Parenting Styles



As a parent, your approach to your child is as unique as you are. You can’t just wake up one day and be a different person because you read a book or watched a devilishly effective mother on the playground. Parenting styles isn’t only a collection of skills, rules, and tricks of the trade. It’s who you are, what your family culture is and how you transmit the most personal aspects of your values to your child.

Four major parenting styles:

  • Permissive parenting style
  • Authoritarian parenting style
  • Authoritative parenting style
  • Hands-off parenting style

Of these styles, child development experts have found that the authoritative parent is the most successful in raising children who are both academically strong and emotionally stable. But the truth is, most parents don’t fall conveniently into this or any other single type; instead, we tend to be a combination of several styles.

Parenting Styles

Permissive parenting

While shopping, your seven-year-old son begs for a special cookie (even though he has already had his share of treats that day). You say:

  1. “Not a chance. You should know better than to ask me for one right before we have dinner.”
  2. “OK, you’ve been such a good boy, you deserve a cookie.” He seems to have his heart set and, after all, it’s only one cookie.
  3. “No, you’ve already had plenty of treats – pick something healthy instead.”
  4. “Don’t nag me. What I spend my money on is up to me.”

Are you frequently the parent who picks B? You are not alone. Permissive parenting is common in this day of busy schedules, harried two-worker families, and a feeling that we just don’t get enough quality time with our kids. Unfortunately, indulging our children’s every wish can have unfortunate consequences both for the child and the parent. Children can end up feeling entitled to getting what they want, not what they need: the self-restraint, patience, and other character traits that will help them succeed in life. Parents who give in to the short-term battles about the extra toy or the chore that never gets done face bigger battles down the road when the child is used to running the show: fudging on homework, back talking parents or simply not behaving responsibly.

Hands-off parenting

You and your daughter have been doing errands all Sunday and you both come home tired and cranky. Your daughter has homework and she announces she needs lots of help, despite your throbbing headache. You say:

  1. “I will help you, but get started on it on your own and do what you can.” B. “It’s not my homework. You have to do it on your own. And make sure you do a good job or there will be punishments.”
  2. “Why don’t I do your homework with you?”
  3. “I have such a headache. Please do it on your own or just skip it tonight. After all, it’s been a long day and I know how tired you are.”

Have you ever been the parent who chooses D? Hands-off or uninvolved parenting emphasizes learning through experience: you don’t shelter your children from the lessons that naturally happen from their mistakes. But it’s hard knowing when to let our children make their own mistakes. In times of our own stress or discomfort, it’s definitely tempting to tell your children you’ve had enough and they are on their own.

The problem with this approach is that if it comes because of your mood, not your child’s needs, it can undermine her own motivation to, say, do well in school. You could argue that by not helping, you’re helping your child be more independent. But suggesting she skip her homework when she really needs help is not the time to teach autonomy.

Authoritarian parenting

Your teenage children have been asking to go to a party at the home of a kid you’d rather they not socialize with. After telling them you don’t want them to go, they launch a full assault with tears and arguments that all their friends are going and that you’re the strictest parent in the whole world. In response you:

  1. say, “OK, fine, you can go. But don’t expect me to help you get there. You have to find your own ride.”
  2. ground them for talking back to you and questioning your judgment.
  3. say, “I want to sit down and like to hear your concerns, but I’m not going to change my mind as long as I feel the party won’t be a safe place.”
  4. Realize they have a point – they should be able to go to a party all their friends are attending. You even offer to take them to the party, but because you’re concerned about safety, you wait in a nearby café and pick them up at the end of the night.

Are you the parent that might choose B? No doubt, authoritarian parents do not accept the notion that the home is a democracy with the loudest voices winning. Old-fashioned rules help your children understand where they stand, what they are allowed to do, and what is expected of them. Unlike permissive parents who always want to be liked, authoritarian parents expect to be respected.

The hitch is that strict, rule-based parenting can erode the affection and communication that makes children and parents stay connected emotionally. When children are very young, the strictly run household can look quite orderly and admirable, but as children grow into teens, experimenting with independence, they may be so afraid of their parents’ censure that they become secretive. Authoritarian parents can also raise children who never learn to speak up or think for themselves – two indispensable skills in the work world.

Authoritative parenting

On a rainy day, your 11-year-old son begs not to go to his track meet because it’s rainy and he really doesn’t want to go. On the one hand, it’s not schoolwork.  Further, on the other hand, you’ve noticed that lately your son is spending more time “hanging out,” not really using his time well, saying he’s too sick for school when you don’t agree, and basically avoiding anything that requires uncomfortable effort. In response, you: A. say, “It’s up to you what you choose to do. Besides, it’s only track — it’s OK if once in a while you miss it.”

  1. Offer to pick him up early from school and take him out for ice cream since you know he’s been tired out lately and needs a break.
  2. say, “I understand you don’t want to go and I know that feeling of not doing something you don’t want to, but that’s precisely why I want you to go. Sometimes we have an urge to avoid tough stuff, but it’s important to do things even when they’re hard.” D. say, “You have to go. No ifs, ands or buts – conversation over.”

Are you the type of parent who will take the uncomfortable path to C?Congratulations! Authoritative parents have been found to have the most effective parenting style in all sorts of ways: academic, social, emotional, and behavioral. Like authoritarian parents, the authoritative parents expect a lot from their children, but also they expect even more from their own behavior. They are willing to say, “No,” or lay down the line, but they are careful to remain calm, kind and patient about empathizing with the child’s perspective.

Parenting Styles

The Impact of Parenting Styles

Authoritarian parenting styles generally lead to children who are obedient and proficient, but they rank lower in happiness, social competence and self-esteem.

Authoritative parenting styles tend to result in children who are happy, capable and successful.

Permissive parenting often results in children who rank low in happiness and self-regulation. These children are more likely to experience problems with authority and tend to perform poorly in school.

Un-involved parenting styles rank lowest across all life domains. These children tend to lack self-control, have low self-esteem and are less competent than their peers.

Why Do Parenting Styles Differ?

After learning about the impact of parenting styles on child development, you may wonder why all parents simply don’t utilize an authoritative parenting style. After all, this parenting style is the most likely to produce happy, confident, and capable children. What are some reasons why parenting styles might vary? Some potential causes of these differences include culture, personality, family size, parental background, socioeconomic status, educational level, and religion.

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