It seems to be everywhere. Whether I am shopping, sitting on the beach or in a restaurant, I see parents “struggling” with their children. It could be a physical battle or a war of words. The issues don’t matter. It could be about wanting more candy, more privileges or just more than what the parent feels is good for the child/teen.
I sat on the beach a couple of weeks ago when the lifeguards put up the “do not go into the water” flag. I was distracted by some yelling and looked to see a white haired pre-teen boy imploring his mom to let him swim. He insisted that she was treating him like a baby. She was just as adamant that he “obey” her. She had told him no, but when he began arguing she switched to bribery and eventually to threatened loss of privileges.
As parents it is hard to find a balance between being permissive and controlling. There are different styles that we tend to fall into. The first style is the authoritarian parent. This is the “obey me or else” or “do what I tell you to do”. Using this style can result in a child learning external controls. The second style is the indulgent parent. These parents tend to be lenient and strives for the child’s approval. These parents can’t seem to set clear boundaries. The uninvolved parent really has no interest in parenting and tends to be irresponsible and neglectful. The last parenting style is the authoritative parent. These parents believe in natural consequences, and holding a child accountable for their own choices. This teaches the child internal control. I am partial to this particular style.
In the case of the pre-teen mom would have said “the lifeguards put the flag up to protect people. The consequences of violating their rules could probably cost YOU a $100.00 fine.” The focus is on the consequences of their choices. The parent is instructive, informative and accountable in a way that conveys respect and love.
Second story. When my oldest was 2 years old, he ran towards a very busy street. Within nano seconds my mom adrenaline had kicked into full power and I had him by the straps of his Oshkosh overalls and yanked him to safety. I could have let the natural consequences take their course (getting hit by a car) but, I decided to forgo this option.
Parenting with natural consequences does not mean letting your baby run into the street, not does it mean letting your child drive drunk. It means that if a child breaks a toy he will replace it. It means if your adolescent won’t do family chores she will pay for someone else to do them for her. It means teaching your child about how the real world works and that there are consequences for the decisions we make.
1. Write out what type of parenting style you are currently using.
2. Think about how this style will play out 5-10 years from now.
3. Imagine what you want in terms of a relationship with your child.
4. If you are off course with your dream parenting style, get back on.
5. Share how you plan to apply the “natural consequence techniques”.