It's not easy to be the parent that you want to be. Children exhibit a wide range of challenging behaviors. Parents are often tired and stressed from the demands of work and running a household. It's easy to run short on patience. Research shows that the best parenting style is one in which we hold our children to high standards for their ethical behavior, hold developmentally appropriate expectations, react in consistent ways and parent in a warm, loving way. This style of parenting is called "authoritative parenting." Authoritative parents tend to have close, loving relationships with their children. In the long run, their children behave well, not because of fear of punishment, but because they have adopted their parents values for ethical behavior. If you were lucky, this is how your parents treated you.
However, many of us received a different style of parenting, either overly strict (authoritarian parenting) or too relaxed (permissive parenting). Authoritarian parenting holds high standards for kids, expect immediate and unconditional obedience, and withdraw love if the child is non-compliant. Authoritarian parents place the highest priority on obedience and achievement. This style of parenting may appear to work well with younger children, gaining faster compliance than more healthy approaches to parenting. However, in the long run, authoritarian parents have more distant relationships with their children and, eventually, lose control of their children's behavior when the children are old enough to rebel. Adult children of authoritarian parents may find themselves working hard to achieve more and please others, as they have learned that only achievement earns them love and respect.
Permissive parents are loving but place low demands on their children. They give their children a lot of freedom without many expectations for what the family values are in terms of behavior. These parents may use treats or bribes to manage their children's behavior. While there may be a lot of warmth in these families there is not a good sense of boundaries or guidance. Permissive parents feel more like friends than parents to their children. The children have the benefit of a lot of freedom but may feel insecure without boundaries on their behavior. Permissive parenting has been tied to teen alcohol use and other risky behaviors. Adult children of permissive parents may find themselves struggling to find the self-discipline needed to achieve important goals.
If your own parenting was less than ideal, or was abusive or neglectful in any way, you may find yourself struggling to parent your own child. The good news is that there are many resources available to help you learn healthy parenting behaviors. Your county's Health Department will likely have resources for you to help you develop your parenting skills. Below are a list of online and book resources that can help as well. Therapy can be a place where you work on parenting issues, particularly if you received abusive parenting in your childhood. You can make an appointment with me or another therapist near you.
Dr. Laura Markham's Aha! Parenting site is a fantastic resource for parenting in a gentle, respectful way.
Parenting Young Children (birth to age 3) Happiest Toddler on the Block (Karp, 2008) This book has a pretty simple premise but knowing it can help you resolve tantrums and improve your relationship with your toddler. It's all about slowing down, getting at eye level and providing empathy in a way that a toddler can understand. You would be amazed at how calming it is to a toddler to hear his parent reflecting what s/he wants. Definitely worth a read if you're struggling with toddler tantrums.
Sibling Conflict Siblings Without Rivalry (Farber & Mazlish, 2012) This book encourages you to see the arrival of a new sibling from the perspective of the child. It also provides helpful guidelines on how to avoid creating competition and conflict between your children and how to manage the conflict that naturally arises. Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life (Markham, 2015) Markham's book focuses on creating a positive family environment, modeling good conflict resolution and developing a strong bond with each child.