By Bianca Mgbemere and Rachel Telles
In psychology today, there are four major recognized parenting styles: authoritative, neglectful, permissive, and authoritarian. Each one carries different characteristics and brings about different reactions in the children which they are used on. It is important to keep in mind that every parent child relationship is different, so there is not one sure fire way to go about parenting. This is a simple guide to help decode your parenting style and provide general suggestions on how to raise a happy, responsible, productive member of society.
Authoritative parenting is widely regarded as the most effective and beneficial parenting style for normal children. Authoritative parents are easy to recognize, as they are marked by the high expectations that they have of their children, but temper these expectations with understanding a support for their children as well. This type of parenting creates the healthiest environment for a growing child, and helps to foster a productive relationship between parent and child.
How to recognize if you are an authoritative parent:
· Does your child’s day have structure to it, such as a planned bedtime and understood household rules?
· Are there consequences for disrupting this structure or breaking the household rules?
· Does your child understand the expectations that you have for their behavior, and are these expectations reasonable?
· Do you have a healthy and open line of communication with your child? That is, does your child feel that they can speak to you about anything without fear of negative consequence or harsh judgment?
The traits described in the above questions mark a healthy household with an authoritative parent. Of course, parenting styles will naturally need to differ in order to accommodate different children, and you may find that this style does not work for you if your child has behavioral problems or other traits you have difficulty handling. In this case, it is best to adjust your parenting appropriately, and to seek out help from a licensed therapist if you feel overwhelmed.
One of the most important traits to emulate in the authoritative parenting style is the open communication style with the child. If a parent can foster the ability to speak to their child without judgment or reprimand, they will be more likely to have insight into the child’s life and understanding, providing the child with a deeper understanding of the world around them.
Neglectful parenting is one of the most harmful styles of parenting that can be used on a child. Neglectful parenting is unlike the other styles in that parents rarely fluctuate naturally into neglectful parenting as a response to child behavior. If a parent recognizes themselves as a neglectful parent, or if a friend recognizes that they may know a neglectful parent, it is important to understand that those parents (and the children involved in the situation) need assistance so that they can get back on track to having a healthy and communicative relationship within the family.
If you suspect you or a friend may be a neglectful parent, consider the following:
· Do you care for your child’s needs—emotional, physical, and otherwise?
· Do you have an understanding of what is going on in your child’s life?
· Does the home provide a safe space for the child where they can share their experiences and expect positive feedback rather than negative or no feedback?
· Do you spend long periods of time away from home, leaving the child alone?
· Do you often find yourself making excuses for not being there for your child?
· Do you know your child’s friends? Teachers?
· Are you involved in your child’s life outside the home?
If the above describe you or someone that you know, a child is at risk of being damaged by a neglectful household. Parents who tend towards neglectful parenting styles can be easily helped through education; this education can be found by talking to the family doctor, or going to a therapist or counselor.
Neglectful parenting is damaging to children, because they have no trust foundation with their parents from which to explore the world. Beyond that, children who have a negative or absent relationship with their parent will have a harder time forming relationships with other people, particularly children their age. If you suspect that you or a friend of yours may be a neglectful parent, it is important to seek help in a way that does not damage the child further or intrude into their life in a disruptive manner.
Permissive parenting, also known as indulgent parenting is another potentially harmful style of parenting. These parents are responsive but not demanding. These parents tend to be lenient while trying to avoid confrontation. The benefit of this parenting style is that they are usually very nurturing and loving. The negatives, however, outweigh this benefit. Few rules are set for the children of permissive parents, and the rules are inconsistent when they do exist. This lack of structure causes these children to grow up with little self-discipline and self-control. Some parents adopt this method as an extreme opposite approach to their authoritarian upbringing, while others are simply afraid to do anything that may upset their child.
How to recognize if you are a permissive parent:
· Do you not have set limits or rules for your child? Do you often compromise your rules to accommodate your child’s mood?
· Do you avoid conflict with your child?
· Do you have a willingness to be your child’s best friend rather than their parent?
· Do you often bribe your child to do things with large rewards?
The traits described in the above questions mark an unhealthy permissive parenting style. It may seem as though this would be a child’s favorite parenting style as it provides a sense of freedom without consequences, however, children crave a sense of structure to make them feel safe and. It is important in a child’s development for there to be clear cut parental and child roles. Permissive parenting can have long-term damaging effects. In a study published in the scientific Journal of Early Adolescence, it was found that teens with permissive parents are three times more likely to engage in heavy underage alcohol consumption. This is likely do to their lack of consequences for their behavior.
Other damaging effects of permissive parenting include:
· insecurity in children from of lack of set boundaries
· poor social skills, such as sharing, from lack of discipline
· poor academic success from lack of motivation
· clashing with authority
It is important for the permissive parent to begin to set boundaries and rules for their child, while still being responsive before it is too late. If enacting new structures proves too daunting, it is advised again to seek out the help of a licensed therapist.
Authoritarian parenting, also called strict parenting, is characterized by parents who are demanding but not responsive. Authoritarian parents allow for little open dialogue between parent and child and expect children to follow a strict set of rules and expectations. They usually rely on punishment to demand obedience or teach a lesson.
Recognizing your authoritarian style:
· Do you have very strict rules that you believe should be followed no matter what?
· Do you often find yourself offering no explanations for the rules other than “Because I said so?”
· Do you give your child few choices and decisions about their own life?
· Do you find yourself utilizing punishment as a means of getting your child to do what you ask?
· Are you reserved in the amount of warmth and nurturing you show your child?
While the structure and rules of an authoritarian parent are necessary for healthy child development, all good things can be overdone. It is important to balance out the provided structure with open communication so the child knows exactly why it is important for them to follow the rules placed in front of them. Children of authoritarian parents are prone to having low self-esteem, being fearful or shy, associating obedience with love, having difficulty in social situations, and possibly misbehaving when outside of parental care. A therapist can once again be contacted if adopting open communication proves to be too difficult to achieve by oneself.
Baumrind, D. (1991). The influence of parenting style on adolescent competence and substance use. Journal of Early Adolescence, 11(1), 56-95.