There is always a lot of debate about how much ‘Nature’ versus ‘Nurture’ influences in raising happy, confident, well-balanced kids with great self esteem and strong mental health and I have written about this in more detail in my Raising Happy Children For Dummies book but there’s lots of research that shows there’s a big link between your parenting styles and the effects your style has on your kids.
Our parenting style can be one that we naturally are inclined to, or it can be influenced by the way we were brought up as children, or in many cases, with the parents I work with, it can be a reaction against the way you were brought up. But I think it’s helpful to at least be aware of your parenting style particularly as it needs to change during the toddler & teenage years when you need to become more flexible.
But one thing I believe kids of all ages need is firm, fair, consistent, loving discipline.
Here are the Four Parenting Styles – which one are you and do let me know how that style is impacting on your family happiness as I might be able to help you improve it.
Researchers have identified four types of parenting styles:
The Four Parenting Styles
In this style of parenting, children are expected to follow the strict rules established by you and failure to follow your rules usually results in a punishment or consequence of some sort.
Often I find that Authoritarian parents fail to explain the reasons behind their rules and if they are asked to explain, they often simply reply, “Because I said so.” Authoritarian parents have high demands and expectations, but they are not always very flexible in their parenting approach as they expect their orders to be obeyed without explanation which can cause friction and frustration in their children so arguments often erupt, particularly in the toddler and teenage years when children are striving for independence.
The children of authoritarian parents may:
- Act fearful or overly shy around others
- Associate obedience and success with love
- Conform easily, yet also experience depression and anxiety
- Display more aggressive behaviour toward others
- Display fewer prosocial behaviours
- Have difficulty in social situations due to a lack of social competence
- Have lower self-esteem
- Have more negative symptoms such as hyperactivity and conduct problems
- Struggle with self-control because they are rarely able to make choices and experience natural consequences
Like authoritarian parents, authoritative parents have rules and guidelines that their children are expected to follow but they are far more flexible and democratic.
Authoritative parents are in charge but they are more responsive to their children and willing to listen to their questions and explain why they have the rules that they have.
“If you eat sweets before your tea you won’t feel hungry and you need to eat a healthy meal first. Sweets are a treat.”
When children fail to meet the expectations, Authoritative parents are more nurturing and forgiving rather than punishing. They are assertive, but aren’t too harsh, judgmental, critical or too restrictive. Their disciplinary methods are supportive, rather than punitive.
Parents with this style want their children to learn to be confident as well as socially responsible, and they enjoy “talking and teaching” their children so they grow up learning to self-regulate as well as be cooperative.
This for me this is one of the best styles of parenting and where I help parents the most when I work with them.
Do any of these statements sound like you?
- You put a lot of effort into creating and maintaining a positive relationship with your child.
- You explain the reasons behind your rules.
- You enforce rules and give consequences, but take your child’s feelings into consideration.
If those statements sound familiar, you may be an authoritative parent. Authoritative parents have rules and they use consequences, but they also take their children’s opinions into account. They validate their children’s feelings, while also making it clear that the adults are ultimately in charge.
Authoritative parents invest time and energy into preventing behaviour problems before they start. They also use positive discipline strategies to reinforce positive behaviour, like praise and reward systems.
Children raised with authoritative discipline tend to be happy and successful. They’re also more likely to be good at making decisions and evaluating safety risks on their own.
Permissive parenting is a type of parenting style characterised by low demands with high responsiveness. Permissive parents tend to be very loving, yet provide few guidelines and rules and are sometimes referred to as indulgent parents, who make very few demands on their kids.
Permissive parents rarely discipline their kids because they have relatively low expectations of them and don’t expect their children to be able to do as they are told. They are nontraditional and lenient, and they don’t expect their kids to show mature behaviour, or be able to self-regulate, and these parents avoid confrontation.
These parents tend to be the polar opposite of the so-called “helicopter parents.” Instead of hovering over their children’s every move, permissive parents are incredibly lax and rarely make or enforce any type of rules or structure. Their motto is often simply that “kids will be kids.” While they are usually warm and loving, they make little or no attempt to control or discipline their kids and they often try to be their child’s friend rather than their parent and when I work them they are often exhausted !
Characteristics of Permissive Parenting
- Are usually very nurturing and loving towards their kids
- Ask their children’s opinions on major decisions
- Emphasise their children’s freedom rather than responsibility
- Have few rules or standards of behaviour, any rules they do have are inconsistent
- May use bribery such as toys, gifts, and food as a means to get a child to behave
- Often seem more like a friend, rather than a parent
- Provide little in the way of a schedule or structure
- Rarely enforce any type of consequences
Researchers have found that the overly relaxed approach to parenting exhibited by permissive parents can lead to a number of negative outcomes. Children raised by permissive parents tend to lack self-discipline, possess poor social skills, may be self-involved and demanding, and may feel insecure due to the lack of boundaries and guidance
An uninvolved parenting style is characterised by few demands, low responsiveness and little communication. While these parents fulfill their child’s basic needs, they are generally detached from their child’s life. In extreme cases, these parents may even reject or neglect the needs of their children and these are the parents who never seek out my advice.
Do any of these statements sound familiar?
- You don’t ask your child about school or homework.
- You rarely know where your child is or who she is with.
- You don’t spend much time with your child.
If those statements sound familiar, you might be an uninvolved parent. Uninvolved parents tend to have little knowledge of what their children are doing. There tend to be few rules. Children may not receive much guidance, nurturing, and parental attention.
The Impact of Parenting Styles
So what effect do these parenting styles have on a child’s development outcome?
Authoritarian parenting styles generally lead to children who are obedient and proficient, but they rank lower in happiness, social competence and self-esteem.
Authoritative parenting styles tend to result in children who are happy, capable and successful
Permissive parenting often results in children who rank low in happiness and self-regulation. These children are more likely to experience problems with authority and tend to perform poorly in school.
Uninvolved parenting styles rank lowest across all studies. These children tend to lack self-control, have low self-esteem and are less competent than their peers.
Why is it that authoritative parenting provides such advantages over other styles?
First, when children perceive their parents’ requests as fair and reasonable, they are more likely to comply with the requests. Secondly, children are more likely to internalise (or accept as their own) the reasons for behaving in a certain way and are therefore able to achieve greater self-control.
Why Do Parenting Styles Differ?
After learning about the impact of parenting styles on your child’s development, you may wonder why all parents don’t simply use the authoritative parenting style. After all, this parenting style is the most likely to produce happy, confident, capable, well balanced, positive, independent children.
There are lots of reasons why parenting styles vary but some of them include differences in culture, personality, family size, parental background, socioeconomic status, educational level, and religion.
Of course, the parenting styles of each individual parent combines to create a unique blend in each and every family. For example, the mum may display an authoritative style while the dad favours a more permissive approach and kids love to play one parent off against the other don’t they?
So the secret is to sing from the same song sheet in order to create a cohesive approach to parenting and it’s essential that you learn to cooperate as you combine your particular parenting styles, but don’t forget that your child’s personality and temperament can also play a major role in how this all works at home!
There is no universally “best” style of parenting – just yours but the bottom line is, in my opinion, that the authoritative style is generally linked to more positive, well behaved, happy children with strong self-esteem and self-competence.
Here’s a fun article I was asked to write for The Sun Newspaper about the Royals from Kate to Meghan and the Queen!