You’ve undoubtedly heard about parenting styles, especially the three that are the most described: authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive. These describe how adults are in a child’s life in terms of discipline and involvement, especially who is the boss. A recent blog post on parent.co (https://www.parent.co/5-present-day-parenting-styles-inadvertently-favored-in-the-1970s/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=SocialWarfare) suggests that back in the 1970s, parents were engaging in some of the same parenting styles that are in vogue today, such as free range parenting, attachment parenting, French-style parenting, instinctive parenting, and authoritative parenting.
Having been brought up in the 50s and 60s, you might expect that my parents were firmly authoritarian, but my parents were actually a mix. My dad was the boss and my parent’s word was law (definitely authoritarian). Yet, my parents also believed in letting us out to play for hours on end without supervision (free-range and French-style). My mother had a policy that we could read any book we could pick up (permissive). As my sisters each reached the age of 18, we were kicked out into the world and expected to act like adults.
One realm where my parents did not vary their parenting style was around sex and sexuality. The authoritarian came out full force as we were told not to ask too many questions, to be ‘good’ girls, and to protect our reputations. When I was older and could ask my own mom about her sex education growing up, I could understand a bit better why they took the tact they did.
You see, like many parents, their parents didn’t give them any sex education. There was none available in schools for their generation and they simply learned on the job. When the sexual revolution was going full force in the 1960s, they had to scramble to adjust their parenting to the changing times.
Today’s parents are probably scrambling to keep up with the deluge of information that kids have access to these days. There may be a tendency, no matter their predominant parenting style, to fall back to an authoritarian stance to try to protect children from all that information.
Unless you plan on helicoptering your kids for the rest of their lives, this approach is not going to work. The fact is that the best protection depends on being the kind of parent who learns more about sex to augment their own sex education, getting a clearer understanding of their own attitudes, beliefs, and values, and learning how to talk with their children so their children will want to come to them for information and guidance. This is achievable and doesn’t depend on your parenting style, it depends on you tapping into your deep motivation to ensure your children will have healthy and happy sexual lives. Let’s stop passing on our parents mistakes about how to educate our children about sex.