Skip to main content

The 4 Types of Parenting Styles

I am a master's-level social worker with experience ranging from therapeutic services with children and families to medical care.

Learn about the four different styles of parenting.

Learn about the four different styles of parenting.

4 Different Styles of Parenting

Parenting styles describe the way parents react and respond to their children. Generally, there are four different types of parenting styles: authoritarian, permissive, authoritative, and uninvolved.

A person’s style of parenting in no way speaks about the amount of love they have for their children. No matter which style they choose, for most parents, the intended destination is the same—to raise children to be happy, healthy, self-sufficient, and successful adults.

4 Parenting Styles

Below, each of these four parenting styles is discussed in depth.


Highly demanding, but not responsive

Consults with the child too much about decisions and offers too many exceptions of family rules

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 their own activities/behaviors

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 up or take on many household responsibilities

Parents exert firm control but are 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

The Authoritarian Parent: "It's My Way or the Highway"

“Children should be seen but not heard.” This quote undoubtedly came from an authoritarian parent. In short, authoritarian parents give orders, and children are expected to 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.”

The Authoritarian Parenting Style

  • Parents who use this style often have a strong need to be in control at all times.
  • They may provide their children with little freedom, if any.
  • 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.
  • A failure to follow these rules often results in harsh punishment.

The Pros and Cons of Authoritarian Parenting

Pros: 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.

Cons: 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 towards 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 often model behaviors that they see in 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 dangerous, as these children quite often seek this guidance from outside sources, some of which are not so positive.

An authoritarian parent believes that children should be seen but not heard.

An authoritarian parent believes that children should be seen but not heard.

The Permissive Parent: Freedom to Fail Forever

Just opposite of the authoritarian is the permissive parent. These parents make relatively few demands of 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 all control of the permissively raised child.

The Permissive Parenting Style

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 children, 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 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:

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Wehavekids

  • 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.

The Pros and Cons of Permissive Parenting

Children who are raised using this style of parenting tend to feel insecure and 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.

The Authoritative Parent: "I Care, Therefore, I Limit"

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.

The Authoritative Parenting Style

Authoritative parenting is about balance. These parents believe in developing a close and nurturing relationship with their children while also maintaining reasonably high 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 although 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.

An authoritative parent sets rules and limits because they care.

An authoritative parent sets rules and limits because they care.

The Pros and Cons of Authoritative Parenting

Pros: 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.

Cons: 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 grow 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.

The Uninvolved Parent: "What Kids?"

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 but any limits set are pretty basic.

The Uninvolved Parenting Style

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 issues 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 Pros and Cons of Uninvolved Parenting

  • 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.

No Parenting Guarantees

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 your family needs and 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.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Doreen Peck on March 29, 2019:

I think all four styles are linked in raising up a child but sometimes decisions as to be made as a parent outside of these life styles that help to guide and nurture your child/children's behaviour .So for me there is no magic formular to bring up our children. We just have to try everything and pray all work out to be the best with God's guidance and love

Carol on July 31, 2017:

I have had strict rules. I taught my children to take responsibility and why it was important to work,save part of your money etc. I loved my children to bring their friends here. They were taken to church, not sent there, and with no penalties if they chose to stay home once in awhile.They were encouraged to make their own decisions when they were little. However, as a mother I lost me somewhere along the way.I gave a great deal of me to my children and grandchildren.They were not spoiled or catered to. I just loved them with all my heart and I did not get into their lives or tell them they had to do what I wanted or give opinions. I have a daughter who has lied and stolen from me, gone against all I prayed she would be. She is highly intelligent,talented,pretty and has been given every opportunity to have an education. She is a hard worker and enjoys her work. However, she hates her family and has nothing to do with us.She left her religion to become a Moslem, which we have been heartbroken inside, but respectful of her decision. It has made no difference. I adore her children but she has been a abusive mother to them. She rarely speaks to her children now they are adults.. I have another daughter who has married into a great deal of money. We have a nice home and regularly complimented on it.We love them and we show it. However, this daughter and her new family treat us as if we are not smart enough to tie our own shoes. She is mean to the rest of us "unworthies" and regularly tells her children lies about us.

