Dr. Deb’s Mental Health Vitamin: Effective parenting
By Dr. Deb Wade
GCU Vice President, Counseling and Psychological Services
Parents, like many things in life, come in all shapes, sizes and colors! And I believe the axiom is true that parenting is the most rewarding and yet also the most challenging job you will ever have.
Like most everything else in life, there are exemplary parenting practices that are worthy of a lifetime achievement award with accompanying trophy, and there are also those parenting practices that are not-so-healthy and are grist for the comic pages of your Sunday newspaper. Let’s take a “tongue-in-cheek” sampling …
- The “Helicopter” Parent! We’ve all seen this type of parent – s/he hovers, smothers and is seemingly always looming over the child and his/her friends, activities and choices. These are the parents that believe being omnipresent is healthy and also believe they must orchestrate and oversee everything for their young children all the way to their high school or college-age students. These parents take an overprotective and/or excessive interest in the lives of their children. Sadly, the product of this type of parenting can be an overindulged child who lacks decision-making abilities and strong coping mechanisms because the mother or father “swooped” in at any sign of challenge or discomfort.
- The “Bulldozer” Parent! Closely related to the helicopter is the “bulldozer” parent, who is willing to drop everything to fulfill their child’s wants and demands, no matter how large or small. What these bulldozers don’t see is that though they don’t want to see their child struggle, the “rescuing and fixing of problems” could produce a child who does not have healthy problem-solving abilities of his/her own! This parent routinely forges ahead before their child, removing all obstacles and ensuring success at every turn. While this parent is well-intentioned and means to “protect” the child from short-term harm by getting rid of difficult, heartbreaking or hurtful “boulders” in their child’s “road,” this could ultimately result in a psychologically fragile child who is fearful, tries to avoid failure and who most likely has never learned coping strategies. Tough experiences ahead, therefore, could overwhelm this youngster who will most likely also have poor resilience.
- The “Drill Sergeant” Parent! This parent tends to “bark” orders and dictates all choices. Sadly, though, the child has little room to make wants and desires known because … “What’s the point? Mom or Dad will tell me what I need anyway.” Oh, these drill sergeants love their children, too, but they feel the more they shout and control, the better their kids will be in the long run. The drill sergeant’s message is, “You are not really able to think for yourself, so I’ll do it for you.” But kids of drill sergeant parents who were never given the opportunity to think for themselves quite often make horrendous decisions when finally given the opportunity. Makes sense, doesn’t it? These children never experienced having to make decisions for themselves.
- The “Social Butterfly” Parent! These parents are also well-intentioned – they want their child to be popular, to fit in, to have the right clothes and to follow the right trends. To accomplish this, the parent is quite busy making connections for their child – it’s very important to them that the child is on the “right team,” in the “right dance class,” has the “right tutor,” and by all means, “has the trendiest of birthday parties, to boot.” However, though the child is busy fulfilling the dreams of the parent, the child never fully develops his/her own discernment, knows his/her own heart and desires, develops his/her own dreams … and sadly, seems to base friendships on status. Ultimately, this child can find him/herself making choices based on how the situation “looks” rather than on the merit of the situation.
Yes, parenting is one of the most difficult yet one of most rewarding responsibilities anyone could have. AND the good news is that though there are a lot of “don’ts” in parenting, there are also a lot of “do’s”! If we “DO” our job correctly, and we raise children …
- who know their value,
- who have self-discipline and self-control,
- who have clear spiritual, moral and behavioral codes of honor,
- who exhibit respect for others regardless of differences, and …
- who have the tools to manage and navigate the path in front of them,
… we will – one day – also be … “Empty Nest” Parents!
Then, we can have a ringside seat watching our children navigate their world and develop into loving, honoring, caring adults, knowing we had a hand in shaping them. How fun will that be!