PEOPLE love to judge other people’s parenting styles. When things go wrong with a child their parents’ approach to childrearing is often seen as the problem.
Often it’s all clichés and stereotypes: “She was too laid back as a parent”; “those kids were spoilt rotten” or else “they were so strict they drove their child away”.
Now, there’s no ducking a parent’s responsibility in raising children, but I often think a lot less emphasis on the judging and criticism and more on advice and assistance would be useful.
All parents, at some time, ask themselves: “What sort of parent am I?”
Although approaches to parenting are infinitely varied, there are a few widely recognised styles.
Are you a helicopter parent always hovering protectively, ready to clear your child’s path in life; or are you a tiger mum (or dad) relentlessly driving your child forward so they don’t miss out on any opportunity?
Are you the strict one who plays “bad cop” or are you the peacemaker who is always smoothing the waters?
If you are anything like me, you’ve probably fitted into all of these categories at one time or another and more than one most of the time.
If nothing else, parenting teaches adaptability as you shift from one strategy to another dealing with whatever today’s particular problem and crisis happens to be. I’m certainly the household peacemaker, negotiating treaties and drawing up rules of engagement when peace breaks down between our two kids.
I regularly hover close at hand, though much more so when my children were younger. My son is now nearly as tall as me and says my days as a helicopter mum are coming to an end.
I have tried to be a tiger mum when a bit of a kick along was required to get them to do their best. Tough love is a last resort, but it has been employed from time to time. At the most fundamental level, I try to give my kids a sense of security, support and unconditional love as that’s the vital foundation as they find their way in the world.
One of the best lessons I’ve learnt is to chuck out most of the parenting books. The “experts” always seem to see things in black and white or stereotypes. It’s easy to look at one approach and pick holes in it or see where it might all come unstuck later down the track. But family life is never simple or one dimensional.
I’ve found the best thing is to seek out as wide a range of opinion and as many useful tips as one can. Not everything will be useful, or applicable, and no one knows your own child better than you, but I’ve found talking to other parents – at playgroups, while waiting to pick up the kids from school and on the sidelines of sporting events – and using their varied experience is one of the most helpful things.