My husband likes to call attention to his parenting. “Boys, time to pick up your things and go brush your teeth,” he’ll say to them and then turn to his audience – usually me – “See that? That’s me – parenting.” He loves to publicly recognize his friends when he see them in action, “Matt, way to parent! I like your style!” It’s a card well played especially when tensions are high.
What is good parenting? What is effective parenting? Do you know it when you see it or is it only apparent in the end results? Everyone has their own style of parenting and even generations have their own style. The parenting style of my grandparent’s generation was summed up neatly by “children are to be seen and not heard”. The message was clear. It was an adult world. The next generation of parents allowed the children to be heard as long as they played outside.
Most of us survived just fine and even flourished. We can look back at it and laugh at some of the absurdity; rolling around in the backseat of the station wagons, using dry cleaning bags as spacesuits (Sally Draper), knowing how to mix drinks for the entire bridge group at the age of seven. Those parents rarely used techniques like timeouts and touching their shoulders while giving instructions. Orders were usually barked from lounge chairs with cigarettes dangling between clenched lips and a beer in the other hand. Classy? No. Effective? Yes. “Don’t make me get out of my chair” statements were worth paying attention to and we all knew it.
It’s clear that the hierarchy of the family has flattened out. Parents are falling all over themselves to sign their children up for classes, cook them what they want for dinner and put their social lives on hold. I’m just as guilty, I’ve written a blog primarily about my kids. So my girlfriend and I decided to swing the pendulum back yesterday authenticated with cigarettes and canned beer. We barked orders like “put that down”, “stop splashing” and “get over here” from our lounge chairs. Effective? No. Fun? Definitely! “Hey hon, this is me, parenting.”