By Michelle Fisher · 25 September, 2018
A parenting style is a psychological construct representing standard strategies that parents use when bringing up their children. It is a representation of how parents respond and demand to their child. The parent’s and child’s temperaments and parent’s cultural patterns have an influence on the kind of parenting style a child may receive. Understanding our parenting style can help explain why we parent like we do. With this understanding we can make positive changes to the way we parent which can increase the chances of our children achieving the best outcomes in life.
In the 1960s, psychologist Diana Baumrind studied pre-school children and their parents and her observations led to identifying three distinct parenting styles: Authoritarian, Permissive and Authoritative. Years later, and after more research, psychologists Maccoby and Martin (1983) expanded this parenting style model, and made further distinction, by dividing Baumrind’s permissive parenting into two different types: indulgent (permissive) parenting and neglectful (uninvolved) parenting. The four styles are now used to educate and support parents.
No parenting style can identify a parent exactly, but you will probably recognise that your parenting falls more into one of the four styles below than the others.
Authoritarian parents have a lot of rules and value obedience in their children. They expect high achievement, and they offer little explanation for their strict rules. Authoritarian parents can come across as overbearing and harsh. The children of authoritarian parents are very competent, but often aren’t very happy. They can also have very low self-esteem as adults.
Permissive parents need their children to see them as a friend, so much so that they have very lax or no rules. Permissive parents let their children get away with a lot so they won’t be seen as ‘the bad guy’. These parents do not expect mature behaviour from their children so they are often low achievers who have difficulty regulating their behaviour. In adulthood, people raised by permissive parents may have problems with authority, which can lead to difficulty in school and employment.
Uninvolved parents show little interest in their children’s lives. They may be distracted by their own mental health issues or be busy trying to provide for their family. Uninvolved parents expect almost nothing from their children and have few or no rules. Children raised by uninvolved parents usually fare the worst in adulthood. They often have low self-esteem and poor achievement.
When parents lead authoritatively, they set logical guidelines for the family, expect age appropriate behaviour and parent with love and compassion. When a child misbehaves, the authoritative parent uses the situation as a teaching opportunity, not a reason for punishment. They are generally very nurturing. As adults, people with authoritative parents are usually happy, cooperative and have a good deal of self-regulation. The children of authoritative parents are most likely to lead successful, productive adult lives.
If two parents who parent the same child have different parenting styles it can be a problem for both parents and children. At the very least it encourages children to play one parent off against the other in a clever attempt to get the answer that they want to hear. This is not the child’s fault, they are just using good common sense to try and get what they want. However, it can create a situation in which rules are not clear or consistently enforced, which can be confusing for the child and the parent.
At its extreme, the child receives two sharply contrasting parenting styles in which one parent compensates for the perceived weaknesses of the other. For example, if the dad is too strict, the mum may overcompensate by becoming more lenient. That may prompt the dad to become even stricter as he attempts to overcompensate for the mum’s leniency. The result can create a very confusing world for the child and one in which they are never sure of what is expected of them. This can lead to misbehaviour, feelings of insecurity and may result in mental health issues in some children.
If you feel you parent differently to your partner, be reassured that parents do not have to be identical in parenting styles but it is important for you to discuss issues together, come to a compromise and agree what to tell your child before involving them.
Research has proven that authoritative parenting brings the best outcomes for children. Therefore it is this style that we should all do our best to use most of the time. Here are some suggestions to make your parenting style more authoritative:
Your children need your love and participation in their life. It is up to us to try and be a good enough parent meaning we are not uninterested or overpowering, but that we are diplomatic and someone they can look up to and model for the rest of their lives.
At GoParenting we offer sessions to help you make adjustments to your parenting style and parent in a more authoritative way. If you’d like more information about this or how we can support you with any other parenting issue please get in touch for a free, over the phone consultation.