Let me ask you a question.

When you’re out with your kids is it important for you to look good? Or do you always like to be right? Or are you a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to your parenting style?

Welcome to the world of addiction, or put another way compulsive behaviours. Many of us think that addictions are limited to compulsive behaviours such as drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes or eating food.

Marilyn Bradford, author of Right Recovery for You, says in her book that addiction can take on many forms. Compulsive behaviours such as judging, being critical, needing to be right, making yourself wrong or having to have an answer for everything are all forms of addictions.

After having read Marilyn’s book, I started to wonder how many of us have these compulsive behaviours when it comes to parenting? Do you have rituals that you like to observe every day, when interacting with your children? Do you get a wee bit upset if, for some reason life gets in the way of these rituals being carried out? 

A friend of mine when she was a child used to have a ritual of her parents kissing her good night by giving her two kisses on the right cheek then two kisses on the left cheek.  Every evening the procedure was exactly the same! Once she grew up she would use this same ritual with her own children. 

She noticed though that one of her kids didn’t really like how many kisses he got. He would often say, “mum how about just one kiss tonight!” My friend would feel a little sad by his request, and would make her son give him the two kisses on each cheek, by saying, “oh come on let’s make them fast kisses!” Welcome to the world of compulsive behaviours.  

Trying to be a perfect parent for your kids and family?

The question is can we change our compulsive behaviours, especially when they relate to trying to be the perfect parent and making our kids feel happy all the time. After all is there such a thing as a perfect parent? I personally don’t think there is. 

Paul Martin, author of Making People Happy, says there are many ingredients that go into making a child who will grow up to become a happy adult. Education, genes, health, environment and other variables all contribute to the final brew. Martin goes on to say that there are four types of parenting: authoritative, authoritarian, indulgent and uninvolved. And only one of them makes for happy children – the Authoritative Parenting Type. Here is how Martin describes the four parenting types. 

Authoritative Parents:

  • love their children unconditionally and accept them for who they are. 
  • keep a close eye on their children, provide them with plenty of support, set firm boundaries, and grant considerable freedom within those boundaries.
  • monitor their children and intervene when necessary, but let them get on with things when there is no need to interfere.
  • mean what they say, and do not shy away from conflict when enforcing the boundaries they have set.
  • are loving but not over-indulgent, involved but not overly controlling, clear about limits but not excessively risk-averse, and permissive within those limits but not neglectful. 

Authoritarian Parents:

  • have a colder parenting style which is more demanding but less responsive to their children’s real needs. 
  • are highly controlling, but not very warm or loving and tend to be demanding and somewhat argumentative.  They intervene frequently, issuing commands, criticisms and occasional praise, but do this in an inconsistent way.
  • expect their children to obey their instructions without explanation, and may use emotional tactics to get their way, such as making their children feel guilty, ashamed or unloved. 
  • often interfere when there is no real need to, and issue threats without always carrying them through. 

Indulgent Parents:

  • are responsive but undemanding and permissive.
  • are warm and loving but lax, setting few clear boundaries.
  • often respond to their children’s wishes, even when these are unreasonable or inappropriate. Punishments are seldom threatened, let alone carried through, and the children often appear to have the upper hand in the relationship.
  • try to be kind, but shy away from conflict or difficulty.

Uninvolved Parents:

  • are unresponsive, undemanding, permissive and set few clear boundaries, largely because they don’t really care very much.
  • are neither warm nor firm and they do not monitor their children.
  • are laid-back and unresponsive to an extent that can sometimes seem reckless. 

Gosh which one can you relate to? I would love to say that I’m an Authoritative Parent all the time, but I can relate to some of the behaviours in the Indulgent Parent group too. 

I think that one of my compulsive behaviours is that I tend to do too much for my kids because I constantly have a need to steady the pace of my environment. When they were growing up, if they didn’t put their things back where they should have been I used to get really annoyed! I can hear myself saying, “now remember everything has a place in the universe”! Thinking back now, I somehow don’t think they really understood what I meant. 

So, what can you do to shift compulsive behaviours to more positive ones?

As human beings we all have qualities (virtues) within us that make us human. Qualities such as kindness, compassion and love.  Others can observe and hear specific behaviors and language being used when someone is demonstrating one of these virtues. For example when you see someone being kind you would see them having a genuine concern for the welfare of others, with them being warm and friendly.    

You see, the words you use and the way you speak to others and to yourself have power and can influence. Your words have the power to hurt people’s feelings OR encourage someone to be the best they can be. Your inner conversations that you have with yourself, your beliefs and mindsets drive your behavior, whether this behaviour is compulsive or not.

Developing these human qualities or virtues within you and communicating them to others, helps to develop high self-esteem in yourself and in your children. And self- esteem is the good thoughts that you have about yourself. 

Here are some virtue definitions (descriptions sourced from the Virtues Reflections App) that I have identified for bringing out the best in yourself and children, and for shifting behaviours within you that might be compulsive within the three parenting type categories – Authoritarian, Indulgent and Uninvolved. I have also included virtues I see the Authoritative Parent practicing that Martin mentioned. 

Positive Behaviours (Virtues) being demonstrated by Authoritative Parents: 

  • Assertiveness – Speaking one’s truth with peaceful confidence, and telling the truth about what is just. Setting boundaries without guilt. 
  • Self-discipline – having the self control to do only what we truly choose to do, rather than being blown about in the winds of our desires. Having the will to persevere. Keeps us from saying or doing  things we would regret. 

Positive Behaviours (Virtues) needed for Authoritarian Parents to practice: 

  • Empathy the ability to put ourselves in another’s place and to understand their experience. We are deeply present to their thoughts and feelings with such compassionate accuracy that they can hear their own thoughts more clearly. 
  • Trust – having faith, hope and a positive outlook and believing in someone. Having the confidence that the right thing will come about without having to control it or make it happen. 

Positive Behaviours (Virtues) needed for Indulgent parents to practice: 

  • Diligence – doing what needs to be done with care, concentration and single-pointed attention. We give our relationships our full commitment, joy, love and excellence. 
  • Courage – doing what must be done, without holding back even when it feels difficult or risky and allows us to face adversity with confidence. Courage gives us the strength to make the journey with all our heart. 

Positive Behaviours (Virtues) needed for Uninvolved Parent to practice: 

  • Moderation – having a healthy balance between work, rest, reflection and play and carrying responsibility wisley, practicing self-discipline and by stopping yourself before things go too far. 
  • Caring – giving tender attention to the people and things that matter to us and showing that we care with thoughtful deeds and kind words – look for ways to be helpful and listen deeply. 

The fact is that shifting our compulsive behaviours to more positive ones (virtues), and becoming a more authoritative parent, creates fertile conditions for children to become, and remain, happy people. And probably the most fundamental aspect of parenting is that we show unconditional love and acceptance. If nothing else, parents who want their children to be happy should aim to love their children for who they are, not who they would like them to be. 

I would love to hear your comments about which type of parenting style you use most often. And if you would like to read more parenting tips head on over to Facebook and ask to join our group Parents with Teens, Tweens and anything in between.