What’s the first rule of life? Read the directions.
If only it were that easy for parents.
Starting an endeavor by first simply reading the directions can be taken for granted. In fact, many complications and stress in life are often created when people rush through things, don’t pay enough attention, or are overly confident.
With parenting, you can throw the non-existent instruction manual out the proverbial window. Moms and dads have to rely on advice from trusted friends, family, and professionals as well as their own instincts. There is no right or wrong way. There is only their way — what’s right for them and their child.
Parents are always fine-tuning methods for raising their children, often using their own trial and error. Fortunately, science can help guide the way. This includes highlighting the types of parenting styles moms and dads implement as they grow in their roles.
What kind of parent are you/will you be?
Will you be strict? Will you be laidback? Will your kids have an early curfew or will you let it be open-ended? People who once were rebellious, carefree youngsters themselves often turn into anxious, deliberate adults as they become solely responsible for the safety and wellbeing of another life. How moms and dads choose to parent, whether consciously or subconsciously, ultimately influences who their children become.
The four types of parenting styles include Authoritative, Permissive, Uninvolved, and Authoritarian. Each style focuses on achieving a specific goal and comes with its own pros and cons. While the types of parenting styles typically align with the personality of each individual mom and dad, parents often utilize a different one or even a blend of them over time to adapt to the changing needs of the family and relationships.
Why is knowing types of parenting styles so important?
Psychology has been studying parenting styles since the 1960s when Diana Baumrind (developmental psychologist at UC-Berkeley) named and defined 3 styles of parenting, authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive. We now have added an additional style, uninvolved. As a parent, it is important to consciously know which style is best to use and what behaviors in any given situation you need to employ as it has an enormous impact on the parent-child relationship and your child’s neurological development and interpersonal behaviors.
What are the differences in the 4 types of parenting styles?
Parenting styles are a combination of strategies used by caregivers/parents to raise their children. The behaviors parents do are situation-specific and child-specific choices and may be flexible. Each action includes thinking about what framework you want to approach when working with your child, as well as what you are wanting the child to learn.
The four styles:
- Authoritarian – the stricter style of parenting with the goal of teaching obedience.
- Permissive – sometimes seen as indulgent as it has few rules with the goal of challenging the child’s creativity and formulation of individual opinions.
- Uninvolved – sometimes seen as neglectful or called a “free-range” style as it has the least interaction by the parent with the child so that children have as much freedom as possible in order to learn self-reliance and independence.
- Authoritative – also called democratic or a “helicopter” style as it focuses on clear rules that engage the child intellectually while also balancing nurture and care. The goal is to teach balance, responsibility, and values.
What is the difference between parenting style and parenting behavior?
Parenting practices fluctuate throughout your life as a parent. Various aspects, like values, visions, and your own childhood experiences, impact when to employ which behavior within your preferred style is best per child and per situation. Since so many factors impact your child’s development and families typically have more than one child, it is most important to actively choose parenting behaviors before you respond as a parent. There are 2 types of parenting behavior.
Demanding behaviors are the extent to which a parent works toward directing their child’s behavior and guiding their child’s level of maturity.
Responsive behaviors are the extent to which a parent accepts and is sensitive to their child’s developmental and emotional needs.
So, consider your parenting behaviors on a spectrum of low to high in regard to how much you are responding/engaging and how much you are demanding/instructing your child. The joining of parenting styles with parenting behaviors results in a range of choices.
- Authoritative – high demand; high response
- Authoritarian – high demand; low response
- Permissive – low demand, high response.
- Uninvolved – low demand; low response.
How do I determine what style is a good fit for me? And, for my co-parent?
First, it is important to ask yourself a few questions, such as:
- Who do I see myself as an individual and as a parent? Take an honest look at your personality and your current daily capabilities and resources. Recall your behaviors of the recent past – are you more interactive, insistent, patient, or some other way?
- What are my goals as a parent that I want to impart to my children? Prioritize the values you see as most important in daily life. For example, respect, trust, honesty, citizenship, independence, reliability, care, consideration, creativity, problem-solving, and compassion.
