Have you ever wondered what in the world you’re doing wrong as a parent? I’d venture to say not as much as you may think. Parents are often caught off guard by our kids’ decisions, so we are not ready with an appropriate response…. By analyzing parenting styles, we can get an interesting insight into some common parenting mistakes. I don’t know about you, but I’ve learned as much from watching people who aren’t great examples as I have from those who are great examples. Sometimes the best way to learn what to do is first to learn what not to do.
9 Common Parenting Styles
Parenting Style #1: The Servant Parent
The Servant Parent tries to woo the child back by anticipating and meeting her child’s every whim. This parent feels if she can show her child how much she loves her by serving her then her child will turn from her poor decisions and come back. I observe this in many parent/child relationships. The parent knows the child is distancing herself, so the parent tries to appease the child by anticipating her every want.
Parenting Style #2: The Checked-Out Parent
The Checked-Out Parent is opposite of the Servant Parent. The Checked-Out Parent gives up when it becomes evident his child won’t do as he wants. His reasoning may be, “I’ve done all I can. He doesn’t listen to me anymore.” The truth is, parents are still the most influential people in their children’s lives.
The Checked-Out Parent may be physically present but mentally checked in to his electronic devices. We hound our kids about too much texting or time on Facebook, but our actions speak more powerfully than our words ever will.
Parenting Style #3: The Gotcha! Parent
From the interviews of youth leaders and adult children who made decisions their parents didn’t agree with, the one no-no that came up frequently is being a Gotcha! Parent. This parent keeps harping on sources of conflict. With the Gotcha! Parent, there is never a safe place in the parent-child relationship because the parent may bring up these issues at any time.
Parents become Gotcha! Parents by nagging and bringing up the source of disagreement every time they have a chance—especially when they’re alone with their children. Probably the child’s least favorite tactic of the Gotcha! Parent is the ambush—not to be confused with a legitimate intervention. In the ambush, the parent goes behind the child’s back to enlist the help of the youth pastor or other influential people in the child’s life. This seems like a good idea to the parent, especially when she doesn’t know what to do next. But the leaders and kids I talked with all listed this in the “not to do” list. As parents we have more influence than we realize. We need only to use our influence effectively.
Parenting Style #4: The Passive-Aggressive Parent
Passive-Aggressive Parents don’t deal with their children’s decisions in an honest and direct way. They may act calm or unaffected, but their emotions are churning. One way Passive-Aggressive Parents express their feelings is by taking out their emotions on someone other than the child. Another way to deal with repressed emotions is to divert those emotions to other less sensitive issues. This behavior is also called making mountains out of molehills. It confuses children because they know their parents are overreacting; the important issues are never appropriately addressed.
Parenting Style #5: The Scared Parent
Deep down our kids love us and want us to show them love. I believe most parents are scared because they feel that one wrong move on their part will cause their children to rebel or bolt, and they’ll never see them again. Except in extreme cases, this is a lie straight from, well, you know where.
Kids know if their parents selflessly love them. They are keenly discerning and know if their parents care more about themselves than their kids. The Scared Parent is frustrated with his child’s decisions and knows he can’t continue to not act, but he is too scared to address the issue himself. So he tries to find someone else to deal with his child.
Parenting Style #6: The Compare-And-Despair Parent
A damaging response to your child’s decisions is to compare her to a sibling, a friend, or anyone doing what the parent finds acceptable. Who likes to be compared to anyone? The comparison game places the child’s weaknesses against the other person’s strengths. It’s not fair. Nor is it the truth. Everyone has weaknesses and everyone has strengths. I know we can be exasperated with our kids, but comparing and despairing only makes the situation worse.
Parenting Style #7: The Controlling Parent
The Controlling Parent is bent on fixing her kid. This parent’s response is to rein in her child by controlling every area of her child’s life. In parenting there is no formula for a guaranteed result. Effective parenting takes selfless perseverance. We must know our kids and adjust our parenting styles according to what works for the individual child. What works for one child will not work for the next one. Presence versus control will look different in each child’s life based on his age ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼and situation. It goes back to the old but true cliché—pick your battles wisely. In fact, the most challenging child may be the one who needs the most space.
Parenting Style #8: The You’re-Ruining-My-Life Parent
Our kids’ ongoing decisions we don’t agree with and the accompanying consequences often affect us like the after-shocks of an earthquake. When crisis strikes, our challenge is to not make life about ourselves. Unfortunately, people will always feel they have the right to speak into your personal life. But this is not a reason to add another block to the wall between you and your child. Remember, Mom and Dad, this situation is not about you. This is about your child’s confidence in your love for her no matter what. Your goal is to nurture your relationship with her and keep the way back to the Lord obstacle free.
Parenting Style #9: The My-Way-or-the-Highway Parent
The My-Way-or-the-Highway Parent is self-explanatory. This parent knows best. There are only two ways to look at life— the parent’s way and the wrong way. Notice that this doesn’t leave much room for exchange of ideas or the Word of God (I’m assuming these parents think God agrees with them on everything). I realize the stakes are high in parenting our kids, and Christian parents especially know this. But this vein of thought often produces a black-and-white mentality to everything in life. We spiritualize everything. There is right music and wrong music; there is right literature and wrong literature. There is a right way to dress and a wrong way to dress. My-Way-or-the-Highway Parents believe their way is the only right way, and all other ideas are wrong.
To avoid becoming this type of parent, we need to read through the Bible (yes, the whole Bible) and see for ourselves what God says is black and white. God leaves spacious room for us to express ourselves as He designed us. It is well within His boundaries of right and wrong.
The My-Way-or-the-Highway Parent is all too common, even if kids are not making poor choices. I know. I am a recovering one. I have also observed parents who make major issues out of nonissues—the child who runs a few minutes late in the morning, the occasional slipup in manners, clothes that are modest and appropriate but the parent declares reveal too much. The list goes on.
Parents, we want to do a good job, but we must guard against provoking our children to anger.
Fathers,do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. – Ephesians 6:4
Parenting is not about power, but in our kids’ eyes it can be. What our kids view as power, we know is a respect issue. As parents our job is to teach our kids to respect us and God. We don’t give in to their wishes. We strive to be parents they can respect. We don’t lay down our God-given role of parent to make our kids happy. Guess what—it won’t.
For the most part, our kids have issues not because we aren’t good enough parents. Our kids’ issues are heart issues. What parenting styles do you most identify with from above and how do you pray against it? Leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you.