The Extremes of Parenting

Only Biblical ethics provides safeguards to prevent parents from drifting to extremes of parenting, because only a Biblical approach calls both parent and child to accountability. The moral rules for the parents are the same for the child. There is no double standard, which is not the case for the extremes of authoritarian and permissive parenting.

When parents suspend the moral rules for themselves but enforce them for the child, we have authoritarian parenting. “Do as I say, not as I do” is the authoritarian rule. In contrast, when parents suspend the rules for the child, or make them so broad that they appear nonexistent, you are left with permissive parenting. Tolerance to wrong behavior prevails, since there are either low or no moral expectations placed on the child only the pursuit of the child’s happiness – not his holiness.

Authoritarian Parenting

In this extreme style of parenting, although children typically conformed and did virtuous acts, they did so out of the fear of reproof and not because of the love of goodness. The child heard “you will do it or else.” The “or else” became the motivation for right behavior, not a resident principle of the heart

Authoritarian parenting manipulates the child, not his environment. Parents play off dependent emotions such as love, guilt, and fear. For example: “Susie, if you keep doing that, Mommy won’t love you.” Although the weapons of fear and conditional love are devastating, authoritarian parenting is still not as personally or socially destructive as permissive parenting

Permissive Parenting

Permissive parenting is not concerned with suppressing evil or elevating good. At its core, the concern is over the creation of the right environment for the child, and not behavioral results.

Permissive parenting seeks the emotions of love, joy, peace, contentment and confidence. For them, child rearing is reduced to avoidance of all the negative emotions and pursuit of all the positive ones. Thus right and wrong training is measured by how parents think their child feels rather than by the end product – their child’s behavior. Feelings belonging to both parent and child become the basis of nurturing and their ethics. If the child feels happy, the parent is satisfied. If the child is sad, then the parents work to create an environment that will eliminate his sadness

Permissiveness is a great part of our social problem today. Its legacy is evil in the land. Parents have made tolerance of wrong behavior and have elevated it above what the Bible calls right and wrong. Today it is acceptable to tolerate the wrong of a child’s behavior but not acceptable to speak out against it.

Both permissive and authoritarian parenting styles are wrong and are detrimental to the welfare of a child. That is why it is important to guide parents according to the basic rules of biblical ethics.

(Excerpt from The Foundations of Growing Kids God’s Way from the book Growing Kids God’s Way by Gary Ezzo)