The 4 Types of Parenting Styles
Parenting Styles describe the way parents react and respond to their children. Generally, there are four different types of parenting styles. These are Authoritarian, permissive, authoritative, and uninvolved. A person’s style of parenting, in no way speaks about the level of love they have for their children. There are many parenting paths to choose from but for most parents the intended destination is the same – to raise their children to happy, healthy, self-sufficient, and successful adults.
It's My Way or the Highway: The Authoritarian Parent
“Children should be seen but not heard.” This quote undoubtedly came from an authoritarian parent. In short, authoritarian parents give the orders and children obey. There is no room for discussion, no choices to make, no questions to be answered. Authoritarian parents don’t feel a need to explain the rules or the reasons why they expect certain things from their children. Instead, everything is “because I said so.” Parents that use this style often have a strong need to be in control at all times and provide their children with little, if any, freedoms.
Typically, authoritarian parents hold their children to a very high level of achievement. They are highly demanding and less responsive to their children’s emotional needs. These parents tend to display lower levels of communication, focusing more on controlling the child. This parenting style is based on strict disciplinary rules and failure to follow these rules often results in harsh punishment.
Growing Up In Blind Obedience: Authoritarian Parented Children
Authoritarianism has its perks. These children often grow into obedient and responsible citizens. They are efficient, capable, and productive. This makes sense. After all, they are used to following the rules and learned quickly in childhood that rewards come through compliance and achievement. With parents who are constantly in control of them, however, children born into authoritarianism usually lack self-discipline. They typically have poor communication and social skills and often find it difficult to make decisions. Many children who grow up in an authoritarian family feel that their thoughts and opinions are unimportant. Some become openly defiant while others assume a submissive stance toward life in general.
Authoritarian parenting suppresses a child’s creativity and intellectual growth. This parenting style has been linked to low self-esteem in children and an inability to assume leadership roles later in life. Children quite often model behaviors that they see from their parents. Authoritarian parented children often seek to control others with demands and aggression. Lastly,the lack of communication between parent and child makes it difficult for these children to look to their parents for support and guidance. This can be dangers as these children quite often seek this guidance from outside sources, some of which are not so positive.
No Upset Child Left Behind: The Permissive Parent
Just opposite of the authoritarian is the permissive parent. These parents make relatively few demands on their children and often have lower expectations for self-control and maturity. Yes, this is the child you see running freely around the restaurant while you are trying to enjoy your meal and not one word is said to them. Permissive parents rarely discipline their children. They tend to be lenient and they allow considerable self-regulation. The overall goal of the permissive parent is to avoid confrontation as much as possible. The general thinking is that if children are allowed to regulate their own behavior, they will learn independence. Allowing children to run the show, however, actually has the opposite effect as parents begin to lose control completely to the permissively raised child.
Parents who are permissive in their parenting style are loving and nurturing, often making their children the center of their lives. They enjoy doing for their child to such a degree that they fail to teach the child how to do for themselves. Many permissive parents try to befriend their child, thinking that this is the way to build a good relationship. This places the child as an equal rather than providing the more appropriate parent-child dynamic that children need. To gain compliance from their children, Permissive parents will often rely on bribery rather than setting boundaries and expecting obedience. Permissive parents are often viewed by outsiders looking in as lazy or even neglectful. The fact is, however, that most of these parents hold false beliefs that lead them to parent in this way. Some of these false beliefs might be:
- If I don’t do what my child wants they won’t love me.
- Going along with what my children want will ensure that they love me.
- I can avoid problems with my child if I give them what they want.
- A good way to resolve conflict is to give in.
- Giving in to my children lets them know they are important to me.
- I don’t want to be authoritarian so the only other choice is to be permissive.
The truth of the matter is that children love unconditionally. Imposing limits and creating guidelines for acceptable behavior will not cause your child to hate you. In fact, rules and boundaries are a healthy way to teach children self-control and respect for authority.
Hey, Who’s Running This Show Anyway? Permissively Parented Children
Children who are raised using this style of parenting tend to feel insecure and very dependent. They were not given direction or routine as a child and, therefore, have difficulty approaching the world with confidence. They typically lack a sense of responsibility and remain immature in their thinking. “Acting out” is typical which often leads to trouble in school and poor school performance.
This style of parenting allows freedom without limits, producing children who are used to getting their way. But life outside of their home is vastly different, and these children often become frustrated when the world does not permit them to have their way. Permissively raised children often lack self-control since they rarely, if ever, had a need for it. Though well intentioned, permissive parents protect these children to such a degree that they are often robbed of the chance to learn valuable coping skills that will carry them through life.
