Styles of Parenting

Parenting is hard work. Perhaps one of the greatest challenges parents face is getting children to do what they want them to do, and to stop doing what they want them to stop doing, all in a way the maintains a good relationship. Does how we go about parenting matter? Or does the end justify any means?

The Effective Parenting episode discussed some parenting styles noted by scholars. Here’s the four that are commonly discussed.

Coercive Parenting: This parenting style is characterized by hostility; such a parent derides, demeans, or diminishes children and teens by continually putting them in their place, putting them down, mocking them, or holding power over them via punitive or psychologically controlling means.

Permissive Parenting: This parenting style indulges children in their every whim and desire or neglects children by leaving them to their own devices.

Indifferent Parenting: This style of parenting consists of being emotionally detached and withdrawn, making few or no demands on the child, and is fairly indifferent to the child’s decision making and point of view.

Authoritative Parenting: This parenting style fosters a positive emotional connection with children, provides for control that places fair and consistent limits on child behavior, and allows for reasonable child autonomy in decision-making.

Parenting Styles: An Example

Let’s take a look at how a parent using each of these parenting styles would handle a common parenting challenge: teenage curfews. In the coercive style, a parent might provide an extreme penalty for a slight infraction, not listen to the child’s explanation of extenuating circumstances, and regard the rule as more important than the specific needs of the child. In a permissive home, the teen may or may not have a curfew and it would be rarely enforced. Infractions of the curfew might be met with either high frustration or with no attention at all. In permissive homes, parents are often nervous about confrontation and will do anything to keep the peace. In the uninvolved home, a curfew might not exist, or a parent might show indifference to whenever a child returns home, (i.e., “whatever!”). Thus, at times, infractions are openly tolerated. In an authoritative home, the teen would know the expectations regarding curfew, would have discussed the rules and the reasons for them with parents in advance and even provided some input about reasonableness of the standards. If the teen is delayed and calls the parents, they would find a listening ear. These parents would set reasonable consequences for a teen that breaks the rule and would have the courage to follow-through.

General Outcomes for Each Parenting Style

Scholarly research has been conducted to measure outcomes typical of each parenting style. Bear in mind that these are generalized findings, but do not take into account individual situations. In each family, many variables come into play that may mediate these outcomes, such as the child’s personality and how intensely and consistently the parenting style was used. In considering the following table, it is more helpful looking forward to recognize how authoritative parenting can assist children’s growth and development in the family, rather than looking back to feel resentment or guilt for past parenting mistakes. Thus, in general, the researched outcomes to each type of parenting in childhood and teen years can be summarized in the following chart.

Authoritative Upbeat mood; high self- esteem; self control; task persistence and cooperativeness High self-esteem, social and moral maturity, and academic achievement
Coercive Anxious, withdrawn, and unhappy mood; hostile when frustrated Less well-adjusted than authoritative; but better school performance than permissive or uninvolved
Permissive Impulsive, disobedient, and rebellious; demanding and dependent on adults; poor persistence at tasks Poor self-control and school performance; defiance and antisocial behavior
Uninvolved Deficits in attachment, cognition, play, and emotional and social skills Poor emotional self-regulation; lower school performance and social skills; antisocial behavior

Consider Your Parenting

As you consider these styles of parenting, remember there are no perfect parents, and most parents may spend some time using each of these approaches, even during the same day! The important factor here is the dominant pattern parents adopt. All parents can improve their parenting toward a more authoritative style.

Think about the parenting styles that your parents or another parent that you admired used in their family. Reflect on how you think it affected their children and what might happen as a result in future generations. Use the following scenario to help you think about this topic:

Imagine an attic where we may keep many things, some of them valuable. Sometimes, however, we discover some items that are just junk and we need to dispose of them. As you reflect on your parents’ parenting styles, consider what they did that was effective and what was not so effective. What would you like to keep and what would you throw away, like junk from an attic?

Now think about your own parenting. What approaches would you like to pass on through your children?

For Further Reading:

Between Parent and Child
by Haim Ginnott

Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child
by John Gottman

Additional Websites

Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service Website – Parenting Journey