The purpose for understanding our natural parenting style is so that it can help us balance the hard and soft sides of love. What do we mean by “hard” and “soft” love, and why is this important to understand and communicate both of them to our children? Hardside love is doing what’s best for our children regardless of the cost. Held in balance, it’s the ability to be consistent, to discipline, to protect, to challenge and to correct. Like the thorns on a rose, hardside is essential but it’s also incomplete by itself. Softside love is a tenderness that grows to be the same color as unconditional love. When held in balance, softside love manifests characteristics like compassion, sensitivity, patience and understanding.
It is extremely important to be balanced in the way we love our family—especially our children. Providing only one side of love can cause real problems in a family. As we learn to be balanced, it will help us give our children two very important things.
We have found that by becoming balanced we can learn how to give our children two extremely important things:
- A commitment to love each child in a warm, affectionate, and supportive way.
- Establishing clearly defined and understood rules in the home, limits that the children know they cannot violate without some consequence.
Balancing Your Unique Parenting Style
As we attempt to become balanced parents, the first step is to remain aware of your natural parenting tendencies. For example, when relating to your family, is it easy for you to be hard on problems but easy to be hard on your children as well? Or do you rarely move beyond the softside, unwilling to confront your child or take the lead? Do you hesitate to act, even when you know you should be firm and others need you to be strong? For the parent who desires a balance between the hard and soft sides of love, we encourage you to sit down with your family and make a very important list.
Take a sheet of paper and divide it in half. On one side of the paper mark “Strengths” and on the other side mark “Weaknesses.” First, make a list of all your natural strengths. For example, the “easy going” parent may list such things as enthusiastic, energetic, visionary, fun-loving, enjoys change, and optimistic to name a few.
The next step is to understand that our greatest parenting weaknesses are usually our strengths being pushed to an extreme. For example, let’s say that a young boy is supposed to make his bed before leaving for school. If it doesn’t get done, the “little rules” parent whose ability to listen closely and carefully can become a weakness if the parent’s listening and patience can keep her from asking the hard question or confronting the problem. Likewise, the “let’s do it right” parent, who has a natural strength of being a critical thinker, if unbalanced, may come down too hard on the child and crush his spirit.
Once the “Strengths” list is complete, have your family help you list some of your parenting weaknesses. For example, the “easy going” parent’s list might include things like: over bearing, impatient, day dreamer, too flippant and not serious enough, lacks follow-through, and doesn’t see details. Notice how these weaknesses are simply variations or opposites of his strengths.
Another helpful thing to do would be to list possible ways that your strengths–if pushed to an extreme–could become weaknesses or potential problems.
The reason for creating lists like these is to become aware of how your strengths can become weaknesses if pushed out of balance. We encourage you to ask your family for specific ways that will help you move your weaknesses back into balance. Periodically review the list to gauge how you’re doing in your attempt to become a balanced parent.
Dr. Greg Smalley serves as executive director of Marriage and Family Formation at Focus on the Family and is passionate to equip premarital and married couples with the knowledge, skills and insights necessary to enjoy a lifetime together.