Parenting is no ordinary feat. It can be taxing. It’s full of sacrifices and impossible decisions. And the truth is that no one gets it exactly right. But that has very little to do with natural dispositions. Very few, if any, people are born with outstanding parenting skills. Parenting skills are learned. And every parent will benefit from the knowledge of different parenting styles.
So why is parenting style important? The way you interact with your child directly affects their behavior and growth. So now is the perfect time to make a conscious effort to assess and improve your parenting approach.
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A Brief History
Most modern parenting experts use the research from Diana Baumrind, a clinical and developmental psychologist from the 1960s, to describe parents. Baumrind examined preschoolers and the parenting techniques of their parents to develop 3 broad categories, or parent styles. Later, Maccoby and Martin refined the model to introduce the last style (uninvolved). And thus today,we discuss this well-known “4 styles” model of parenting.
The 4 types of parenting styles are:
- Authoritarian (or Disciplinarian)
- Permissive (or Indulgent)
- Uninvolved (or Neglectful)
These styles are classified on the basis of characteristics such as how much affection parents show, if and how they enforce order, and how they communicate. Your parenting style is usually predominantly one of these.
The 2 Dimensions of Parenting Behavior
Before we discuss the 4 types themselves, it is important to know what metrics are used to categorize them. They are classified by 2 dimensions of parenting: demandingness and responsiveness.
Demandingness refers to how much parents set and enforce rules and expectations, as well as how much maturity they demand from their children.
Responsiveness refers to how accepting and sensitive parents are to their child’s emotions and overall needs.
Both of these characteristics are needed to ensure good parenting.
The 4 parenting styles are different combinations of these:
- Authoritative (High demandingness, high responsiveness)
- Authoritarian (High demandingness, low responsiveness)
- Permissive (Low demandingness, high responsiveness)
- Uninvolved (Low demandingness, low responsiveness)
1. Authoritative Parenting
With this kind of parenting, parents set high and clear expectations, lay down limits, but are also responsive and sensitive to their children’s views and needs.
They encourage children to be responsible but also give them a certain degree of freedom and the right to ask and understand the reasons behind certain rules and expectations.
Communication is two-way, and empathetic. However, supporting their children does not mean agreeing to everything they say, especially what goes against morals and discipline. And yet they do not enforce limits; they discuss them and make their children understand what is right.
This kind of style is the most balanced and effective for a child’s growth. Children raised this way are responsible and goal-driven, but also curious, friendly, and kind. Many modern parenting strategies, like positive parenting, falls in this category.
Spoiler: This style is the most likely to produce wildly successful kids.
2. Authoritarian (or Disciplinarian) Parenting
This one might sound like the last one but is actually very different. This style is also called a disciplinarian style. Here, parents lack sensitiveness and understanding towards their children and are strict and punitive.
If you have a “because I said so” approach to parenting, then this is your type. Such parents believe in enforcing limits upon children and not letting them have any say. They do not take children’s feelings or their natural inquisitiveness into consideration, but rather think that children are better raised through unquestioning obedience.
Punishments are also common. Instead of practicing positive reinforcement and explaining to children how they can do better, they choose to make them feel guilty for their mistakes.
Communication is one-way. Children are only told what to do and expected to follow without leniency.
This kind of style is detrimental. Although children do become accustomed to following rules, more often than not this is out of fear and not understanding. They can develop a low self-esteem because their opinions are not valued, start lying to avoid punishment, and even become rebellious and aggressive as bottled anger and hurt is released.
3. Permissive (or Indulgent) Parenting
These parents are warm and sensitive towards their children, but they fail to set boundaries. They have a “children will be children” attitude to everything and give them almost complete freedom to do whatever they want, only stepping into very serious issues.
Permissive parents are like friends, but also in a bad way. This is because they are friendly and accepting, but too much. In being lenient, they agree to everything their child says, even failing to stop their children from making bad decisions.
They do not set rules and expectations, leaving their children to figure things out on their own. Guidance isn’t given even where it’s due.
Children brought up by permissive parents are often spoilt, impulsive and lack respect for authority. They are also prone to making immature choices, lack aim, and tend to be under-achievers.
For example, they may struggle academically because there is no expectation to do better from the parents’ side. They can get into mischief easily because there is no sense of rules or consequences. They can adopt many self-destructive habits such as overeating and not taking care of hygiene, which may lead to bigger health problems down the road.
4. Uninvolved (or Neglectful) Parenting
Many people believe this type of parenting is the worst. This is because it neither sets boundaries, nor offers any emotional support. These parents are just that: completely uninvolved and uninterested in their children.
It is like leaving their children to be their own parents and to grow up on their own. Displays of affection and warmth are rare. Communication is nonexistent. While permissive parents at least show interest and love towards their children, uninvolved parents are not even aware of whatever their child is up to.
They fail to make time for their children at all, leaving them alone or at the mercy of external influences.
Children with uninvolved parents struggle with very low self-esteem, do not perform well academically, and also suffer from social and behavioral problems, often ending up very lonely and unhappy.
Wherever your parenting style lies on this spectrum, or even if it is a combination of these, you can improve it by trying to make it more authoritative, since that is clearly the ideal parenting style for your child’s healthy development. Which of the 4 parenting styles best describes you? Share with me in the comments!