I have some loving grandchildren from these daughters who contact us often and are loving and kind..

I have often told my children that I am not perfect, no parent is, but I do my best to give them the best start in life I can.

So people, your parents aren't perfect.. neither are you. One day I hope your children give you just one month of what you give them because they are not perfect. If they fed, clothed you, hugged you and educated you, taught you right from wrong you are among a favored few. If you were locked in a closest, denied food, and all else necessary to survive then I will listen to you. When you reach 21 you are old enough to overlook the bad behavior of family who love you, though they are not perfect. Love the part of them who tried hard to do the best they could with what they knew and understood.It is all about growing up able to forgive when you don't have to forget. Your inability to forgive is teaching your children to do the same.

My mother told me when I was bullied by a group of girls,"Do you want to be like them?" I said no. She replied"Then don't say bad things to them or hit them back, If you do you are bad as they are.This is not about you, you are fine as you can be. It is about them,because something is missing in them that they want to hurt you. Don't let them decide who you are. You be the best you you can be.Treat them well and they will have nothing to say or do." "Pray" for the strength to do what is right. I won't hurt you but you may find out they aren't as bad as what your imperfect mind has decided to make them.

Rose Ann San Pascual on April 12, 2017:

This page is great but I've never encountered mixture of parenting styles practiced by the parents what could be the possible effects of it to their child's social behavior?

peachy from Home Sweet Home on December 18, 2014:

kids don't like to be interfere now. Even a 7 yr old has his own opinion and goes against parents advice or guidance. Its hard to teach them since they can't accept our teaching

SharonBallantine on November 29, 2014:

I believe that most parents will use a mixture of parenting styles depending on what is going on in their lives.

For example when we are feeling overly stressed, it can be easy to slip into Authoritarian, Permissive, or even Uninvolved styles. And there are times and situations when each of these styles may be appropriate.

The Authoritative style is a true collaboration between parent and child. Like all collaborations this can be both challenging and rewarding. It frequently is not the way to get the fastest results, but it will pay great dividends in the long run.

One of the best parts about this style is when we teach our children about their Internal Guidance System and how to use it. This will allow them to become independent and make many of their own decisions, without the negative associations of the permissive style of parenting.

ChrisslaR on October 21, 2014:

Very well written. I'm trying to be an authoritative parent, but haven't been one for get long so I'm still learning.

Raine Law Yuen from Cape Town on June 11, 2014:

I loved reading this article. Very well written.

Amie Butchko from Warwick, NY on March 20, 2014:

What an amazing and well written hub. You really made me think here, about my own parenting and the parenting of others I know. I think there are certainly in-betweens in each of these styles, but I think it is useful for every parent to know the four types of parenting and which they most closely fall into. It is a difficult job; but one which is ever so important!

peachy from Home Sweet Home on January 12, 2014:

great hub. I am the type being control by my kids instead

LQWILLIams (author) on March 03, 2013:

Thank you for reading and commenting. I also strive to be authoritative but fear I am much too permissive sometimes.

mudpiemagnet on March 03, 2013:

I found this hub interesting and helpful- I think I tend to combine all the different parenting styles, really, and my natural tendency is to slide into being too permissive. But my goal is to be the authoritative parent. Easier said than done, most days, but always something to be striving towards.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on January 21, 2013:

I love reading yr hub. Lots of parenting style which i never knew. I used the Authoritative parenting style. Easier to communicate with the kids with less argument. Voted interesting

LQWILLIams (author) on January 03, 2013:

Thank you so much for reading and commenting

Sarah Carlsley from Minnesota on January 03, 2013:

Interesting hub here. I see myself as an authoritative - seems to be a happy median.

LQWILLIams (author) on December 13, 2012:

Thank you for reading and commenting

thefamilybaker from Philippines on December 13, 2012:

This hub is very informative and enlightening! thank you very much for sharing.

sonicexperience from United States on September 21, 2012:

So true! One of my co workers literally lets her five year old put her in time out if she "does something she's not supposed to," like says a curse word around him. Everything you said about permissive parenting matches her entirely.

Related Articles