Over the past few years there have been a number of different favored parenting styles. Books, articles, even tv shows talking about the “right” parenting style. Since I started writing this blog I have come across many parent blogs, some of which are there to tell other parents the “good” way to raise a child. We all seem to have some view as to what is right and wrong. I even mentioned a situation in a another post (screaming at your child in public), something that we tend to agree is “bad” parenting
So why am I writing about parenting? I am most definitely not a parent (with no plans to be one for quite a while, so don’t worry family) and I am no longer a child (at least age-wise anyway). I am just in the middle. I’m at the point that in tv shows about families and even family dramas I find myself siding with both the parents and the kids. It’s a really strange contradiction! While this means very little in my knowledge of parenting I just wanted to throw out some things that I have learned from watching my parents parent me, and a whole host of other parenting styles, as well as listening to other children (and parents) criticize other people’s parenting.
First and foremost: all kids are different! There is not, and never will be, one right parenting style. I have friend’s whose parents would have driven me crazy, but for my friends they were the perfect parents. Everyone is different, and that needs to be understood. Yes, kids need boundaries and rules to stay safe, but some need more than others.
I was probably not an easy kid (I definitely was not an easy teenager). I was argumentative, I talked back, and I didn’t like to do what I was told. I still remember being 10 or so and coming up with a list of reasons as to why I shouldn’t have a bedtime. I liked logic. I did not respond well to being told to something “just because;” it felt arbitrary and if I didn’t understand why I was doing something I didn’t want to do it.
Now, I’m sure many of you will say that kids are supposed to learn to respect their parents and do what they say but I think those are two completely different things. I respect my parents. After my mom started explaining her reasoning (no, you can’t go to that party because I don’t want to drive in the dark at midnight to pick you up) I began to understand her mindset more and respect her for being reasonable. Kids who do everything their parents say do not normally respect their parents; they fear them. These two things are completely different. Fear will lead to hiding things and not wanting to get in trouble. Respect will lead to the child not wanting to hide things. I hated lying to my mom (don’t worry mom, I can only remember a couple occasions that I did). I felt like I was betraying her trust and because she trusted me and treated me with respect I felt like that made it even worse for me to disrespect her by lying to her.
Did I do “bad” things as a teenager? Probably. It depends on how you define bad. I never drank when my mother didn’t know that there was going to be alcohol where I was going. I never once snuck out of the house or lied about going to some party. I felt trusted and that was a big responsibility. My mom never searched my room or read my diary (in fact she said she wouldn’t ever want to know what I wrote in my diary as it would probably upset her!). Being a teenager with a pretty “liberal” mother didn’t cause me to start having sex, get pregnant, or do hard drugs. I got badly drunk once. She knew, she told me that she hoped I’d learned my lesson about my limits and that was that. I was allowed to drink at home; alcohol was never an issue. Interestingly, I don’t really drink at all now. I wonder if there’s any correlation. I got good grades in school, I had good friends, and I went to a good university, after which I have succeeded in being pretty self-sufficient in holding down a full time job and taking classes.
Why am I rambling about me and my upbringing? Because some of the parenting things I’ve been seeing are driving me crazy. They are telling parents that kids–especially teenagers–need real, solid boundaries: rules, lots of rules. That letting your kid go to parties, especially parties with boys or alcohol will lead to pregnancy and a alcoholic teenager with no idea how to behave in the “real world”. Most of these parenting “rules” say that you should never explain your reasoning to your teenager. That the parent’s word is right and the teenager needs to learn to accept that without explanation. Sure. This works for some kids, but for others I have watched this lead to sneaking out, drinking, and drugs. For me, if my mother had just laid down some strict rules and walked away I know that I would have turned out differently. I never snuck out because I didn’t want to lie to my mom because I respected her. Had she treated me differently, without respect, I don’t know that I would have cared as much about not lying to her.
The point of my little ramble about my teenage years is that sometimes kids, teenagers especially, do need respect and flexibility from the parents. Don’t just follow some parenting book that tells you your kids must be in bed at 9pm, up at 6am, and no parties. All kids are different. You need to learn from how the kids behave as to how to treat them. Some kids do need strict boundaries to do well, and others will rebel as hard as possible from these boundaries. There is no parenting rule book, don’t believe any one who tells you differently.
And on that same note, if another family has a different style of raising their children to you that doesn’t mean they are wrong. Don’t judge them. Don’t try to explain to them the “right” way to do things. There is no right way.