Every parent has their own way of doing things. It doesn’t take long to learn which methods work with your child and which ones don’t. It’s harder to figure out what to try next when your chosen method of parenting fails to attain the desired results. It’s also worth noting that what works with one child isn’t guaranteed to work with the next.
Whether we want to admit it or not, the way we raise our children is largely influenced by the way our parents raised us. Their example may be one we wish to emulate or one we hope to avoid. The good news is that whatever type of parent you are—and whatever type of parenting you had—you can choose a new way of relating to your own children.
Developmental psychologists have identified four main parenting styles:
- Uninvolved: Hands-off approach, provides minimal nurturing and guidance
- Permissive: Doesn’t make or enforce rules
- Authoritative: Considers child’s perspective, enforces rules
- Authoritarian: Strict rule maker and enforcer
Few parents fit into one style all the time, but one is likely to feel most familiar as you read more about each parenting style.
Sometimes referred to as a neglectful parenting style, the uninvolved parent has a “live and let live” approach to life. If you are an uninvolved parent, you don’t spend a lot of time interacting with your children. You aren’t worried about homework or grades, or where your child is going and with whom.
While a child may think this type of parent sounds ideal, kids raised this way usually struggle with self-esteem. They tend to make bad grades and get into trouble at school. These children seem to believe that bad attention is better than no attention. They may struggle with performing chores and other tasks because no one teaches them basic life skills.
Kids with neglectful parents also suffer physically. They are less likely to get treatment for illnesses and may not even tell their parents when they’re not feeling well. They’re likely to be behind on immunizations and well-child checkups. Their nutrition may suffer if their parents fail to provide healthy foods and regular meals.
Uninvolved parents don’t always intend to be neglectful. Many times, they’re preoccupied with high-stress careers, financial problems, substance abuse or mental health issues. If you recognize yourself in this description, consider talking to a counselor or taking a parenting class to learn how to become a more involved parent.
Permissive parents would rather be their child’s friend than their parent. Receiving their children’s approval is more important to them than creating the necessary rules and boundaries for a safe and secure childhood. Permissive parents may set rules sometimes, but rarely enforce them. They are easily convinced to change their minds.
Children with permissive parents have some of the same struggles as kids with uninvolved parents. Academic performance can suffer if a parent doesn’t enforce good study habits at home. Teachers get frustrated with permissive parents because their kids often believe they can easily manipulate their teachers, too. These students may not believe that their teachers will actually follow through with consequences.
Kids with permissive parents are also more likely to have health problems than kids with more balanced moms and dads. Cavities, weight issues and concentration problems are all linked to eating a poor diet. Permissive parents often give in and allow their kids to eat whatever junk food they crave. Giving in to these and other demands creates adolescents and young adults who struggle to mature beyond these immature mindsets.
Instead of saying “kids will be kids”, permissive parents should understand that children need some limits and rules to feel safe and develop life skills. If you’re more concerned that your child like you than respect you, consider seeing a therapist to help you figure out why. Read articles such as this one for tips on how to become a stronger parent.
Authoritative parenting is the ideal parenting style. If you’re this type of parent, you work hard at making sure your child has what he or she needs—including a positive relationship with you. However, unlike the permissive parent, you understand that a parent/child relationship is different from a friendship. While you enjoy spending time with your child, he or she has a proper respect for your authority.
Authoritative parents set reasonable, age-appropriate expectations for behavior and enforce consequences when necessary. Children with authoritative parents usually do well in school and their teachers find them respectful and considerate. Because you explain the reasons behind your rules, your child doesn’t feel driven to test them.
You validate your child’s experiences, and they know you are there to help them navigate any rough spots. This helps them grow into confident children who have learned how to make good choices. Kids raised with authoritative parents may still have issues to work through as they grow up, but they are better equipped to have a healthy mental attitude toward any challenges.
An authoritative parent is not afraid of their child’s anger. They allow their kids to express negative feelings and help them work through their problems. Kids with authoritative parents understand that there are consequences for bad behavior, but know that they are loved even while living out these consequences. Authoritative parents make use of reward systems and other positive discipline techniques.
You may be an authoritarian parent if your mantra is “Because I said so” or “My house, my rules”. If your default is always, “No!” without an explanation why, this might define your parenting style. You rarely see any good reason to bend your rules, or change them to meet your child’s needs. You expect obedience from your kids, and have little tolerance for compromise.
Children raised in authoritarian homes tend to feel unvalued because their opinions and viewpoints aren’t considered. They often become timid and anxious, or hostile and aggressive. Either of these extremes can make it hard to succeed in school and other relationships. Unfortunately, kids raised with authoritarian parents learn how to lie to avoid getting into trouble.
Authoritarian parents may automatically react out of anger—whether they intend to or not. Because these responses can be psychologically damaging for children and parents alike, you should seek counseling if you recognize these harsh behaviors in yourself. It’s never too late to learn how to become a more understanding parent.