How do we affect our children?


Well we've reached a new stage in our house;  I am no longer trusted to select my daughters clothes. This is a decision my wife and daughter have come to based on, what I feel is, pretty flimsy evidence. It may well be the case that I once dressed my daughter in pyjamas thinking they were day clothes and sent her to nursery, but that was only once. Well, only once that my wife didn't intervene or my daughter failed to notice before we left the house.

I have now perfected what clothes are for sleeping in and which are for going out (my wife puts them in different cupboards). The new concern is that I have no sense of fashion or style. This may be true but it feels a bit harsh that my daughter at only 5 already thinks this. Many are the mornings I have assured the little darling that my selected items 'go together'. Turns out she thinks they don't, and---what is worse---her views tend to be confirmed by my wife with a sad shake of her head. 

This morning was the final straw. I had selected jeans and a T-shirt, a combination I feel suitable for every circumstance except perhaps ones own wedding or a close relatives funeral. My daughter took one look and announced that ' jeans and t-shirt just aren't my style'. Well, now she picks her own clothes. 

This got me reflecting on my parenting style as clearly I have failed to impose my own timeless sense of fashion on my daughter.  This is a thorny issue and there is obviously no absolute right way to do it. There is, however, some science and some general themes.

Diana Baumrind a psychologist in the US proposed four broad categories of parenting style in 1966: 

1) Authoritarian; (Demanding but not Responsive)

Such parents give clear rules and apply punishment if these aren't followed. They tend not to give reasons for the rules except their own authority. 

2) Indulgent; (Responsive but not Demanding)

This style involves being very attentive to the child's needs, but not giving any boundaries or rules. 

3) Authoritative; (Responsive and Demanding)

This involves applying rules, but giving reasons why such rules are good. It is about trying to guide rather than impose and encouraging children to understand the world around them. 

4) Neglectful; (Neither responsive or Demanding)

This is not so much a style as a lack of it, these parents take little or no interest in wether there children obey rules or not and give neither negative or positive feedback. 

Her initial study which only involved 100 children showed declining happiness and social functioning from the highest Authoritative to Authoritarian to Permissive to Neglectful with the worst outcome. These results have in general been confirmed in studies over time.

In reality of course few parents are a pure type of the above and will use different styles at different times. Also, if there are two parents they may use compatible or incompatible styles, thus complicating things. 

So, what was my conclusion? Well, first I explained why jeans and T-shirt were great (Authoritative), then I told her she was wearing them because we were in a rush (Authoritarian), then I let her do what she wanted just hurry up (Permissive) and then I didn't care what she was wearing 'cos we were really late (Neglectful). 

From best to worst in one morning...

Still, at least now I can just focus on trying to dress myself correctly!

Hmm... Maybe not.

Hmm... Maybe not.

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