Authoritative Parenting and Accountability

“When confronted with criticism from another, insult your critic with generous doses of profanity. When facts contradict your beliefs, hold on to your beliefs. Never apologize or accept responsibility for your mistakes; always blame others.”

Parents, if these statements describe your childrearing philosophy, prepare yourselves for the inevitable day when your grown children point an accusing finger in your face and correctly declare, “You are responsible for my problems.”

When teaching kids coping skills, you have three parenting styles to choose from: (1) Indulgent/enabling – “Whatever you want to do is OK with me. Just stay out of trouble”; (2) Authoritarian – “You will do what I tell you to do because I’m in charge of the rules”; (3) Authoritative – “Let’s discuss your curfew and agree on what’s best for all of us. If you violate our agreement, there will be consequences.”

 The authoritative style, of course, is best for instilling coping skills because it grants the child autonomy appropriate to his/her age, but requires conscientiousness when they exercise freedom. Larry and Janice say they always tried to be authoritative parents when raising their kids. Janice says, “We gave the kids freedom, but always within limits that we felt were appropriate for their age. And we were strict with our rules, but always fair and we made sure the kids understood the rules. But then there was that terrible day when our 17-year-old son announced that he was gay. That night, in the privacy of our bedroom, Larry looked at me and said, ‘What happened? What did we do wrong?’” Of course, as authoritative parents, they did nothing wrong. Larry and Janice need to remember that accountability does not mean that you accept blame when things happen that disappoint you. It means that you are accountable for realistically and critically analyzing and evaluating your role in an event.

There is a second reason that Larry and Janice should not blame themselves for their son’s declaration. In the case of homosexuality, psychologists say that there is no parental action that caused the orientation. Larry and Janice did not do something wrong. Being gay is not something that happened to Larry and Janice’s son because of their actions; it is the person he is.

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