A few days ago, amidst experts like Larry Lawal- with over 35years experience in treatment of mental disorders and emotional challenges in the public and private mental health institutions in the Houston area of Texas, and Dr. Afshana Haque- a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Supervisor (LMFT-S) with a specialization in Neurofeedback and an Assistant professor at the University of Houston-Clear Lake, I was invited to be part of the panelist on a trending topic: Depression and Suicide- A generation on the Edge. Is Your Family Safe? Considering the caliber of these great practitioners and scholars, I was nervous and almost turned down the invite. In any case, the adventurer in me took over and I gave a yes and guess what?
It was a great learning, sharing and networking experience.
Often times, we erroneously believe that people who have mental illnesses are just crazy, have a personality weakness or character flaw and could just snap out of it if they tried hard enough. That seeking help or being treated for it means an individual has in some way failed or is weak. Fact is that a serious mental illness cannot be willed away. Ignoring the problem does not make it away either. It takes courage to seek professional help.
We also erroneously believe that depression and other illnesses such as anxiety disorders do not affect children or adolescents and any problems they have are just a part of growing up. Fact: children and adolescents can develop severe mental illness. Left untreated, these problems get worse.
Research has shown that there are genetic and biological causes of mental disorders and these can be treated effectively.
To answer this question, it is important we understand the 3 fundamental parenting styles: Autocratic/Authoritarian, Permissive/Indulgent and Authoritative/Authentic parenting styles.
In this style of parenting, children are expected to follow the strict commands established by their parents. Consequences of such failures result in the form of reprimands. Authoritarian parents fail to clarify the reasoning behind such rules. Such parents are not approachable to their children and have great demands. These parents are obedience and status-oriented and expect their orders to be obeyed without expectations. Coercive force like guilt, flogging, threats, punishment, sarcasm, criticism, intimidation, humiliation, withdrawal of love, bribes and other similar tools are used to control and manipulate the kids to get them to so what they (parents) want. All of these methods dampen the child’s spirit, self-esteem and self-confidence as they motivate from a place of fear rather than love. The result is that the child either becomes compliant or rebellious and resentful. Sadness, insomnia, self blame or having an obsessive negative self focus, poor interpersonal skills, under achievement in school, social withdrawal, excessive crying, loss of appetite, low energy, feelings of inadequacy and other passive behavior which are all underlying symptoms of an unhealthy mental well-being may become inevitable.
This is also called indulgent parenting. Parents with this style do not have much demand to make of their children. They do not teach their children the skills they need to live a fulfilled life. Permissive parenting may take the form of not caring say about a child’s grades, what time he gets home, who his friends are etc. It makes the child feel like you don’t care, even when you do, and as a result, she may seek care and concern from other people. This opens the door for submitting to peer influence and its antecedent risk of youthful exuberance. There are many teenage girls who are hungry for affection that they end up pregnant! This when not properly managed, may give way to shame, blame, sadness, hopelessness and other depressive tendencies.
Permissive parents usually give in when the situation calls for firmness. Since the expectations of maturity and self-control are little; these parents hardly discipline their children.
It is interesting to note that children do not really like to be permitted to misbehave. What they want, even though they seem to want us to think otherwise from their rebellion, is obvious guidance, limits and affection.
Sometimes, we parents are permissive because we do not want to deal with conflict and want to maintain the status of ‘friends’ with our children irrespective of the situation.
Children’s mistakes provide opportunities for many lessons on how to do things differently. When we let mistakes go unnoticed or do not deal with them directly, we deprive our children of valuable information to make better decisions in the future. When we let our children do what they want, we avoid conflict at the moment and in the long run, we create a bigger problem which we’ll have to deal with- when they get into the real world and see that life isn’t a bed of roses and everything isn’t always in accordance to their whims and caprices or they are under achieving, depression, suicidal tendencies, anxiety disorders etc cannot be overruled. Such disregard from parents may not be intentional; it’s the effect of permissive parenting.
(To be continued)