- What kind of parent do I want to be? Reflect upon how you experienced your childhood and identify behaviors you want to retain, review, adjust, or discard.
- How do I want to be seen by others? Imagine the future with your children at various ages interacting in ways you are proud of, embarrassed by, and indifferent about. Now imagine the headlines in the next day’s lead new story that focuses on your behaviors as a parent in response to your emotional experiences.
Second, be mindful of your child’s individual needs, developmentally and situationally. Each developmental level provides the infant, toddler, child, teen, and young adult an opportunity to learn a new skill as well as the parents an opportunity to engage with their child in a unique way.
For example, toddlers learn independence by venturing out into a different room in their home. They learn to exist without your watchful eye and you learn to trust them for increasing seconds at a time. Whereas, teenagers extend this independence by learning to drive, challenging rules, and keeping secrets from you. During the adolescent growth period, parents are charged with a new level of trust – Did I teach my child the values I intended to instill?
And, finally, we need to also consider when parents employ differing styles. Broadly, different perspectives can enhance the development of children as it pushes the child to make mental sense of a more complicated social environment. It is important to coordinate as co-parents instead of competing or judge one as right or wrong.
Remaining in competition or judgment of another parent’s style and their behaviors is detrimental to a child’s development. Therefore, a positive maturing environment is possible when one parent is a bit more restrictive and the other more nurturing because both of the child’s needs – clear expectations and emotional support – are simultaneously present since the parents are joined in modeling that the two styles can coexist.
Here is an important clue: consistent reflection on one’s parenting approach may be valuable, but it is not the only influencing aspect as discussed above in guiding how a child perceives and interacts with their world. Research has shown that mixed parental styles can be effective and may not be harmful in some situations.
It has also shown that having a flexible parenting style is possible by slighting adjusting your parenting behaviors. Situations do arise when an ill teenage needs more emotional nurturing in a home when the same teenager, physically well, has responded positively to the passive parenting behavior of allowing self-guided play in their room.
How do these styles and my behaviors then impact my child’s development?
Various aspects of life have been shown to influence our children’s maturity, personality, and capability. These aspects include:
- genetic influences,
- social environment,
- parental income level,
- parental education level,
- the number of active/engaged parental figures, and
- the developmental and/or physical needs of the child.
Although you may have little control over any one of or some of these aspects in your current life, like the genetic influences of ADHD or addiction, you do have choices in the parental behaviors used to address all of them.
For example, when parents impulsively react to their child’s behaviors then the child reacts as well and does not learn impulse control. However, the opposite reaction of being passive in your behavior has a significant likelihood of resulting in either a depressed or overactive child. Therefore, the goal is for parents to work toward being responsive to their child’s needs, not reactive, and to instill interactive, open communication with their co-parent and their children.
It is important to note that traditional Chinese, Korean, and Spanish parenting behaviors present with unique significant cultural influences and may not align as clearly in these homes as discussed herein.
How do my parenting choices affect my teenagers?
Psychological research has shown specific impacts for our adolescents based on a parent’s style and behavior. Here are a few results to consider when determining your parenting behaviors.
- Caucasian teens tend to have a higher academic performance when parents are also involved in the school environment. Being present and engaged in your teen’s school environment in some way shows them just how much you value where they spend their day.
- Yet, for Caucasian teens, higher academic performance or their engagement in school requirements are not enhanced when parents encourage their teens to score higher grades. Together, this says they typically are more invested when they know you’re there, not when you hover or insist.
- For the Hispanic population, parental school engagement does encourage their teens to be engaged in school requirements. So, Hispanic teens are more likely to get involved in academic responsibilities and extracurricular activities when parents show interest in their teen’s school life.
- For Asian American teenagers, parental encouragement positively impacts teens’ academic performance. These teens just need to experience consistent interest and support from their parents to receive the needed motivation to invest in their school responsibilities.
