Both my husband and myself were raised by authoritarian parents where parents set the rules and expectations. No explanations were given and as children, we obey. Punishment is common and many times without us understanding why. I believe a large part of who we are today, is a result of our upbringing though with self awareness and reflection, we try to ‘sieve out’ the undesirable bits in us.
It came quite as a surprise that so far, we have been more of the authoritative parents than the authoritarian ones which we grew up with. Before Malcolm came along, there was a time where I strongly believe that sparing the rod will spoil the child. After all, we were brought up fearing the rod and learning the difference between a fat and a thin ‘rotan’ through the painful way. Now, after 4 years of being a parent, I must say that we are doing quite well without the rod and we have learned that, words can do the job much more effectively.
Try spanking Malcolm, and he will probably look at you and ask you in a matter of fact manner
‘Why you hit me?!’ and I can imagine myself replying him with the following
‘Becos you were naughty’
‘Becos you did not listen to what I say’
‘Becos I was angry’
‘Becos I was venting my frustration’
‘Becos I let my anger get the better of me’
‘Becos I am your mother’
Becos becos becos…
But none of them good enough to justify my action. Really.
None of them are lessons that I wish to teach him.
I have no wish to use the rod as a weapon of intimidation and fear, to earn submission nor to drive him towards the path of rebellion.
One of the dilemmas that we had as parents was how to be strict and kind at the same time towards our child. Does being strict mean never giving in to their whims and fancies and teaching them the tough part about life ? How can we be kind to them at the same time ?
One of our tests arrived when Malcolm woke up one day whining and crying and not wanting to go school. Daddy was quick to reprimand him for trying to get out of school but soon realized that he might have been too harsh on him. After some encouragement, Malcolm confided in him the problems he faced in school. Daddy offered some comforting words and solutions although their eventual effectiveness were questionable. Malcolm calmed down and went to school. Everything turned out fine that day.
We learned that by asking and giving Malcolm a chance to explain and speak out his fears, we satisfied his needs for his problems to be heard and recognized. But equally important was that, we stayed firm that tantrums were not acceptable.
Most people are somewhere in between certain parenting styles and do not fall clearly into any category. Probably, to answer the question on what kind of parents we want to be, we should first look at what kind of adult we want our child to grow up into.
I used to think that parenting is like the toughest job on earth and I still think so today. Authoritative and authoritarian are only a few letters apart, but they can mean very different things and it is a challenge for us to tread between being kind and yet strict to our child.
Rachel also shared some information on the different parenting styles in her blog.