Are You a Parent or a Commander?

From time-to-time, I reflect in my blog posts about leadership and parenting styles I see today. At times, the styles we choose (by default or design) are damaging. One kind I’ve seen recently is a style I’d call: “Commando Parent.” Have you seen them?

Commando Parents

They have been around for centuries and often are called “military parents.” Sometimes they attract that name because mom or dad did actually serve in the military. This style is almost always well intentioned, but causes damage when it offers more rules than relationship. In this style, one or more parent adopts the role of a drill sergeant, who expects perfection from both parent and child. Professor Allen Verhey worries that society is beginning to see “the duties of parenting as making perfect children, and making children perfect rather than in terms of nurture.” Instead of flexing with the messes that come with raising kids, these parents demand perfectly clean rooms, perfectly diligent study habits, perfect performances at sports, even perfect behavior at playtime.

The discipline imposed by commando parents is not bad in itself. In fact, it can be a breath of fresh air in light of other parenting styles. What’s wrong is that it typically offers law without grace. It’s about rules and routines, and it can produce a child who’s afraid of anything short of straight A’s on a report card. The child lives in anxiety, frustration or exhaustion just trying to meet expectations.

The problem: These parents often push for perfection out of their own insecurity, their own struggle for perfection, their own urge to control their lives. Their lives are focused on attaining perfection instead of growth and improvement.

The issue: Commando parents have their own issues. Perhaps they never felt loved or approval while growing up. Maybe the only model for parenting they know is a drill sergeant who pushes and pushes the child to perform. The commando parents I know also feel their own reputations depend on their children’s performance. They cannot stand a poor showing on the little league field or in the classroom, because they feel it makes them look bad. They need to mature past this rigid scope, and see that life is about love and empowerment, not command and control.

What kids need is a leader who is both responsive and demanding. In my language — a velvet-covered brick. A leader who supports and sets standards. Let’s shoot for that goal.

If you’d like to read more about parenting styles or take a parent style quiz, go to:


Are You a Parent or a Commander?