The Middle of Parenting


“Aim for the middle.”

This is a saying that regularly spills from my mother’s mouth, a saying that is regularly brought up during times of stress, and a saying that has always helped me to stay grounded. In this futuristic age of technology and advancements, perfection seems to be the measurement of achievement. Perfect grades, perfect attendance, perfect faces, perfect people. This strive for perfection ultimately stems from the firm, authoritative households that some children are forced to grow up in.

Children who grow up learning to obey their parents are subjected to years upon years of being taught how to be perfect and, subsequently, how to please others in the process. These children grow up believing that they know how to behave themselves because of their own self will; however, in truth, they have been conditioned into believing that doing things perfectly is the only way to do things at all.

On the other hand, parents who raise their children in “the middle” cultivate a sense of trust while also providing a firm foundation of rules to grow off of. When children are given enough freedom to try things and fail at them, you allow them to experience a “teachable moment.” Not a punishable moment. Not a moment for shame. A moment to learn and grow without fear of being ridiculed.

There is a significant difference between an authoritative parent and an authoritarian parent. One is a mentor and a leader while the other is a tyrant and a dictator. The superiority complex that some parents possess can eventually lead to the downfall of their relationship with their children. When an adult acts as though they are totally superior to their children, it creates an image that young people do not have a voice at all. This is why it is important not to speak to children in that high, squeaky “baby voice” that some manage to do so well. When we speak to children as equals rather than beneath us, we can be surprised by the things they are able to do.

Contrary to some people’s beliefs, children who are brought up with a higher degree of freedom do not rebelliously act out and ruin their own lives as often as some believe. Children and teens who are given an appropriate degree of self-management learn to do just that: self-manage. Learning to deal with difficult situations with an appropriate level of help and without fear of being punished for failure creates circumstances were children are able to solve problems as they would in the real world.

Rather than forcing children to learn through discipline and perfection, allowing children and teenagers to create their own room to grow alongside a strong foundation of kindly guided rules makes for a healthy, trust-filled relationship between parent and child. Or, simply put, aim for the middle.

“The middle” is a space with room to grow. Room to mess up. Room to fail. And, most importantly, room to laugh about it.

Or, as my mother would say, “the middle is love, and I am in the middle.”