By Aseda Ghartey-Tagoe and Nicole Goren

Parenting styles can vary greatly. As we have seen from personal experience, and read about in class, it is very obvious hat there are many different and successful ways of raising a child. Parenting styles are defined as parental mindsets and actions to which children then react and develop relationships. The most basic four categories are authoritative parents, authoritarian parents, permissive parents, and reject-neglecting parents. Authoritative parents, as we have seen, are the most common amongst our peers: that is people who are all high achieving and highly driven children. These parents tend to expect a lot from their children while responding to children’s needs in an appropriate manner. Rejecting-neglecting parents are the least common among our peers. These parents tend to not be there for their children and not have many demands, if any at all. The two middle ground parents are quite opposite but just as apparent among our society: permissive and authoritarian. Permissive parents tend to “baby” their children: they allow them to get away with a lot without many expectations at all. Authoritarian parents are quite the opposite, they tend to have a dictator like relationship with their child: high expectations with little to no response.

Both of us have authoritative parents. I think there is a reason this is most common. It is clearly the most effective way to raise a high achieving and motivated child. From early on we learned that in order to get what you want you have to work for it, but within reason. If we wanted to get that new toy, we had to pull our part in order to get it, either by doing chores or doing well in school. Our parents did not expect us to do things we were not capable of: they did not expect us to get A+ on every assignment we ever turned in, but instead they urged us to try our hardest and knew we were giving our all. It became a relationship of trust: we knew what we had to do in order to succeed and they rewarded us when we did. Authoritative parents use operant conditioning in order to push their children to their highest achievement level. All throughout we knew, even when we got annoyed as all children do, that our parents were pushing us for our own benefit. We learned the good feelings that came with trying our best and felt the disappointment and self-shame inflicted when we did not perform. It was this balance of relationship that taught us to always try and succeed.

Thus it is not absurd that most of my fellow classmates had very similar experiences. Because we were all taught that when the going gets tough the tough gets going, we all learned to always try our best. We learned that success is not granted to you but something you must work for. Thus at a top university like Vanderbilt, we all at some point had to learn this lesson and thanks to our parents we did.

Parenting styles have a clear and lasting impact on the development of a relationship between children and their siblings. As stated earlier, in our experience the most commonly observed parenting style among our peers is the authoritative style- where the parents set high expectations for their children, yet fully support them and provide every resource necessary for success. While most of these parents try to provide the same opportunities to each of their children, some discrepancies tend to appear. If you were to ask an individual in a family of multiple children if their parents had a favorite child, their response would most likely be yes.

Presumed favoritism of a sibling affects the relationships of the siblings in a family. Siblings can positively influence each other’s development by offering emotional and social support as they take care of one another, show each other affection, and even offer a positive sense of rivalry. This positive rivalry emerges when brothers and sisters attempt to match each other’s grades or athletic achievements. For example, we both have at least one older sibling. After seeing their success with the college process, as they attended schools like Rice, Columbia, UCLA, and Michigan, we urged ourselves to gain acceptances to top tier schools as well. Our efforts were not the result of contempt, as our brothers and sisters encouraged us to do well, but of an innocent subconscious jealousy and desire to prove to our parents that we too could be successful.

The way that parents interact with individual children affects the interactions of siblings as well. If a sibling believes that there is favoritism involved in their family, a more hostile form of competition can emerge. Individual children can influence parenting behaviors. For example, studies find that the more attractive a child is, the more likely parents are to respond positively. Further, the temperament of a child affects their parents’ response to him or her. If someone is generally angry, cold, and introverted while their sister is warm, friendly, and congenial, it is more likely that his parents will flock to the sister. While it can be argued that the unreceptive sibling pushed his parents away, from his perspective, it will just seem as if his parents love his sister more. Further, studies show that fathers often spend more time with their sons while mothers seek out time with their daughters. This undoubtedly, influences sibling interaction. If both parents are present and active in the home, the effects can be more scarcely felt. However, in the household of a single parent- for example a single mother, the son may believe that the daughter is favored and thus, begin to resent his sister.

The effects of favoritism can have enduring detrimental effects on sibling relations. My mom was perceived as the favorite child in her family by her two brothers and two sisters. They were raised by a single mother, and were each given the same opportunities in their adolescence as they were each sent to the best elementary, middle and high schools and given the tools necessary for success. However, my mom’s siblings have verbalized their belief that their mother loved her more and that my mom’s current successful lifestyle is a result of this. My mom denies the favoritism and an onlooker would not find any favoritism either. However, the damage has been done, as perception has been reality for her brothers and sisters.

To prevent this sort of sibling conflict or stunted adolescent development, it is important that parents set consistent expectations for their children. In addition, parents should keep in mind the limitations of each child and offer generous praise for their accomplishments.

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