Many parents tend toward either permissive or authoritarian parenting styles, and both styles have major pitfalls. The permissive parent essentially tends toward letting their kids have their own way. The authoritarian parent makes sure their kids don’t get their own way. Many of us are likely to parrot the way our own parents did things — or go the pendulum swing to the opposite extreme. There is a middle-road option, though, and it takes the best from both sides.
Positives and Problems with Permissive Parenting
Do you know someone who’s used to getting their own way, all the time? Probably not your favorite person. And since none of us gets our own way all the time, people who were parented that way are usually pretty miserable when they don’t get their own way. On the positive end, this approach seems nice and can lead to a generally peaceful home — after all, if you give kids what they want, they won’t have a reason to complain or rebel, right? Not exactly. Most parents can’t afford the time, energy, or money required to satisfy their children’s insatiable appetite for entertainment, possessions, or opportunities. And even if they did, there are some things that simply lie outside their power to provide. In the end, the permissive parent doesn’t serve his children or society well by always letting his child get her own way.
Positives and Problems with Authoritarian Parenting
The authoritarian parent certainly avoids the kind of pampered person that the permissive parent can encourage their child to become. Instead, the authoritarian is completely opposed to her child’s getting his own way. The child must learn to submit to authority, without question, or receive consequences. While some authoritarians can be physically abusive, many are not. Responsible authoritarians will give consistent consequences that are communicated ahead of time. These parents will often be rewarded with little conflict because their children choose to avoid consequences, but often as teens they will rebel — or at least as young adults they will try all the things they were never able to explore while in their parents’ homes. At the end of the day, the authoritarian parent often lacks a relationship with her children, and is perceived as selfishly insisting on her own way, while depriving them of theirs.
An Alternative, Middle-Ground Approach
It seems unfair to call it “biblical parenting,” as many well-meaning parents that lean toward permissive or authoritarian parenting styles can do so in an attempt to apply certain biblical principles. Parents who recognize their God-given authority and responsibility to guide their children can also do so with humility and graciousness. Allowing older children and teens to ask why a house rule exists or appeal a parental decision not only demonstrates understanding that parents are not perfect but also opens the door to communication. Ultimately, the issue ends up transcending the more simplistic parent-pleasing of authoritarian parenting or child-pleasing of permissive parenting, venturing into the more complex but God-honoring marriage of the best of both worlds.