Among other things, I'm parent of a 4 year old boy. Having experienced permissive parents, observed strict parents- both the effective kind who strictly enforce many rules and ineffective kind who inconsistemtly enforce many rules, and the firm kind of parents (few rules, strictly enforced) it is nice to have experts confirm my prejudices. My prejudices- the beliefs I have without neccessarily a coherent arguement or broad range of data to support them- lead me to think that too many rules just offers many possible failures for a parent. Permissiveness seems to lead children to believe their parents don't care. Enforcing the rules such as they are- is more important than the rules themselves, for maintaing a healthy relationship.
Darling found that permissive parents don’t actually learn more about their children’s lives. “Kids who go wild and get in trouble mostly have parents who don’t set rules or standards. Their parents are loving and accepting no matter what the kids do. But the kids take the lack of rules as a sign their parents don’t care—that their parent doesn’t really want this job of being the parent.”
Pushing a teen into rebellion by having too many rules was a sort of statistical myth. “That actually doesn’t happen,” remarks Darling. She found that most rules-heavy parents don’t actually enforce them. “It’s too much work,” says Darling. “It’s a lot harder to enforce three rules than to set twenty rules.”
A few parents managed to live up to the stereotype of the oppressive parent, with lots of psychological intrusion, but those teens weren’t rebelling. They were obedient. And depressed.
“Ironically, the type of parents who are actually most consistent in enforcing rules are the same parents who are most warm and have the most conversations with their kids,” Darling observes. They’ve set a few rules over certain key spheres of influence, and they’ve explained why the rules are there. They expect the child to obey them. Over life’s other spheres, they supported the child’s autonomy, allowing them freedom to make their own decisions.
The kids of these parents lied the least. Rather than hiding twelve areas from their parents, they might be hiding as few as five.
The legal principal of avoiding laws that can't or wont be enforced seems like a good idea. The law-and-order types should have a good think on that, when ten percent of the population is committing a crime regularly( yes, I'm talking about cannabis). How does failing to enforce a law rejected by the majority and flaunted by a plurality encourage respect for law and order?