by Rev. Peter K. Stimpson

QUESTION: Are there basic types of parenting that are good or bad? I mean, what is healthy parenting?

ANSWER: Over the years I have been able to distinguish five forms of parenting; the first four are bad, the last good.

1. NEGLECTFUL/ABUSIVE PARENTING: Some parents, having difficulty being loved by adults, see children as a safe way to receive all the love that they want. When such unrealistic expectations collide with cries around the clock for feedings and diaper changes, this overly insecure person could allow anger to escalate from neglect to abuse.

2. OVERPROTECTIVE PARENTING: The anxious parent who runs out the back door to settle every childish squabble or who daily walks their eighth grader to school unwittingly communicates a sense of weakness in the child, who gradually becomes more scared of doing things independently.

3. OVERCRITICAL PARENTING: Wanting a child to succeed may lead to pushing the child too hard, conveying the message that love is conditional upon getting an A, hitting a home run, or making varsity cheerleading.

4. OVERPERMISSIVE PARENTING: Not wanting to hamper the creativity of the child, or perhaps fearing that firm rules may cause the child to reject the parent, some parents give children an alarming sense of power. Not having to suffer normal consequences, the child may feel entitled to favors, exploit friends, or become a discipline problem.

5. HEALTHY PARENTING: This is essentially the opposite of the first four. Parents should be caring instead of neglectful, promote autonomy instead of dependence, provide unconditional instead of conditional love, and set realistic limits and guidelines.

Finally, we need to mix in a pinch of common sense to my ingredients. What makes 1-4 unhealthy is that they are patterns, namely, that the mistakes are consistently repeated. We all make the occasional blunder, but as long as we generally hit the mark, all should be well.

Rev. Stimpson is executive director of the Trinity Counseling Service.

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