Two very important parts of parenting are…
- Warmth: the affection you show, the approval you give, and the pleasure you get from your child
- Firmness: the expectations you have for your child’s behavior and the way you make rules.
When a parent is warm enough but not firm enough…
- They don’t set limits for their child because it’s hard to be the “bad guy” or to follow through on warnings every time
- Their child feels love but doesn’t feel safe because they’re put in charge, even though they’re too young to be in charge
- Their child isn’t sure how to behave because sometimes the rules apply and sometimes they don’t
When a parent is firm enough but not warm enough…
- Their child feels taken care of but not loveable and special
- Their child learns to behave because their parent said so, but they become resentful
- Their child doesn’t feel heard or understood by their parent
When a parent is not warm enough or firm enough…
- Their child feels that they don’t deserve to be loved
- Their child doesn’t feel protected by an adult who knows better than they do
- Their child doesn’t learn behaviors that the rest of the world expects of them
Scientists have defined “authoritative parenting” as a style of parenting that strikes a healthy balance between warmth and firmness. Authoritative parents show affection and love towards their child, but they’re not afraid to set standards for their child’s behavior and follow through, every time, when those standards are not met. Authoritative parents explain why rules are important. Even when they disagree with their child’s point of view, they are still willing to listen, discuss, and sometimes compromise! They are firm but gentle. Children of authoritative parents follow their rules because they want to please their parents, not because they are scared of them. They eventually buy into the rules and figure out how to follow them in new situations without being told.
Of course, no parent is perfect. But striving for balance between warmth and firmness can help guide you towards better parenting choices.