What Makes Someone a Good Parent?

We can learn more about why God allows hurt, suffering and how He guides us by first looking at the elements of proper parental guidance.

We can learn more about why God allows hurt, suffering and how He guides us by first looking at the elements of proper parental guidance. The first element, nonintrusive monitoring, allows the child some element of freedom to explore their environment. For example, baby monitors allow the child freedom to experiment with language, to explore the crib or playpen without the physical presence of the parent. As the child grows, the parent may allow the child to play in the backyard while watching from the kitchen window.  The observing parent watches with readiness to intervene if the child wanders outside the boundaries of the yard.  The child may occasionally look at the kitchen window for reassurance of the parent’s oversight of their activities, but perhaps only when they attempt to move outside the limits set by the parent. According to the Johnson study, the early interactions between parent and child regarding monitoring often predict the degree of self-disclosure by the child during adolescence. The study found that “parental knowledge of a child’s whereabouts was largely based on child-self disclosure stating that “a warm parent-child relationship was associated with increased child self-disclosure.”[1]

Be Flexible

Secondly, a flexible discipline that changes with the developmental level of the child promotes confidence and independence.  In Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility, Foster Cline and Jim Fay assert, “as children grow, they move from being concrete thinkers to being abstract thinkers when they are teens. Children need thoughtful guidance and firm, enforceable limits.”[2] Implementing age-appropriate natural and logical consequences at each developmental stage while “encouraging their children to think about their behavior and help them feel in control.”[3]  Gradually, as the child develops, the effective parent offers the child age and developmentally appropriate choices rather than just demanding a particular behavior, so that in their teen years the child makes good decisions. Referring to the toddler in the backyard, a parent may give the toddler the choice of playing in the playpen or on the back porch outside the playpen.  The parent tells the child the consequences of leaving the porch, such as coming inside or going back to the playpen, but the choice remains with the child.  Of course, the parent must follow through with the stated consequence or the child learns nothing about the consequences of poor choices.  The pattern of offering options and allowing the natural or logical consequences continues as the child grows, but the choices become more complex with less input from the parent. As Cline and Fay argue, “They become advisors and counselors more than police officers, allowing their adolescents to make more decisions for themselves, and then guide them to navigate the consequences of those decisions successfully.”[4]

 Avoid Overprotection

Thirdly, avoiding overprotection while controlling the environment to promote the child’s safety teaches a child how to face challenges while also showing them the consequences of rebellious behavior. While some parents believe protection equates to never allowing their child to experience harm or pain, Cline and Fay argue that “Caring for our children does not equate to protecting them from every possible misstep they could make in growing up.”[5]  The limits or boundaries set by a parent should decrease as the child matures. The toddler in the backyard needs more limits than the teenager riding their bicycle around the neighborhood.   When parents put appropriate limits or boundaries in place, the parent communicates the expectation of staying within those limits. However, no matter what limits the parents creates the child may climb over a fence, but not without confronting the “serious effort of the parent at placing an obstacle in harm’s way.”[6] The goal of boundaries is protecting the child, making the task of getting into trouble more difficult.

Allow for Independence and Promote Moral Development

Finally, by allowing for independence and promoting moral development, parents direct the child toward productive lives and teach their children how to turn negative situations around for good.  As Cline and Fay remark, “When little kids rebel, parents can quash the rebellion with a stern order and get good short-term results. But when kids hit adolescence and rebel, parental orders too often become unenforceable.”[7]  The parent may intervene when the toddler finds a way over the fence and gets into the street by scooping the child up before a car strikes him, but an adolescent who breaks the law may need to go to jail to learn the consequences of stealing the neighbor’s car.  However, according to Cline and Fay, parents should step in when:

Our children are in definite danger of losing life or limb or of making a decision that could affect them for a lifetime.

When our children know they are in a situation, they can’t handle by themselves. More important, perhaps, is that they know we also know they can’t handle it. So when we step in and help them out — saying in essence, “You are incapable of coping with this situation” — it is not a destructive message because everyone is aware of the child’s inability to handle the situation.[8]

Three ineffective parenting styles:

In contrast to effective parental guidance, Cline and Fay briefly address three ineffective parenting styles: The Helicopter Parent, The Laissez-Faire Parent, and the Drill Sergeant Parent.[9]  The Helicopter Parent desires to create the perfect world for their child devoid of sorrow, consequences, and rejection.  The Helicopter parent swoops “down like jet-powered AH-64 Apache attack helicopters on any person or agency they see as a threat to their child’s impeccable credentials. Armed with verbal smart bombs, they are quick to blast away at anyone who sets high standards for behavior, morality, or achievement.”[10]  The Laissez-Faire Parent, for often unknown reasons, allows the child to parent themselves with little or no guidance from the parent. As Cline and Fay point out, “some have bought into the theory that children are innately born with the ability to govern themselves.”[11] However, they contend that Laissez-Faire parents are not really parenting, but refusing to accept parental responsibility.[12] Finally, the Drill Sergeant Parent controls the child through barking orders and demanding compliance.  Rarely does the Drill Sergeant allow the child to participate in decision making.  All three styles have detrimental effects on children, which carry over into adulthood, resulting in children who either feel entitled, have low self-esteem, have little trust or respect for authority and who do not know how to make good decisions.

Next: What does the Bible tell us about proper parental guidance?

Related Posts:

Is God a Good Parent?-Why Did He Let this Happen?

Is God a Good Parent? Part 3-What Does the Bible Tell Us About Parenting?

Is God a Good Parent Part 4-Does God’s parental guidance follow the guidelines of good parental guidance?

[1]Brian D. Johnson, Laurie D. Berdahl, Melissa Horne, Emily A. Richter, and Meag-gan Walters., “A Parenting Competency Model.” Parenting: Science & Practice 14, no. 2 (CINAHL Plus with Full Text, EBSCOhost: 2014), 92-120 29p. Accessed June 13, 2016.

[2] Foster Cline; Jim Fay, Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility (NavPress Publishing. Kindle Edition: 2014-02-01), Kindle Locations 356-357.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., Kindle Locations 364-366.

[5] Ibid., Kindle Locations 463-464.

[6]Thomas C. Oden, Classic Christianity, A Systematic Theology (New York: HarperCollins, 1992), 159.

[7] Cline, Fay Kindle Locations 673-674.

[8] Ibid., Kindle Locations 856-860.

[9] Ibid., Kindle Location 314.

[10] Ibid., Kindle Locations 303-305.

[11] Ibid., Kindle Locations 338-339.

[12] Ibid., Kindle Locations 345-346.

Author: Charlotte B. Thomason

I hold a Master of Science in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Arts in Apologetics, Emphasis in Cultural Apologetics from Houston Baptist University. I also hold a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work from Graceland University. With over 30 years of experience in foster care and social work, I have a wealth of experience from which to draw as I offer guidance to women in their journey of healing. I have seen, both professionally and personally the devastation created by child abuse. My writing also reflects my personal journey to healing.

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