There are a million ways to parent. You’ve probably tweaked your style from how your parents raised you and you probably don’t parent the same way as your brother or the neighbor across the street. Even though everyone does it a little differently, according to developmental psychologist, Diana Baumrind, there are four broad styles that many parents fall into:
It’s essentially how it sounds. Rules and boundaries are lacking and children are given a lot of control. Lack of rules means a lack of consequences, creating a relationship that looks more like a friendship.These parents may use bribery to influence behavior rather than setting clear expectations. Picture a child misbehaving at the park. The permissive parent gives the child ice cream to stop misbehaving. This parenting often results in children that to expect others to do things for them that they could do for themselves. Parents may demonstrate a tremendous amount of warmth with little expectations. The children struggle to figure out appropriate boundaries and their self-esteem often suffers. Lack of engagement from the parents makes self-esteem regulation difficult for the child.
Most of us grew up with a friend whose parents had impossibly high standards for them to live up to with no room for mistakes. Imagine the friend whose parent expected them to have a 4.0, get into medical school and had to be home by 8 PM every night. This style is characterized by strictly enforced rules with high expectations of obedience and an emphasis on hierarchy in the family. Communication about expectations is limited. There is typically minimal flexibility with little to no explanation, choice, or respect for the child. These children often struggle with taking risks and making decisions on their own. This leads to low self-esteem and difficulty with self-regulation.
While authoritarian parents provide a great deal of structure, “inconsistent” parenting leaves children guessing. Rules and consequences are randomly enforced based on parental mood or circumstance. Expectations for children often unknown. The child cannot predict parental response which means that children of inconsistent parents might struggle with interpreting social cues. Other children may learn to manipulate parents or others as a way to maneuver the inconsistency.
Balance is the name of the game in this type of parenting. Authoritative parents set limits, but listen and show flexibility with their children. They are nurturing and spend time with their children. Communication is fluid and children can learn from mistakes. This helps with learning appropriate boundaries and emotional regulation skills. These parents are watchful, but allow room for independence and exploration. Children of authoritative parents often exhibit high self-esteem and confidence as a result of learning independence in a safe, loving environment. Professionals widely regard this as the most effective parenting style with the greatest benefits for children.
Chances are, one of these styles resonates with how you parent. Self-awareness is extremely important when it comes to parenting. It is important to note that cultural and ethnic factors contribute to parenting styles, which has ultimately proven that there is not a universal best way to parent. However, authoritative parenting has proven to be so effective due to the democratic style that has positive impacts on a child’s well-being. As the main components of authoritative parenting are characterized by warmth, expectations and being reasonable, these seem like fair practices that we can all strive to incorporate into our parenting strategy.
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Written by Taylor Walker, Ed.S.