Therefore, parents’ engagement with their teens’ academic life has shown to be most influential in the Asian American and Hispanic American communities. Adolescents in the African American and Caucasian communities are influenced more by the aspects discussed earlier, such as their home environment, peer interactions, emotional support, and joined parental engagement.
How does each parenting style discipline their children when they misbehave?
Discipline is a parenting behavior. So, look at how each addresses misbehavior by how much you need to be engaged with your child and how much you will demand from your child. A minor adjustment in your behavior will guide your decision.
- Authoritarian parents hold importance in their children as obedient. Punishing behaviors are the “go-to” choice. Children are expected to meet their parents’ demands without question. It is a “do as I say now!” parenting behavior. Consistent high demanding and low engagement parenting behaviors present as rigid rules and very little quality time, and possibility in the least as loud voices, finger-pointing, and intimidating eye contact. It can provide necessary tight structure when used sparingly and on an intermittent basis for unique situations.
- Permissive parents are present and interested, just less likely to make demands as they focus on implementing rules to assure physical safety. Their aim is to enhance creativity and value individual opinions. Discipline appears lenient, almost negotiable. It is a “you may want to do that differently” gentle nudging parenting behavior. Like the authoritarian style, it can be used effectively when used in situations where the child’s creative perspective can flourish.
- Uninvolved parents appear neglectful to other parents because of their intentional disengagement. Freedom to learn self-reliance and independence is believed to occur when the child can learn without parental input. The child does not hear judgment through a “do it this way” or “you’re doing it wrong” response and the child does not hear acknowledgment of their accomplishment either. Children with consistently uninvolved parents have been shown to have higher rates of delinquency, depression, addiction, and/or poor interpersonal skills. It is experienced as a “don’t care” parenting behavior by the children. Again, there are moments in a child’s life when a parent’s low engagement and low demand behaviors are valuable, such as when a toddler is exploring their playroom, when a child is playing with a video game for the first time, or when your teenager is trying out their talents in the arts because each of these experiences
- Authoritative has been identified as the preferred parenting style. It calls parents to be consistent, interactive and engaged with their children. Discipline is a balance of care and consistent expectations because the goal is to teach children how to balance their responsibilities and the values taught in the home. It is a “this is the rule, and this is why” parenting behavior. It is a responsive, not reactive, set of behaviors. Although this home environment has general rules and expectations about respect for self, others, and responsibilities in the home, it is also having the ability to be flexible when implementing rules. Different rules and expectations are set based on age, ability, and responsiveness. Children have real-time learning experiences of structure with flexibility, a needed adult-world skill., and parents are challenged to simultaneously engage with the children intellectually and emotionally.
Therefore, it is more important to make a conscious decision based on your evaluation of the event, situation, and the child’s personality along with what you are willing to also implement because when a parent disciplines their child they also experience the impacts of that discipline. Remember, what do you imagine the media headlines to say the next day about your behavior?
How would I know if my parenting style is not a good fit for my family?
Other unique aspects, like your child’s prenatal condition, early age temperament, physical and mental health diagnoses, and unusual stressful life events can have a cyclic interaction that will alter the general information presented here. This is why it is important to be open to adjusting your parenting style to include a blending of the two parenting behavior types discussed herein. Please also consider the following reflective questions as unique aspects that may support seeking professional guidance:
- Is your home environment chaotic?
- Are your children not responding to your consistent parenting behaviors in the way you expect them to?
- Are you hearing reports from other environments that your children are engaged with, like school or extended family or peers’ homes, behaving differently than at home with you?
- Are you overwhelmed or confused or distressed when you reflect on your parenting behaviors?
And, if you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, we strongly encourage you to contact a professional experienced in child development and parenting issues.
What else should you know about parenting styles?
Watch two videos of family and marriage therapist Susan Harrington, founder of Maison Vie New Orleans, where in the first one she discusses the four types of parenting styles and how to find what is right for you and your child. In the second segment, Susan shares how each style differently affects children. You can also contact Maison Vie to see how Susan can help guide you through counseling sessions.