As fathers, we are all unique and different. We all have different needs and see life in different ways. Our children are very similar in this sense. So where do we start when it comes to choosing a parenting style?
Should we be hard on them?
Should we be lenient and friendly?
Should we allow them to figure things out on their own, or support them every step of the way?
The modern father is riddled with questions about what to do. He often feels guilty about what he’s doing for his children, and what he’s not. If you’re feeling this guilt or any anxiety about getting parenting right, it’s okay. You’re not alone. Even the school system has changed and evolved to handle different generations of children – even if it was slightly. The truth is that regardless of how busy you are, or what you personally believe about raising children, there’s a style of parenting for every dad.
In this article, I will give you some background into some of the factors that influence fatherhood. From there, you can make a choice about the way that you want to raise your children.
Begin with the End in Mind
It was Stephen Covey who wrote about the importance of starting with the idea of what you want at the end of your goal. In choosing a style of parenting that works for you, this is critical. However, there are more factors than just you involved in your child’s life.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself to gain some clarity.
What you want
What do you want to achieve from your parenting?
Do you want a bold child and courageous?
Do you want them to be respectful and soft-spoken?
Do you want them to be free-spirited and constantly exploring, asking questions and learning?
Take some time to picture your child in the future. What do they look like as a teenager? How do they behave? What do they have going on? Now see them as an adult. What are they doing? Who is surrounding them? Where are they? By imagining the young man or woman that your child becomes, you get a long term vision of how your parenting will impact them on the way there.
What your spouse wants
What does your partner want to achieve with parenting?
What kind of child does she/he want?
What are her/his beliefs about the future?
Your spouse will play just as big a role in your child’s development as you. It’s important to know what they want. Many conflicts can be avoided in this way. When your children understand that you and your partner are communicating, they have a better support structure in place.
What your child wants
What are they interested in?
What do they love doing?
What do they not need any reminder to do?
Your child is a force of their own. Parenting is about guiding this force, channelling it for the most effective growth.
What the world wants
What opportunities are available in the world that they’re stepping into?
What skills will they need to learn to take these opportunities?
As the socio-economic times change, so do our styles of parenting. There are many factors to consider.
Combining the factors
Parenting is a team sport. It involves many people and so many factors. Your approach will depend on your personal value system, but also on the capacity and personalities of the people in your family.
The Four Styles of Parenting
In the 1960s, a researcher named Diana Baumrind explained three major styles of parenting. These were based on the times and pointed out similarities in how parents tended to raise their children. In the 1980s, another style of parenting was introduced. Who knows what we will discover in the future. For now, understanding these four different approaches will help you to gain more awareness of what style works for you.
The Authoritarian Father
Do you love order and systems?
Do you expect people to follow the rules and abide by them?
Do you believe that there is a place and a time for everything?
Do you want to be in complete control of your family?
This kind of father believes in structure, rules and discipline. With this kind of father, children learn to take responsibility for their actions. If they don’t, there are consequences that are immediately enforced. The authoritative father creates very clear ideas about what is acceptable and what is not from his children. You can also expect to have your children live up to your values. The downside is that if your child has a different set of values to you, there may be conflict within your home.
The Uninvolved Father
Do you believe that children should be seen and not heard?
Do you think that your job as a parent is done when your children are clothed, fed and have a roof over their heads?
Do you have more important things to do than spend time with your child?
If you’re reading this article, you’re probably not an uninvolved father. These are the dads that see parenting as a chore. They don’t have long term goals for their children and there’s a visible lack of enthusiasm, love and support for their children.
Children who grow up with a father like this may be independent, but it’s an independence that comes at a price. They will struggle to connect with their fathers and may battle to trust male figures in their life.
The Permissive Father
Do you hate rules?
Do you believe that children will be children and need to be free?
Do you see yourself as your child’s best friend?
Do you hate fighting with your children?
Do you allow them to do whatever they want to keep the peace?
Permissive parenting is all about letting your child get his way. The permissive father is often laid back and doesn’t get upset when things don’t go according to plan…because there is no plan. The permissive father is accepting of children to the point of their detriment. Why so? Children who grow up with this kind of father may not understand what it means to have a work ethic. They may lack grit and other qualities that will see them through challenging times.
The Authoritative Father
Do you believe in having rules, but also in hearing your children out?
Do you believe that communication with your children is important?
Do you want to give them a positive, but realistic experience about life?
Is your child’s development important to you?
The authoritative father is the proactive father that is willing to support his child when she needs it, and challenge her when she needs it, too. It’s the most positive style of parenting because it is involved in raising an independent child that upholds a value system. This style hinges on communication. Communicating when it’s hard and when it’s easy. Hearing your child’s ideas and making the best decision for your family from there. This approach allows for flexibility when it’s needed, but is unyielding in values.
Accepting your Fathering Style
Did you pick up any type of behaviour from reading these different styles? Our style of fathering is an imperfect art. It’s constantly changing. We make mistakes, we learn from them and we move forward in the most effective way. Whatever your current fathering style is, accept it and be willing to do better with the information that you’re learning.
Be Flexible and Firm
Being a father can be overwhelming. Especially when there are a thousand different ideas about how to father your child. The key is to understand your values and communicate them to your child, your spouse and your family.
Be flexible on the things that don’t matter to you. If it’s going to waste time and distract you, your child and your family from your greater goals, then it may be best to forget about it and let it slide. But be firm on the things that do. Being a father means that you stand for something. You uphold a set of values that are rooted in your integrity. Be unyielding in these values. Communicate why they’re important to you and why you’re unwilling to change them.
Communication is the key to becoming a great father. The better you can communicate, the more people will understand you and why you behave the way you do. Your child may not agree with you and your decisions, but they will respect you.
The Journey into the Unknown
Being a father feels a little like being stuck on a raft in the middle of the ocean, seeing an island in the distance. That island is the ideal child you’re looking to raise. There is no clear path to getting there. Circumstances may sweep you off course and delay your journey. You may have clear sailing on other days. You may capsize, make mistakes and regret your actions. It’s okay. Climb back onto your raft and put the island in your sights. The only failed father is the one that gives up.
Keep making better choices with better information.