Authoritarian Parenting, Permissive Parenting, or Loving Parenting
By Margaret Paul, Ph.D
Angie was brought up by rigid, authoritarian parents
who kept her on a tight leash. They rarely considered her feelings
about anything, showing a complete lack of empathy and compassion
for her feelings and desires. If she came home five minutes late
from school or from an activity, she was punished. Yelling and
hitting were their favorite forms of punishment.
Angie was a good girl. She did well in school and
did what she was told, but was often sad and lonely and never felt
important. When she married and had her own children, she knew that
she didn't want to treat her children the way she had been treated.
She wanted to consider their feelings and needs. She wanted them to
feel valued and important.
Angie was a very loving mother. She spent lots of
time with her children, playing with them, listening to them, and
giving them much affection and approval. However, because it was so
vital to Angie that her children feel valued and important, she
often put herself aside and gave in to their demands. Because Angie
had never felt important, it was easy to put herself aside. She
actually believed that her children's feelings and needs were more
important than hers. As a result, Angie swung the other way from her
own upbringing and became a permissive parent.
The consequences for Angie of authoritarian
parenting was that she didn't value herself. The results for her
children of permissive parenting was that her children grew up with
entitlement issues, thinking they were more important than others,
and often not being caring and respectful toward others.
Neither authoritarian nor permissive parenting is
loving parenting. Loving parenting is parenting that values both the
parents' and the children's feelings and needs. Loving parents do
not attempt to control their children - other than in actual
situations of health and safety - nor do they allow their children
to control them. They do not violate their children with anger,
blame, or hitting, nor do they allow their children to violate them.
They do not expect their children to give themselves for others, nor
do they give themselves up for their children.
Loving parents are parents who deeply value
themselves enough to not worry about being rejected by their
children. They are willing to set solid limits on unacceptable
behavior and are not available to being manipulated by their
children. Their identities are not tied into their children's
performance in school or in other activities, such as sports. Nor
are their identities tied up in how their children look. They are
accepting of who their children are as individuals, even when their
children are very different from them. They do not impose their way
of being onto their children, yet at the same time they solidly
reinforce a value system that includes honesty, integrity, caring,
compassion, kindness and empathy.
As much as we want to be loving parents, unless we
have done our own inner work to heal our own deep fears of rejection
and domination, we will automatically be acting out of these fears
without being consciously aware of it. If you grew up with fears of
rejection and/or domination, you will automatically protect against
these fears in your relationships with your children. You may find
yourself trying to control them out of a fear of being controlled or
rejected by them. You might be controlling with your anger or with
your giving in and giving yourself up. Fears of rejection can
manifest with children through trying to control them with anger, or
through trying to control their love through giving yourself up to
them. Fears of domination can manifest through controlling them with
anger or violence to avoid being controlled by them. Insecurities
can manifest through attempting to get your children to perform in
the way you want in order to define your worth.
In one way or another, whatever is unhealed within
you will surface in your behavior with your children. Raising
healthy children means first healing the wounded child within you -
the part of you that has your fears and insecurities, and your
desire to protect against rejection and domination.
Our society has swung back and forth between
authoritarian and permissive parenting and the result of both is far
less than desirable. We have only to look at the number of people
taking antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, as well as the number
of alcoholics and drug addicts, as well as the rise of crime and the
number of people in prisons, to know that neither method works to
raise healthy individuals.
Perhaps it is time to accept that we need to be in
the process of healing ourselves before becoming parents.