Avoiding Extreme Parenting

drawing of familyThis may sound like a sport but it’s actually a trap that many of us fall into when we become parents. For some, it’s an accident quickly forgotten, but for others it remains a parenting style that in the end can damage the children. Extreme parenting is about being unable to find the balance between giving freedom and setting rules, of being either overbearing or totally lax. As is the case with all extremes, neither of these is healthy for the child or for the parents. But how can we avoid these extremes, especially if we are first-timers?

Let’s first look at the reasons that could push us into one of these extremes. Becoming a helicopter mother is all too easy when you think about all the dangers that surround your little one, and we mothers tend to think about these dangers very often, easily slipping into excessive anxiety, not letting the kid take one single step without us holding her hand. But overbearance breeds overdependence and there’s hardly a mother who would really want to raise a person who’s incapable of taking responsibility for their actions or incapable of taking an action because mommy is always there to do things for them. One thing to bear in mind is that most of the dangers you see everywhere are just potential ones and it takes just a little attention to avoid them. Others are not dangers at all, your mind makes them dangers. Also, there is such a thing as a reasonable risk. It’s clear that you wouldn’t let a small child who still hasn’t mastered her motor skills to climb a tree, but it’s okay to let her climb a slide that’s made specifically for children her age. The other thing, the most important thing, is never to forget that children are different. Some are more energetic and less capable of keeping themselves away from harm. Such a kid would need more attention from you, no doubt about it, but it would still be smarter to let her fall once or twice and bruise a knee, that’s the only efficient way to learn that running too fast can end in pain. But if you have a calm, careful son or daughter, then there’s really no need to constantly hover over them, stopping them from exploring the world. Measure is the keyword and the way to find your measure is to get to know your child.

How about setting boundaries and enforcing rules? In a world that’s generating parenting advice by the ton and most of it repeatedly tells you not to clip your child’s wings by enforcing rules and requiring discipline. It’s easy for a new parent to get confused and left with the impression that all rules are evil and the child should be left to do whatever he wants and should get whatever he wants as soon as he wants it. Well, as too many despairing parents of older children come to find out, this is not the case. Human beings need rules. Not military discipline but some ground rules. We need to know there are boundaries to what we can do without harming ourselves or others; it’s as simple as that. People are social animals, as we know, and the only way to fit in a society is to be aware of the various boundaries within it. Here, as with everything else, teaching is best done by example, but even so, there will be times when you will have to say ‘No’. After all, most rules exist to prevent harm. Letting your daughter eat as much chocolate as she wants every time she wants it doesn’t amount to healthy eating habits. Buying your son every toy he sets his eyes on will teach him that he can get everything he wants and that’s just not how life works. Both these kids will feel disappointed in later life, and that’s the best case scenario; the worst involves psychological disorders. So, love your children and train yourself to say ‘No’ now and then.