PARENTING ROLE – STRUCTURE VS NURTURING
Since last year I’ve picked up that our now 7 year old responds to his dads, Darren and I as if he is of age with us. I’ve attributed it to the fact that there’s no other child in the house. He tends to address us like he is an adult too. This tends to occur usually when it’s just us three. Perhaps it’s because we speak to him like Darren and I speak to each other. Mostly it’s all good, but there are times when it becomes extremely apparent.
I think part of the reason kids “believe” they contribute equally to decisions or discussions could be because they seek to control. Could it be legitimate interest or their developmental stage? Was I like that growing up or is it because now as an adult I seek control in many instances, so our son sees this and is attempting to replicate my behaviour. Some seem to think it’s a normal part of growing up. Like I said J thinks he is on par with Darren and I and has equal say in our decisions. In our attempt to develop independence in our son, by letting him take decisions or encourage him to participate in family discussions, age-appropriate of course, he has naturally begun to think he has a say in everything. Areas though that he doesn’t have a say for us are regarding his Health, Safety and Education. He(kids) does have a say I feel, as long as it’s age-appropriate. However, if the discussion gets out of hand, then the structured dad needs to come out because as much as kids believe they are equal, they too crave structure/discipline and guidance even though they might not realize it.
I firmly believe that as a parent it’s important for your child to know who is the parent and who is the child. Who is the authority and who has to respect the authority, or else it can become blurred very quickly. It’s important for our children to know who in the family is in charge. I have found that with our son when I assume my role as the parent when he is misbehaving, he tends to respect that. Often when we allow him some leeway he does tend to push boundaries to see how far or how much he is able to get away with before he is reprimanded. I believe it’s important that as a parent we address this behaviour at the time instead of addressing it only when it becomes unbearable for you as the parent. You don’t want resentment to build up or for you as the parent, to lose control of the situation with your child.
Research indicates that the role of parents can be divided into two categories, that of the Nurturing Parent and the Structured Parent. The parenting responsibilities fall under one of these two headings. Look at your own household to identify who between you and your spouse falls into these categories.
In our home, Darren is definitely the nurturer. The nurture role, tends to be more of the carer of the children. Tending for your children’s day-to-day needs, such as food, medical care, shelter, clothing, etc., as well as the parent that is seen as the giver of love, attention, time, patient, fun and support. Through your words and actions, you show your children that they are loved and accepted.
The benefits of a nurturing parent for your children:
- feel good about themselves
- feel worthy of being cared for
- feel heard and understood
- more trusting
- feel that they can face any challenge because of the emotional support they have from the nurturing parent. This builds their ability to empathise with others.
While Darren is the nurturing parent, I tend to be the more structured parent for our son. Reading up on the different roles in parenthood, the structure role resonated with me more. I tend to be the one giving direction, doing most of the disciplining by holding our son accountable for his behaviour and reminding him of the consequences of his actions. I find I’m the one that is constantly playing the bad cop in our roles as parents and constantly on our son’s case about his behaviour, obviously according to his age.
The benefits of a parent providing structure allows for the child to:
- feel a sense of safety knowing that there is someone in charge of their well-being
- learns that they don’t always get their own way, and to deal with their disappointment and frustration
- appreciate that the world does not revolve totally around them
- be responsible for their actions based on decisions they take
- learn from their mistakes
- become independent
Although Darren is predominantly the nurturer in our roles as parents, I do believe that as parents we assume both roles when we parent our son, even if one dominates the other role more. Providing our son too much of one role, for example too much nurturing with no limits or structure as a parent you open the possibility of our son coming across as spoilt and self-centred.
The same is also true if your child is given too much structure, you could end up raising a resentful child that is less likely or willing to follow rules. Worse still, you could end up raising a child with a propensity for mental illness that is hidden from you as a parent as they fear being punished.
As parents, it’s important to frequently take a step back and consciously decide what type of parenting role will best help your child grow and learn. In our experience finding that balance is the most effective way of developing our son into a balanced individual that will hopefully equip him the best for his future.