Welcome to another week of the Positive Parenting alphabetic series. This week’s topic is Flexible Parenting. We’ll be discussing what it means to be flexible, why it’s great for the kids, and why it’s such an important part of positive parenting.
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The 3 Types of Families
Did you grow up in a family hearing things like, “Because I said so!” or “You live under my roof, so you live under my rules!”
Or, maybe, you heard things more like, “Whatever you want honey.” Or, “You’re only a child once, why don’t you let me do that for you.” Or, maybe you just heard silence because your parents weren’t really at home much, or were emotionally absent due to mental health or addiction issues.
If you were lucky, you may have heard things like, “You’ll figure out a way to solve that problem. I know you can do it.” Or, “The milk is all over the floor and needs to be cleaned up. Here’s a rag.” Or, “When you borrowed your sister’s toy and it broke, it made her really upset. What can you do to make this better?”
The first examples are things you might have heard if you grew up in an authoritarian household.
Barbara Coloroso, parenting expert and author of Kids Are Worth It! : Giving Your Child The Gift Of Inner Discipline, refers to this kind of a family as a “Brick Wall” family because the authority, rules, and power are very rigidly established with the parents at the top of the hierarchy and the kids at the bottom with very little power and say.
According to Alfie Kohn, author of Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason, this kind of parenting approach tends to be the most common in North America.
It has also been associated with many negative outcomes for children, including higher rates of mental health issues, as well as low self-esteem (see About Education and Parenting Science for more details on studies).
If instead the second example sounds more like your childhood, you may have grown up in a permissive household, or a “Jellyfish” family according to Barbara Coloroso.
In this kind of family, the kids may be given too much freedom to make choices for themselves, and typically the child gets whatever they want – even at the expense of the parents’ needs. There is very little guidance and few limits. The result is often chaos and anarchy.
This kind of parenting approach is also associated with negative outcomes for children’s health and future achievement (see the articles mentioned above).
So – why did I say you were very lucky if those last examples sounded like your home? Because you likely grew up in a “Backbone” family (Barbara Coloroso’s term).
What is Backbone or Flexible Parenting?
In the Backbone family, the parenting is flexible but firm – just like your spine – or an elastic!
(I have so much fun coming up with these photographic metaphors!)
Backbone parents run the home in a democratic way with more and more power and responsibility being gradually given to the children as they grow and develop competencies and emotional maturity.
“Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.” ~Tony Robbins
Interactions between parents and kids are respectful, and kind. Problems are solved together. Kids are loved unconditionally.
There are clear limits, expectations and rules which adapt as the kids grow. Natural or reasonable consequences are allowed instead of punishments when limits are crossed.
Feelings are valued and the connection between parents and children is of utmost importance.
In short – the Backbone or Flexible parenting approach is what this Positive Parenting Series is all about!
Time after time, research has shown that this type of parenting style has highly positive outcomes for children. Kids grow up feeling valued, understood, and secure with their place in the world.
In other words, they develop the confidence and self-esteem to take things as they come, knowing that they have the skills to handle what life throws at them.
They are less likely to struggle with anxiety and depression, are less likely to get involved with drugs and other substance issues, and are less likely to be promiscuous as teens.
So – if that list isn’t enough to make you want to be as “backbone” a parent (or teacher) as possible – I don’t know what would!
It has certainly been a motivator for me to learn more about this approach. That’s why I started this series in the first place – to share all the things I have learned and am continuing to learn about this style of parenting.
“Nothing is softer or more flexible than water,
yet nothing can resist it.” ~Lao Tzu
If after reading the above descriptions, you are still unsure what kind of approach you are using, check out this super quick self-quiz at: About.com Pediatrics or this more in-depth (but still reasonably quick) one at: Active Parenting Publishers.
If you’re currently a “Brick Wall” or “Jellyfish” parent (or you tend to flipflop between the two) and want to change your ways, I strongly recommend you learn along with me in this positive parenting series. The best place to start is with the post: What is Positive Parenting?
If you’re already working on becoming a positive parent (like I am) – I made a visual reminder of why what we’re doing is so important for our kids. Here are the 13 benefits you’ve been waiting to hear!
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Thanks for joining me this week and hope to see you next Saturday! You can find all our series posts on the Positive Parenting Page.
Thank you for the post. I many parents intuitively know the benefits of being a flexible parent but the problem is that as easy and logical as it sounds, I also that it can be difficult to implement. Our energy level, emotions, social pressure, time restrictions, etc can get in the way. That’s why it’s important to remind ourselves the importance of positive parenting, and tools that go along with them. We are not perfect but we can always strive to be more flexible parents.
Sue Lively says
Absolutely Elona. I think a huge part of positive parenting is just trying to be intentional about what we’re doing most of the time instead of reactive. Flexibility is not an easy thing – for sure – but it’s one of those things that is good to be aware of – especially if we want our kids to be flexible. Thanks for dropping by!
Your posts are very difficult to read with all of the colors and bolds and italics, etc. It’s kind of a strain on the eye and very unprofessional looking. But I love the content so I am working my way through it. It just makes me hesitant to want to share it with my family and friends.
Sue Lively says
Thanks for the feedback Jessica. I made a few changes to hopefully make the blog easier on the eyes! Best, Sue