Parenting Styles At a Glance
Highly demanding, but not responsive
Consults with the child too much about decisions and give too many explanations for family rules.
Are approachable, reasonable, and flexible.
Not demanding or responsive
Values obedience and does not encourage give and take
Often passive, weak, inconsistent, and yielding
Attempts to direct the child’s activities and behavior but in a rational manner.
Dismissive, indifferent, or even neglectful to children
Attempts to control to an absolute standard
Allows the child to regulate his own activities/behaviors as much as possible.
Power Is shared between parents and child but parent makes final decisions
Have no expectations for their child's behavior and show little affection
Emphasizes strict family rules
Doesn’t ask the child to clean or take on many household responsibilities.
Parents exert firm control but not overly restrictive.
Often fail to supervise their children
Frequently uncompromising, strict, and repressive
Often resorts to bribery to gain compliance and good behavior
Parents use reason as well as power to achieve parenting goals.
Often prioritizes their own needs above the needs of their child
So, What's Your Parenting Style?
I Care, Therefore, I Limit: The Authoritative Parent
This style of parenting is both responsive and demanding. Authoritative parents allow enough freedom of expression for the development of independence and are assertive enough to maintain authority and stay in control. They expect mature behavior from their children and tend to discipline in a supportive rather than punitive manner.
Authoritative parenting is about balance. These parents believe in developing a close relationship with their children through nurturing while also maintaining a reasonably high level of expectations. The rules in an authoritative household are clear, age appropriate, and fair. There is a consistency that other parenting styles typically lack. Authoritative parents are good listeners and view the bond with their child as a two-way relationship. These parents are not, however, pushovers and though children are often encouraged to express their feelings, the final decision is always the parents. Authoritative parents view themselves as role-models for their children. They acknowledge their imperfections and will even apologize to their children if a situation warrants it.
The Balancing Act: Children Raised By Authoritative Parents
Research suggests that children raised by authoritative parents are better adjusted than those raised under other parenting styles. They rank higher in social competence and are seen to have higher levels of self-esteem, maturity, and self control. These children learn in childhood to problem solve, make healthy decisions, and function in a structured environment.
Authoritative parenting is not without its downfalls, however. This style of parenting often requires a high degree of patience and periodic review to keep up with children who are growing so quickly. These children often know what is expected of them and are free to ask questions and voice opinions. This can be difficult for some parents who may not always have the answers or real justifications for their actions. The rewards of authoritative parenting are often worth the work, however, as these children learn responsibility and typically obey parents out of respect rather than fear of punishment.
What Kids? The Uninvolved Parent
The uninvolved parent makes very few, if any, demands of their children. They are often dismissive or even neglectful. These parents may provide clothing, food and shelter but they are not involved in their children’s lives. This does not necessarily mean that there are no household rules and guidelines but any limits set are pretty basic.
Uninvolved parents have little to no expectations for behavior, show little affection, and may even intentionally avoid the child. They often fail to supervise their children and are usually emotionally distant. Though it may be difficult for some to believe, being an uninvolved parent does not necessarily mean you do not love your child. Many of these parents are too overwhelmed by their own problems to deal with their children. They are often experiencing financial, emotional, or social stress. Many are involved with drug and alcohol abuse, creating situations in which the child must parent the parent. Others may be suffering from depression or emotional detachment. Uninvolved parents are often so involved with their own needs and issues that they do not even realize they are not providing the emotional support their children need. Even if they do realize that they are not engaged with their children, they continue to prioritize their own needs above the needs of their child.
The Uninvolved Parented Child
Children whose parents are uninvolved tend to have a harder time forming attachments to people later in life. This often includes their own children. This particular parenting style is easily inherited from one generation to the next as these children grow to repeat the same patterns they were raised with. These children often feel that they are unimportant and their parents do not care about them, giving way to low self-esteem. School performance is typically poor and social skills lacking. These children are more likely to be aggressive and have behavioral problems. They are often defiant to authority figures. In addition, they often struggle with drug and alcohol abuse.
A Final Note
Parenting is complicated and every child is unique. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula to ensure your child will grow into a happy and successful adult. Knowledge of the different parenting styles and the outcomes associated with each can be helpful in deciding what style you would like to adopt with your child. It is important to remember, however, that these are likelihoods based on research and statistics. These are not certainties. Once personalities and temperaments are added to the equation, individual outcomes are not so predictable. Add in the dynamics of co-parenting, particularly with two parents who do not share the same parenting style or philosophy, and the ability to predict outcomes becomes even more difficult. Ultimately, you must do what works for you and your family. Don’t force yourself to stick to one parenting style if it is not working for you. The best families are happy families. Allow this principle to be your guide in deciding what style of parenting is right for you.