In “Conflicts in Parenting Styles – Part 1″, I wrote about conflicts within a parent and between a parent and a child. This time, I’ll focus on the difference in parenting styles between a mother and father and the child. What I previously discussed in Part 1 is true for both parents and their interactions with the child.
Now, the “problems” become more complicated and multiply if parents are not consistent with the child and supportive of each other’s interactions with the child. It is important to note that this potential conflict, as any conflict between parents, can become an issue with a typical child, let alone a child with special needs. Each parent has an identity in the child’s mind: One is “easy,” the other “difficult.” The child learns who to go to, to get what they want. A typical child learns to negotiate these differences and manipulate the parents, as needed. When a child has special needs and one or both parents have a difficult time meeting those needs, another level of conflict is added to the parenting difficulties.
For the child, the inconsistency and/or inability of the parents to respond to their needs can result in acting out behaviors. Behaviorally speaking, the child’s behavior might be reinforced by the father’s inclination to give the child whatever s/he wants to prevent a temper tantrum, while the mother sets more limits and ends up dealing with temper tantrums which increase in intensity over time. If the parents don’t work together and show consistency, the child, emotionally, will seek to have her or his desires met by the acting out behaviors. If the parents take control together, they will be happier as a couple and the child will learn consistent limits and appropriate ways to get his or her desires met.
Once again, this is a very brief discussion of the myriad variations of conflicts between parents and their special needs children and how they impact the development of those children.
Who is the Good Enough Parent?
The good enough parent works toward obtaining both a cognitive and conscious understanding of their child’s emotional and developmental/cognitive growth. This means that the parent develops an awareness of what is expected and when. Developmental milestones such as sitting, walking, talking, and the child’s emotional development issues regarding dependence/independence, separation, and identity development are studied and that knowledge is integrated into their parenting approach. Most parents are good enough parents. The measure of a good enough parent has to do with several abilities:
- There is minimal conflict between the parent and child. The conflicts and issues are new at each developmental stage of the child.
- The good enough parent knows a great deal about his or her inner feelings and thoughts and can appropriately express to their child what they are thinking and feeling. The positive result can be a child who is able to express his or her feelings and thoughts freely and consistent with their cognitive and emotional development.
- The good enough parent’s words and actions match consistently. The parent says what they mean and they mean what they say (there is a convergence between words and actions). The result can be the child’s words and actions match. There is honesty between what they say, feel, and do (integrity).
- The good enough parent is able to be honest about themselves, who they are, their strengths, and their weaknesses. The parent is able to appropriately relate and recall their feelings, similar or not, to the child’s experiences. As the child identifies with the parent, s/he is able to make observations about their own feelings and be able to express them to the parent.
- The good enough parent is able to reflect to the child with more observation, pragmatism, and less affect to the child in a caring, confirming manner of how they see the child with respect to the child’s behavior, feelings, and thoughts. Conversely, the child is able, without undo defensiveness to tell the parent how they see the parent with respect to the parent’s feelings, thoughts, and behaviors and, moreover, have their perceptions validated by the parent.
- The good enough parent is able to validate the child’s perception of the world and encourage the child’s exploration of the world. The parent helps the child come to terms with reality and gain knowledge. That is, the parent is able to judge accurately the dependent needs and needs for independence as the child matures and gives the child responsibility, accordingly.
- The good enough parent is consistently able to view the world from the child’s perspective. The parent is aware of the child’s cognitive and emotional development and can teach the child that there are many ways to look at the world. There is the child’s perspective, the parent’s perspective, and others…all of which have validity. Conversely, the child develops the ability to see the world from another’s perspective and takes that into account in their meaningful relationships.