The Greek Mom: Past and Present Parenting Styles
While recently chatting with a fellow Greek mommy friend, our conversation shifted down memory lane: memories of our moms and our overall childhood experiences with them. After a few minutes of talking about our mothers’ parenting styles, which were similar in nature, what was not similar was the definition of what she and I considered a “typical Greek mom.”
Her version of a typical Greek mom consisted of a woman who was overly nurturing, extremely loving and willing to do absolutely anything that her children needed her to do, at anytime, anywhere. My version of a typical Greek mom was one that was cold, annoyed by her children, distant and was constantly yelling a lot.
While parenting styles in current literature are separated into several categories, the two main styles that predominate the Greek moms of first-generation of include the permissive/indulgent style and the authoritarian style. Wondering what kind of style your mom had?
Did your mom…
- clean up after you without ever asking you to clean up after yourself, even when you were careless and extremely messy? Did she clean up after you past an age where you could have easily cleaned yourself?
- always try and hang out with you and your friends? Not just for the purpose of meeting them, but to actually spend time acting like one of the guys or girls? Was she more interested in being your best friend rather than your parent?
- lack rules and structure within the home? When you did do something she didn’t approve of did she avoid confrontation with you? Did she make threats of discipline but never follow through with them?
If you answered “yes” to one or all of these questions, then you most likely had a mom with a permissive/indulgent style of parenting. “What’s wrong with indulging your children?” you may be thinking to yourself as you’re eating lunch that your mom made and dropped off for you this morning.
According to the experts, permissive/indulgent parenting styles have been linked to children who:
- are three times more likely to engage in heavy underaged alcohol consumption
- are insecure
- lack social skills, such as sharing
- are self-centered
- demonstrate poor academic success
- clash with authority
Maybe the above description is nothing like your mom growing up. Instead did you experience the following:
- various household objects thrown at you during heated disagreements
- ear pulling as a form of discipline
- a disregard for your feelings with a focus on her own wants instead
- strict rules, including ones that forbade socializing with others outside of the home
If the above description resonates with you, then you experienced the authoritative style of upbringing. And while many argue that rules and structure are necessary for correct upbringing by instilling respect for elders and authority figures and providing safety for children (qualities as quoted by many to be lacking in today’s generation) authoritarian style parenting has been linked to:
- an unhealthy equating obedience with love
- difficulties in social situations
- misbehavior when outside of parental care.
- a proclivity for having low self-esteem
- an overgeneralized sense of fear
Generational changes in parenting styles can be seen in many of today’s parents and studies attribute these changes more to societal influences rather than cultural. Second- or third-generation Greek parents demonstrate a more authoritarian style of parenting which is marked by high expectations paired with understanding and support and is considered the most beneficial style of parenting for normal children.
Experts assert that it may take up to four generations for a full shift in parental style to occur. The ability to recognize our own style with our own children is a must, not only for ideal developmental outcome but also for the maintenance and growth of healthy relationships with them. Below are a few examples of parenting behaviors that may be re-enactments of our own parents’ style and if true for you, suggestions to help stop the negative repetitive patterns.
- You feed your kids when they can feed themselves. This is an example of an overindulgent/permissive mom. If you find yourself spoon feeding your children even if they’re at an age where they can effectively feed themselves, STOP immediately. Put the utensils down and instead talk to your children. Urge them to eat on their own, if necessary. If the urge to feed them is still nagging at you and overpowering, it may be best for you to stand up and walk away so as to not channel your desire and instead impulsively and mindlessly feed yourself. That would result in unwanted weight gain and is usually in no way beneficial.
- You get the urge to throw a koutala (wooden spoon) or papoutsi (shoe) or you actually DO throw these items at your children. This is an example of authoritative parenting. It’s also indicative of extreme feelings of loss of control on the parent’s side. If you do find yourself with an urge to chuck something at your kid, put the item down if you need to, and take a deep breath. Walk away, and return to disagreement after you’ve had a shot of ouzo. Or wine. Whatever you prefer that helps you immediately calm down.
- You find yourself becoming (or you think you are) friends with your kid’s friends. This is typical of the indulgent/permissive Greek mom. Of course it’s always best to know what kind of people your children are hanging out with. However, getting acquainted with them and becoming friends with them are two completely different things. If you find yourself wanting to spend time with your kids’ friends so as to fulfill a need other than trying to keep tabs on them for their own good, it’s time to make a point of meeting up with your own friends. Coffee with an old friend to talk about your children’s friends is a great way to channel this urge.
Keep in mind that we’re more likely to resort to previously learned behaviors in times of stress, a mother’s ability to regulate and change her perception of stressors is a must for the development of a healthy parenting style with her own children. Second generation Greek parents have been blessed so as to not have to experience the significant life stress of migration, a constellation of stressors that our own mothers experienced as immigrants. In addition, being born and raised in an individualistic-centered society compared to the collectivist society that most immigrant Greeks came from, provides us with another advantage for ideal child rearing since we don’t have to grabble with extreme cultural adjustments with our children.
As a result of our education and our immersion in a tech-based society, it is common knowledge that all mothers need self-care. A mother’s prerogative for self-care presents an additional advantage for present- day mothers that was not readily available for our own mothers.
Fostering and maintaining friendships, chiseling in time for rest and relaxation, nurturing one’s own mind and body and asking for (or hiring) help when needed are all beneficial behaviors that are repeatedly linked to positive outcomes for present-day moms and should be considered a priority for optimal childrearing.
Combine all of the above, along with inner awareness of where ones behaviors originate from, and you have a secure and optimal foundation for demonstrating intentional, ideal forms of parenting techniques.
So whether you decide to raise your children Athenian style (authoritarian) or Spartan style (authoritative) being fully aware of your own past parental childrearing style, and acknowledging and adhering to the importance of your own self-care, will hopefully allow you to demonstrate the most optimal parenting style so as to raise happy, healthy and well-adjusted children.
Another awesome article brought to you by health coach, Roula Marinos Papmihail