Successful parents move gradually to a sort of “automatic pilot” style of caretaking. Their children learn to regulate their own behavior, generally make good decisions without parental interference and ask for help only when they need it.
Parents who achieve this goal tend to the children’s needs from an appropriate distance. They intervene only when necessary, based on the children’s ability to make decisions and regulate their behavior.
The best way for parents to gauge that ability is to ask children questions. The children’s answers can give parents insight into what their kids are thinking and provide the most important information available in helping to guide and protect children. The question and answer process also helps parents avoid ineffective lectures. Instead, children get an opportunity to think for themselves and come up with their own decisions about how to behave.
For the process to work, parents must find the right mix of protection and control of their children. It’s a tricky balance to achieve, and parents who don’t find that balance are much more likely to face behavioral problems in their children.
There are four common parenting styles that throw the relationship between protection and control out of balance. Learning about these styles that don’t work — 1.The overprotective/undercontrolling parent
2.The overprotective/ overcontrolling parent
3.The underprotective/undercontrolling parent
4.The underprotective/overcontrolling parent
can give parents insight into what does work and can help them avoid serious problems that cripple parent-child relationships.
The Overprotective, Undercontolling Parent
This type of parent attempts to shield children from all problems and all danger. At the same time, the parent is reluctant to correct childrens’ behavior, so as not to risk “traumatizing” the children or creating expectations that children are unable to meet.
In return, the parent gets children who are disobedient, disrespectful and aggressive with no sense of physical or social boundaries. The children become chaotic, that is, confused, disorganized and overly responsive to anything that stimulates them. They tend to be obnoxious as babies and become more and more disobedient as they grow up.
Children raised this way pay a price in lost self-reliance, by becoming too entangled in their relationship with their parents. When the child attempts to climb a tree, for instance, he may be asked to sit next to his mother so he doesn’t get hurt. In calming her own fear for her son’s safety, the mother passes that fear along to the child and conveys the notion that being close to Mommy is more important than being independent.
The Overprotective, Overcontrolling Parent
The overprotective, overcontrolling parent shields children from anything the parent thinks might hurt them and, at the same time, limits children’s freedom excessively. Parents such as these are perfectionists, and they want their children to be perfect, too.
Children of this sort of parent are, typically, “good” kids. But they’re also rigid kids, afraid to invent, modify or even think. Children of overprotective, overcontrolling parents are continually second-guessed in small, personal matters — like how to decorate their rooms or their bicycles — and get little chance to develop their imaginations or creativity.
These children are compliant, but they doubt themselves and are afraid to take risks. In essence, they ignore their own needs and put their parents needs first.
Often, the results are psychosomatic symptoms, such as headaches or stomachaches, as well as serious problems getting along with other children. The remedy is for the parent to loosen control and focus more on the children’s needs.
The Underprotective, Undercontrolling Parent
This type of parent will let children “get away with murder.” The parent pays little attention to the children, not protecting them from danger, not controlling their behavior, and certainly not working with them to help them develop their own sense of how to get along in life.
Children of this type of parent, feeling unloved and unprotected, may eventually commit murder. They, too, become chaotic, respect no authority and have little concern for anyone but themselves. Increased protection and increased control are essential to getting these children on track.
The Underprotective, Overcontrolling Parent
Like those who excessively control their children while protecting them from any possible harm, this type of parent is often a perfectionist who wants perfect children. But the underprotective, overcontrolling parent combines perfectionism with an unwillingness to guide children and shield them from harm.
This parenting style can become neglectful, or even abusive. Parents not only second-guess and criticize their children over small things, but they fail to give their kids basic protection from life’s hazards. Their kids get hurt, either by their parents’ abuse, or in accidents that a more watchful parent might have been able to prevent.
The excessive control exerted by the parent makes it difficult for the child to develop self-reliance and creativity. When over-control is combined with a lack of protection, children find the world a very lonely, fault-finding place.
Children usually react by disengaging from that world. On the surface, they comply with their parents’ wishes, but they find other ways to oppose their parents. They mimic their parents’ abusive behavior, tend to forget things and procrastinate. Eventually, the children find ways to be more actively aggressive and to more directly oppose their parents.
Adults who ‘ve adopted this type of parenting must provide children with more protection and less control, so their kids can learn self-reliance and abandon their tendency toward self-destruction.