The Duality of Parenting: Solving the Authoritarian v. Permissive Quagmire

What makes a perfect parent? Is it laying down the law or accepting kids for who they are?

Is it setting high standards or providing unconditional support?

Do you expect your kids to adhere to the rules of the world? Or do you expect the world to adjust to the needs of your kid?

If ever there was a subject where people have differences of opinions, it’s parenting.

Most of us tend to fall on one side or the other of the permissive vs. authoritative debate.

From the helicopter parents who hover over their kids 24/7, insulating them from hurt feelings, strict teachers, second place finishes and other realities of life, to the commanding disciplinarians who bounce quarters off beds and reign over the chore chart with an authority Patton wouldn’t challenge, styles run the gamut, and everyone is convinced that their way is the best way.

The “free-to-be-you-and-me” crowd believes that their children are unique and special, and thus, should be treated as such. These are the people who try to get the grading scale changed to accommodate their child and who insist that everybody get a trophy. You can spot them in public because their child is often the one riding the pony.

The other side of the spectrum is the stiff upper lip crowd, parents who believe that special treatment is for wimps. Their favorite mantras include, “Suck it up,” “Tough luck,” and “How is this my problem?” These are the parents who buy their kid a bike for his birthday so he’ll be able to drive himself to his part-time job.

Yet as much as we may condemn, or defend, the hoverers and the disciplinarians, the inherent intent of both styles have merit. Children do need unconditional support, AND they also need to learn to stand on their own.

The authoritative vs. permissive quagmire is yet another example of how either/or thinking locks us into false choices and keeps us from seeing the real truth.

Like many people I came into parenting totally clueless. But when my first child was just a baby, I read a line in a parenting book that forever changed the way I viewed my role. It said: In an ideal circumstance a child is raised to believe that they are incredibly special, but no more special than anyone else.

This is the duality of parenting. Just like so many other areas of our lives, it’s not as simple as an either/or choice. True success as a parent requires mastering the art of AND.

It’s not about compromise or watering-down the two approaches, it’s about combining them.

We need to set high expectations AND provide unconditional support.

We need to establish an environment of freedom AND limits.

We need to be both nurturing AND tough.

We need to honor our child’s unique magnificence AND at the same time, help them understand they have no more rights and privileges than anyone else on this planet.

Is it hard?  Of course it is.

You have to hold two ideas in your mind at the same time and simultaneously embrace two approaches at once, which is a struggle for us humans.

The Triangle of Truth is a model that will enable you to assimilate seemingly conflicting ideals in a way that makes their whole, greater than the sum of the parts.

There’s nowhere we need this approach more than when it comes to our kids.

Parenting is powerful monarchy and indentured servitude at the same.
It’s the ultimate challenge in mastering dualities.

But the Universe wouldn’t have sent you such magnificent children if you weren’t capable of mastering this duality.

You’re holding the future of the world in your hands.

AND so is everybody else.

What do you think? Are most parents too permissive, or too strict?
Where do you fall on the spectrum?