PEPPER PIKE, Ohio - Eric Stephenson is a father of four and knows both the excitement and the challenge of parenting.
"No one wants to see their child fail or struggle. But ultimately, when they're not in the home or in the house, they're going to have to learn how to deal with that and learn how to make their own choices,” Stephenson said.
Would-be moms and dads like him go into it wanting to be the perfect parent for the child. But licensed social worker Casey Durkin, LISW-S, works with families who know that's easier said than done. She sees it every day as the director of the Orange City School-Beech Brook Partnership.
"We end up working with a lot of kids with anxiety because they feel they're not always meeting their parent's needs," Durkin said. So I asked her about the different types of parenting styles and how they affect children. I found the terms to be quite interesting.
Durkin started with the “Helicopter Parent.”
"This is the parent who is hovering above the child at all times and trying to make sure things are going perfect. And when can they kind of land and help out if they need to."
She said the affect it has on children is that, "it takes away the child's ability to feel that they are truly competent. That they're capable of whatever they need to be doing and that they are responsible to take care of any given task."
“Tiger Moms”, according to Durkin, are the mom who, "are going to make you become a pro at something whether you want to or not… The child is going to be pigeonholed and not have whole lot of choice in what their passion might be."
Move out the way and make room for the “Snow Plow Parent.”
"Snow plow parents are those parents who are going to plow any obstacle that they can see or find in their child's pathway to success,” Durkin said. "That actually takes away the child's chance to know that they can fail and pick themselves back up."
And if you're home feels more like a boot camp, you're probably the “Drill Sergeant Parent.”
"That's the parent who is always barking out orders. Who's always saying ‘You need to do this, you need to do that.’ Tight boundaries." How does this impact the child? "It generally makes the child feel it's not what they want, it's not their choice, it not their feeling or their words even.”
Stephenson admits at one point he embraced a very militaristic parenting style.
"I was more of a drill sergeant with my children. Get this done. You need to do it. And until it was done, I was usually harping on them,” he said.
So, I asked him what was the wake up call that said something has to change? Stephenson readily said, "It gets wearing. You get tired. And you ultimately realize that it's their life. Their choices and they have to suffer the consequences from them."
He admitted it is difficult to step back sometimes, but he wants his children to learn how to make their own choices. A style Durkin calls “The Consultant.”
"It's the person who is able to say ‘This is what I see happening, have you thought about this or that?’" Durkin said. "In parenting that allows the child to actually say, ‘OK they're gone. I've got to make this decision. And gee, maybe I should give some thought to that.’"
The bottom line: There is no perfect child and no perfect parent. But Durkin said when your child experiences failure, you must reassure them they can make it happen. Let them know it's not the end of the world and that you believe they can do it.
The best advice Durkin can give to parents derives from the coaching technique. Don't hover, don't push from behind, and you're definitely not to plow obstacles out of your child's way. Cheer from the sidelines and be there for your child when they come to you and they need to re-strategize.
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