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The popular saying, ‘’nothing beats a mothers love’’ needs no explanation. Most parents want the best for their children, but their parental style isn’t the best for their child. 

Parental coach Ayanda Tetyana discussed different parenting styles with Olwethu Leshabane – which we will briefly share below. Today is International Day of the Girl Child. This day focuses attention on the need to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfilment of their human rights.

In commemoration of this day, this blog looks at the different ways parents raise their girl child, and the dangers of parents not recognizing other gender identities outside of the popular ‘male’ and ‘female’ genders, as well as the incognisance of your child’s sexuality.  

Parenting Styles 

Tatyana begins by asking parents how they react when their child does something wrong such as breaking a glass. Whether the child did it intentionally or unintentionally, your reaction is determined and reveals your parenting style. 

‘’You know how sometimes you talk about how broken we are as adults? As parents, we have an opportunity to almost prevent a lot of things from happening to our children. When we become conscious parents, we are in a better position to avoid so many things. As adults now, when we sit down with a therapist, we would almost be able to trace back to something horrible that was said to us as children,’’ shares Tetyana. 

  • Authoritarian Parenting

Authoritarians are parents who just put down the rules. 

Tetyana explains, ‘’authoritarian is the disciplinary type of parent who doesn’t negotiate anything. They just put down the rules.’’ 

There are negative side effects on the long run for this type of parenting. Your child will not know how they feel about things because things have always been imposed upon them. However, there are certain instances where you have to become this type of parent to draw the line for example, in bad behaviours that are becoming habits. 

  • Helicopter Parenting 

A Helicopter parent is the type of parent who is always hovering around their child and wants to help the child make decisions. 

‘’You’re not really doing much to train them, whether it’s to ask them how they feel about ‘this and that.’ You are basically just always trying to help them,’’ says Tetyana.

  • Permissive Parenting 

A permissive parent is a parent who says yes to everything.

‘’Parents become this type of a parent usually because they don’t want their children to cry,’’ Tetyana adds.  

Tetyana also shares that we need to keep in mind that there are a lot of factors that influence the type of parenting styles that people choose. For example, if you were raised by strict parents, you are more likely to be a strict parent or a permissive parent. 

  • Uninvolved Parenting 

The uninvolved parent, also called neglectful parenting, carries more negative connotations. It’s a style of parenting where parents don’t respond to their child’s needs or desires beyond the basics, sometimes not even the basics. 

‘’I have recently just started playing Xbox games with my son, it was very hard for me, but it is a fun bonding experience. He’s almost an adolescent, and it’s about to get hectic, but since I’ve started building this relationship with him, it won’t get that bad,’’ shares Tetyana as she encourages parents to be involved in their children’s lives.

Raising The Girl Child 

Growing up in a family where I am the first boy, and first born to my parents, I had a lot more freedom than my younger sisters had. At age 16 I was able to leave the house without saying where I was going, and as long as I came back before my dad, I wouldn’t have to explain where I was. 

At the time, I thought my parents believed that I was smart enough to take care of myself. Sure, I probably was smart enough to take care of myself outside our home. But currently, my 18- and 17-years old sisters aren’t allowed to leave the house without a valid reason. 

My parents are stricter on them than they were on me. I believe this is where some gender based societal problems begin. We subconsciously hold views that boys are innately able to manoeuvre the world without any guidance, whilst girls must be kept like creatures that can’t think. 

When a woman is pregnant, people around her behave neutrally before knowing the gender of the baby. Once the gender is revealed, gender socialisation begins which then shapes the child’s perception of gender. The reason we still have patriarchy and misogyny can be attributed to how we raise children. 

For example, as a parent, allowing your boy child to get away with naughtiness as opposed to the girl child, subtly informs them about how they should behave in society, and influences how they will treat women outside the family home. 

Today’s parents have a lot of unlearning and relearning regarding ways to raise their children, and within that, they must keep cognisance of their biases towards gender influenced parenting.

Gender-neutral Parenting

Critical diversity scholar Jamil F. Khan shared in our queer parenting series that,

‘’Another way parents harm queer children is speaking of queer people in disparaging ways. Whether it be making fun of them, expressing disdain for them or endorsing inhumane treatment of queer people as a matter of opinion.’’ 

Raising queer children requires a lot more empathy because outside of the family home, it is difficult to find a place of belonging. Rejecting your child’s gender identity and sexuality is a thrust on a wound that has already been inflicted by society long before they were born. 

The issue of gender is complex and sensitive, a narrow perception on gender can potentially mess up a child’s life. In this regard, parents can try to tread carefully when raising their children, like a New York based couple  that is raising their child in a gender neutral manner.

The pronouns for their baby are they/them/their. The parents chose to follow this way of parenting because they didn’t enjoy their childhood due to the gender conformity in their families. 

This seems like a fair style of parenting as the child will not be forced to behave a certain way because of the shape of their genitals. This affords the child the privilege of deciding if they are gender conforming or non-binary.

On the other hand, sexuality is different from gender – however, it must be treated with the same courtesy as gender. Saying subtle things like ‘’when you get a girlfriend’’ can be detrimental to a child’s experience of sexual orientation. 

‘’Personally, an acknowledgement of my sexuality, curiosities about sex and a few lessons about consent would have set me up to wield consent much more effectively in my adult life, beyond sex. The reach of moral condemnation arches far over our lives,’’ writes Khan. 

It is pivotal to have conversations about sex, sexuality, and gender with your children. Educating yourself as a parent, and your children has great value for rearranging gendered forms of social organisation too.

Final Thoughts…

Doing the work as a parent – unlearning, relearning, and acquiring extensive education is doing half the job. The rest is unfortunately done by society, however, idealistically, if all members of society did their part in flipping the parenting script; we would have happier children/adults regardless of sexuality or gender.