Several weeks ago, during our bedtime ritual, Maddie told me quite matter of factly, “Mommy you did a good job today”.
To which I replied “Thank you sweetie, what do you mean?”
She responded “Bad mommy never got mad and yelled at me today”.
My heart sunk. I am all to fully aware of my alter ego “Bad Mommy” and the battle I sometime have to wage with her. In all of my knowledge of child development and parenting, and knowing what I should do and what I would like to do, I often find myself wavering back and forth between “Bad Mommy” and “Marshmallow Mommy”. I find myself living in the land of Good and Balanced Mommy far too little. This is one of the sad truths about knowledge of any kind. It lacks value unless it is but into practice, and done so consistently. I sometimes feel like I need little reminder notes on my bathroom mirror, my car dashboard and perhaps even on my computer and iphone screens that says “Be a good mommy today”.
Although I won’t deny that this is partially motivated by my daughter’s comments, it also bears weight theoretically. There is a large body of great research documenting the type of parenting that is associated with the most positive outcomes for children (and it is not “Bad Mommy’s” approach. Here is your short theoretical history overview on Parenting Styles:
In 1966 developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind first published her research on the three parenting “prototypes”. Since her original publication in Child Development there have been hundreds of articles referencing her work and adding to the body of literature which tracks both practices and outcomes of each of these three (with a fourth later added) styles. In my experience, I believe that most of us have a tendency to practice somewhere on a continuum of these styles with one being our more typical “gut reaction” to parenting. As you read these descriptions keep in mind that your parenting style might change when you are tired, stressed, or dealing with different children.
The permissive (or “Marshmallow Mommy”) parent attempts to parent in a nurturing, accepting and non-punitve way but often lacks follow through and consistency in her efforts. In an attempt to maintain peace and acceptance from her children, she often errs on the side of low expectations for behavior. She makes few demands for household responsibility and pro-social behavior. In this home the child often runs the show and the parent often reacts to the child’s demands by giving in. She does little to assert control of behavior and activities and may use bribing as a way to gain control when she must.
The authoritarian (or “Bad Mommy”) parent attempts to parent out of a desire to control behavior in a very black and white way. Children are judged as “good” or “bad” based on a very strict standard that is often unrealistic. The parent values obedience above all and is likely to use punitive, forceful discipline techniques. The child lives in a house with many rigidly enforced rules and little room for compromise. Children are allowed little self expression and parental dominance is upheld.
The authoritative (or “Good Mommy”) parent attempts to use a balanced parenting approach that values both structure (rules) and nurture (acceptance). This parent is able to evaluate and listen to the child’s needs without compromising the standards of behavior that are valued in the family. He is able to enforce rules consistency but does so in a fair and even way. Children are encouraged to explore and express themselves with the guidance of an attuned parent.
Now, there is no doubt which of these I want to be and there is much evidence that children raised in Authoritative homes have the best long term outcomes, and yet, my inner battle continues. The best resolution I have found for this battle, is allowing myself to make mistakes and to move on. Every moment is a new moment. And, when “Bad Mommy” does come out, I need to own it and apologize to my children. There is power in admitting our mistakes and modeling honesty.
In reply to Maddie’s statement I said “Sweetie, I love you, and even when I get frustrated with behaviors, I am not mad at you. I’m sorry for the days “bad mommy” comes out.
To which she said, “I know mommy, I love you too”.