I am really concerned about my sister’s parenting style. she allows her teenage daughters to wear clothes that are too mature for them, they are allowed to hang out with boys, and they can stay out as late as they choose. she says that she doesn’t want to raise her girls as strictly as we were when we were growing up, and she wants her girls to have the freedom to make their own mistakes. i think she is setting her children up for failure. she thinks I’m too strict with my children. What is the best way to talk to someone about concerns such as these? Where is a healthy place to draw the line between strictness and being lenient in parenting?
Giving advice is always easier than receiving advice. We believe it is best to work on what Stephen Covey calls, in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, living in your circle of influence. This notion suggests controlling those things within your sphere of control—yourself, your attitude, your words, and your actions.
When you live in your circle of influence you have more sway on those around you than when you attempt to live outside of that circle. So the best time to talk to your sister about your concerns would be when she asks for your advice. Since you and your sister are adults, and both of you are parents, you each have your own parenting style.
Most parenting styles fall along two continuums: (1) warmth and support; (2) control and structure (Journal of Early Adolescence, Baumrind, 1991). The best parenting style is one that finds a healthy balance along these two continuums.
There are four parenting styles that can be derived from the structure mentioned above. The authoritarian parent is one who has a lot of structure and little warmth. This parent is usually very controlling, demanding, and unreasonable. Children who have authoritarian parents find their discipline to be punitive, and feel rejected when disciplined. These children tend to be aggressive and uncooperative, and have low self-esteem.
Another parenting style is the permissive parent, who is very warm but provides very little structure or boundaries. This parenting style results in a child who tends to be self-centered, spoiled, and irresponsible.
The neglectful parent, another style of parenting, is neither warm nor supportive, and doesn’t provide any structure. This style of parenting is associated with risky behavior in children, adolescents, and teens—such as skipping school and early smoking and drinking. The healthy balance is found in the authoritative parent. This parenting style provides high warmth and high support. Healthy and reasonable boundaries are set for children that are age appropriate. Authoritative parents are very involved, consistent, loving, willing to communicate, and respectful of the child’s point of view. These children learn to be self-controlled, secure, and have good self-esteem.
Proverbs 22:6 declares: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” As a parent you have the awesome privilege and responsibility of raising God’s children on earth. One of the ways in which you can nurture and enhance your parenting skills is by reading books on the topic. We have provided several titles below for you to get started.
Sharing these resources with your sister is a good way to share your concerns with her without adding strain to your relationship. You may even consider starting a parents’ book club at your church or local community center to help a larger number of parents. We are praying for your success!