When I found out I was growing TWO babies in my belly, I panicked! TWO? They say you can never be prepared when you bring a baby home. And you are telling me two! I had NO idea how I was going to keep my sanity, but I knew I had to figure something out and quick! Before I knew it, I was going to be solely in charge of two more lives, and I knew that I wanted to do my best by them and help them live a life that made them happy.
Now, I'm not saying that I sat here and did research day in and day out about what "kind of parent" I was going to be and what parenting practices I wanted to adopt, but I knew that when the big day finally did come, I was going to have to make a lot of important, life changing decisions. And that I would never be the same person again. (And for the record: I actually told a few close friends "I think there are two in there" the day before I found out it was twins, but I figured I was just being silly. Mother’s intuition perhaps?)
My "wake up and smell the coffee call" about parenting was actually 10 years ago when I was taking child development courses and discovering my passion for psychology during my undergrad. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was already internalizing the fact that parenting is not about how “good” we can make our child turn out, or about making them conform to do everything you say as soon as you say it, no questions asked.
So, did you know there are FOUR different types of parents? Want to know why you care? Because studies have shown that each style of parenting has different impact. Find out which type of parent you are.
-- You are warm and consistent.
-- You are supportive and constantly use reason, communication, and encourage an open expression of emotions and thoughts.
-- You know how to set boundaries and limits without inhibiting the child and over restricting them. (i.e.: boundaries are set to keep the child safe, not prevent them from exploring their environment)
This parenting style correlates most with positive outcomes. I mean, go figure that the parents who take the time to listen to their children and treat them like equals (i.e. not to a lower standard than a friend or significant other), while being consistent about rules, are the ones that are likely to promote the most both social and cognitive development.
-- You are cold, demanding, and tight on the reigns
-- You expect things to be done without explanation, and are less encouraging of open dialogue
-- You typically set hard limits and are consistent with their restrictiveness
-- You use traditional disciplinary actions (i.e.: spanking and other negative punishments)
It's not to say that you are ruining your child if you are not
authoritarian, because the evidence in parenting studies is only
correlative, meaning they show mutual relation not causation, but these
findings definitely leave much room for thought. (Especially if you come
from a tradition that may define the role of parenting differently.)
-- You are warm and lax
-- This parent is VERY similar to the Authoritative BUT they are not consistent with rules and control and discipline
-- You are neither emotionally attached nor in control
So, what kind of parent SHOULD you be?
What I have learned, through both experiences as a child and a new parent, is that this is not a game of who is in control. There should be no "power struggle" when you try to get your little to follow through with something. Instead, communication is the key. Resolving issues through calmly discussing them and allowing your child to explore and express their emotions is a great way to prepare them for their future and encourage their brains to think instead of just react.
I mean, we all know that a toddler is, at some point, going to get upset about something that makes no sense to us, and what is important about this is that we have to understand when it's developmental and offer support accordingly. And of course we are only human, so while the goal is to prevent reactions that cause negative energy (tension, anger, fear, etc), sometimes you may have a slip, or you may just be late joining the gentle parenting game. Never feel like all is lost, because it's much easier to apologize and try to explain it to your child later than to leave them thinking that you don't care.
I promise you, it's not like I woke up one day and said "Hey, I think I'll go authoritarian today!" BUT, from the very first day, I could tell that nothing anyone could tell me was going to keep me from following my gut with my parenting. In order to raise children who could can stay above the surface of this crazy, fast paced world I had to teach them through example.
No matter what walk of life you come from, instilling fear to control does nothing but make the situation worse. According to experts, it causes feelings of shame and humiliation and can be the root cause of issues in the future including, but not limited to, substance abuse issues and behavioral/emotional problems.
The best way to be the best parent you can be is to follow your child's lead AND your gut. Take advice with a grain of salt, but do your own research. And most of all know that with respect and empathy raising any number of children at once doesn't have to be so stressful. (Eventually...)
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