The topic of parenting styles is one that some parents never even consider to discuss before their children start to grow and develop. Most often, parents just do what seems natural to them based on how they were raised, what their surroundings are and what their cultural backgrounds are. However, having an effective parenting style is very important and understanding how you parent (or how your spouse or siblings might parent) can help you raise happy, successful children.
The field of parenting is a huge subject with contributions from psychology, sociology, family studies, biology, anthropology and many others. It is no wonder then that the topic of parenting is also vast and complex. Fortunately, there are a few basic parenting styles that are generally agreed upon by all in the field. These were developed by psychologist Diana Baumrind in the 1960’s and then later improved upon by Maccoby & Martin in 1983. Many will find that they have parenting ideas that combine two or three of the styles depending on the situation. This is both common and acceptable. The basic premise of the styles is that parenting can be broken down into demanding versus undemanding and responsive versus unresponsive.
The first parenting style is called authoritarian or totalitarian. In this style, the parent is demanding and unresponsive. Children of these parents are always expected to adhere to very strict rules and face punishment for not doing as they are told. In the authoritarian style of parenting, the parent may not provide any reasoning behind the rules or punishments and communication with the child may be very limited. In certain cultures such as some Asian cultures, the common style of parenting could be considered authoritarian. Recently, Amy Chua, a self-described “Chinese mother” wrote a book called “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” which details her very strict style of parenting. In an excerpt, Chua states that her children cannot “have a playdate, be in a school play, complain about not being a school play, watch TV or play computer games, get any grade less than an A, play any instrument other than the piano or violin, not play the piano or violin.” Chua cites high levels of success in her children and others which seem to validate the style of parenting. In some instances though, children of authoritarian parents can be socially inept as they are always being told what to do. In other cases, the child could rebel or have a break down from the pressures of trying to live up to the parent’s high standards.
In another style, authoritative parents also have high standards but differ from authoritarian parents in that they tend to be more responsive to their children. They talk more to their kids and try to take their children’s feelings into account to ensure they feel heard and understood. Parents allow their children some independence but will set limits and help their children learn from their mistakes if they falter. Children of authoritative parents tend to have higher self-esteem and can think through their problems and issues. For this reason, most experts recommend this parenting style over the others.
Indulgent parenting is a style that you are probably very familiar with. We all know that one particular parent that lets their child do whatever they want, whenever they want. This style of parenting is very responsive but not demanding at all. Sometimes these parents can be accused of trying too hard to be their child’s friend more than their parent. Some children of these permissive parents may turn to alcohol, drug use or other unacceptable behavior due to not having any discipline. Others might mature very quickly, live independently and learn to solve problems on their own.
The final parenting style is neglectful parenting. In this style, the parent is neither demanding nor responsive. It is a completely hands-off approach to parenting where the only needs of the child that the parent meets are basic needs for daily living such as food, clothing, shelter and perhaps money. This is the least effective of all the parenting methods.
Now that you understand the basics of parenting styles, it is important that you, your spouse and/or others who are helping to raise your child, recognize the differences you might have in your parenting ideas. Discuss these differences and try to work together to come to a conclusion as to how you will parent together. It is very important that whichever style you choose, you are all on the same page and work together as a team.