Different people have different styles of dealing with children. Work on learning to appreciate yours as well as your spouse's and discuss ways to help each other by minimizing the inherent drawbacks.
Give some youngsters a lenient, laid-back, anything-goes parent, and they flourish. Parents who adopt a hands-off approach to child-rearing may operate more like friends than authority figures. Their strength is their ability to enjoy tots as people in their own right, which can lead to exceptionally warm, joyful relationships. For some youngsters, a bit of parental advice now and then is enough to help them find the right path and stick to it.
However, most children need more solid guidance. When given a lot of freedom, instead of rising to the challenge, they crater. Open classrooms, all the rage in the early 1970s, were built on the philosophy that children would do well if given learning materials and the freedom to do their own thing. The results were mixed. Many students used the time to good advantage; some were lost in the shuffle and wandered aimlessly for years.
On the home front, too much autonomy and independence can translate into a very insecure, spoiled, out-of-control youngster who begins looking to siblings, friends, teachers, and eventually policemen and judges to set limits and contain her. Whether or not you adopt a firmer approach, don't undermine teachers and other adults who impose rules and limits, especially your partner. If people complain about your child's behavior, believe them!
Very strict parents believe that teaching the difference between right and wrong and obedience are the top child-rearing priorities. They are conscientious about communicating expectations, providing structure, setting limits, and following through with consequences if youngsters fail to tow the line. Their children may not like many of their rules and regulations, but they have the security of knowing what is expected and the consequences for failing to comply.
Whatever your parenting style, if you need to expand your parenting skills, there's help available in the form of numerous books, workshops, classes, or even counseling. A good place to start is by talking with your child's pediatrician, doing a search on the Internet, or looking in the phonebook under “parenting.”
Strict parents' emphasis on respecting authority may make it difficult for them to step out of the parenting role long enough to engage in lighthearted play, which can turn child-rearing into an eighteen-year chore. They may also overinvest time in work, where they feel more at ease because of the clarity of rules and roles.
Although strict parents have a sense of what they want their youngsters to accomplish, many are at a loss as to how to get them there. Being more comfortable in the role of police officer than teacher, the parent may assume children break rules and do things improperly because they are willful or lazy and may fail to see that little ones need to be taught. This can lead them to punish children to try to combat misbehavior when teaching is called for. Fearful children may develop an exaggerated sense of their own inadequacy as they fail in their efforts to please, while bolder types become increasingly defiant.
Authoritative parents believe in taking children's individual needs into account when making child-rearing decisions. They include youngsters' opinions when making decisions but believe that adults must have the final say. They are flexible in the parent role, being strict or lenient as the situation dictates. Thus, they can engage in playful silliness one minute and quickly call a halt to the shenanigans if a little one is getting out of hand. They see themselves as teachers. They break goals into a series of manageable tasks to help little ones get where they need to go, one step at a time.
Authoritative parents' willingness to consider many factors when making decisions can backfire as little ones learn to use logic and advanced negotiating strategies. It may be in each child's interest to have a separate food menu each day, to have their parent help them paint, take them for a walk, and read their favorite books to them. It's also unrealistic. Unless such accommodating parents give sufficient consideration to their own needs, they run the risk of becoming drained and suffering from burnout.