for breaking the rules, but punishment is never arbitrary and parents often debrief with their kids following a transgression. Typically, this style is associated with better adjustment over time, as we noted in Episode 67 of the podcast, but not always.
Although parenting books in each camp typically present the worst-case scenario outcomes of the other, the fact is, the authoritarian and consultative approaches are not mutually exclusive; consultative parents might still punish their kids, and authoritarian parents might respond to the feelings of their children. The controversy between the two approaches increases confusion for parents, though, and the question remains: how can parents support their kids in remaining safe and becoming successful?
Note: Posts on Family Anatomy are for education only, and are not intended to replace professional or medical advice. If you need to talk to someone about family or mental health issues, you can get a referral from your family doctor.