Style in general is a very personal matter, and even more so when it comes to parenting. Along a continuum there are probably as many individual parenting styles as there are parents. However, there are some general characteristics and trends which can be identified to describe how parents tend to raise their children. Factors which influence a parent’s style would include the way they themselves were parented, as well as their own personality, preferences and choices.
Over the years developmental psychologists have conducted studies and identified four main groups of parenting styles which can be named and described in various ways, but are generally known as: authoritative; authoritarian; permissive and neglectful. There are significant differences between these four styles and they have differing effects on the children who experience them. This article will give a brief description of each style and some of the benefits and drawbacks. It is important to remember that there can be some overlapping and one parent may use a mixture of styles at different times.
Authoritative – “I’m in charge and we will go forward together”
What is this style all about? Authoritative parenting is where the parent sets clear guidelines, rules and expectations for the child to follow. When these are not met there will be appropriate consequences so that the boundaries are maintained. The authoritative parent has a good relationship and a loving rapport with their child. There is open communication and discussions are welcomed. The child is encouraged to ask questions and the expectations are clearly understood.
What effect does it have on a child? Out of the four different parenting styles, this one of authoritativeness is generally regarded as the most effective in which children feel happy and secure. They know what is expected of them and they understand the reasoning behind the rules set by the parent. Children with authoritative parents can usually feel and experience that the rules and boundaries established by the parent are fair and ultimately for their own good, to help them grow to maturity. The high expectations and the level of support given by the parent towards reaching those expectations often results in a child who is confident, capable and successful.
Authoritarian – “Do as I say, or you will be in trouble!”
What is this style all about? Authoritarian style is the classic strict parenting where children are expected to do exactly as they are told without complaining or asking questions. If they do not comply the punishment can be harsh and inappropriate with the action of the child. This is very much a fear based style where the parent maintains their authority because the child is afraid to disobey, rather than obeying from choice or respect for the parent. There is not open communication between parent and child; the parent does not see the need to explain their reasons for the rules and boundaries that they set.
What effect does it have on a child? Because children are not encouraged to question or discuss issues with their authoritarian parents, they often do not understand and this can lead to resentment. If a child is raised in this manner it can lead to an obedient and proficient outcome, but the toll will be taken in terms of the child’s self-esteem and confidence, especially in social settings. As they were not often allowed to make their own decisions, they may be ill-equipped for the rigors of adulthood.
Permissive – “I just want you to be happy”
What is this style all about? The permissive parenting style is indulgent towards the child, with few demands and expectations. Confrontation is avoided and the parent behaves more like a ‘friend’ than a father or mother figure. Permissive parents tend to avoid setting limits for fear of upsetting the child. Those who use this style may be having a counter-reaction to their own ultra strict upbringing, or it may just be a result of their own laid-back personality. With this kind of parenting style communication is usually very good, with a warm and nurturing atmosphere which is loving and close
What effect does it have on a child? Although the relationship between a permissive parent and their child can be loving and close, unfortunately the lack of structure can result in the child having very little self-control or self-discipline. Children raised in this environment may not do well at school and may have a problem with authority figures. The lack of discipline and structure can result in the child feeling insecure, and perhaps struggling to reach maturity in adulthood.
Neglectful – “Don’t bother me”
What is this style all about? The neglectful, uninvolved or can’t-be-bothered parenting style is the most detrimental to the child. This usually happens when parents are extremely busy or otherwise occupied and don’t take the time required to meet their child’s needs, whether physically, mentally or emotionally. Parents who use this style see their role as having been mainly completed in biologically bringing the child into the world. Now the child is expected to grow up quickly and take care of themselves, making few if any demands on the parent who is busy with “more important” things. There is usually a lack of communication in the home, and not much warmth and nurturing. Discipline may be absent too, or at best erratic, while expectations of self-control and maturity are largely left up to the child to work out for themselves.
What effect does it have on a child? Children who are brought up with this neglectful parenting style often have low self-esteem, behaviour problems and poor academic performance. This is potentially one of the most harmful parenting styles as the child is left to fend for themselves to a large extent, both emotionally and physically.
Now that you have a general overview of these four parenting styles, do you recognize yourself in any of them? Which one do you feel is the best? And are there any areas where you would like to make some adjustments to the way you are parenting? Take some time to consider the effect you are having on your child and how you can adapt your behaviour so that your child can thrive. Don’t be afraid to ask for help as there is a vast array of resources available such as good books, websites, and counsellors who can help you become the great parent that your child needs and deserves. Remember we are all on a learning journey, so keep refining your style as you seek to be the best parent you can be for your child.