Lucy Martin and Virginia Hite
You may not know it, but your day-to-day behavior, from the way you drive to the tone of your voice, is shaping the way your child will act for the rest of their life. Psychologists refer to this as the influence of parent socialization, the way children learn the behaviors and skills necessary to interact in their everyday lives. Parents influence their child’s social skills directly, indirectly and through management of their child’s activities. Parents are their children’s first teacher, and provide them with knowledge that is necessary for survival through direct instruction. They also influence them unintentionally through their own daily actions, such as conversing with other adults while their child is present. Children are very prone to imitate the actions of those around them, especially adults. This was made clear in the Bobo Doll experiment done by Bandura, in which children that saw adults beating up a Bobo Doll did the same things to the doll. Lastly, parents are in charge of their child’s experiences and social interactions, and thus the environment the child is exposed to, with the parent’s permission shapes their future behavior. Although all parents influence their children through similar avenues, the ultimate affect on the child differs on parenting style.
Parenting styles can differ significantly from one family to another. There are four main categories of parent child interactions, based on their level of demandingness and responsiveness. A parent who rates high in both demandingness and responsiveness is considered authoritative. This parenting style is defined by clear limits on the child’s behavior, and the ability to reason and communicate openly with their child. An example of this was when Virginia was five years old, she took a Barbie from her friend, which made the friend very upset. When her mother found out about the incident, she firmly explained to her daughter that taking other people’s toys was wrong, and she needed to apologize to her friend. Virginia was made to understand that her actions were wrong, but was not overly criticized for her behavior. Virginia’s mom was clearly an authoritative parent in this case. A more aggressive type of parent is referred to as authoritarian, which rates high in demandingness and low in responsiveness. An example of an authoritative parent would be one that demands that their kids get good grades, but do not support them or give them any recognition when they do well. An authoritarian parent would also expect their rules to be enforced without question, no matter the situation, and would employ severe consequences if they were not met. These two parenting styles are both characterized by high expectations, however authoritative is more willing to compromise and communicate with their kids.
The next two styles are defined as parents that neglect their children in different ways. Permissive parents are highly responsive to their children, but neglect the demanding side of parenting. These parents do not discipline their children much at all, but are responsive to all their desires and wishes. A parent that is very permissive would likely buy their children whatever they want, and allow them to stay out as late as they want. A more extreme version of this this would be parents that are completely disengaged in responsiveness and demandingness, and are considered rejecting-neglecting. These parents would be the ones that don’t show up to any school functions, ignore their children, and are totally focused on their own needs. Both of these parenting styles have very negative impacts on their children.
The type of household a child grows up in is strongly correlated with the behaviors exhibited throughout development. Children of authoritative parents are usually capable, self-assured, and popular in their social life. These children are more likely to have and incremental view of intelligence, where they associate effort with a positive outcome. Baumrind, a well renowned psychiatric researcher, says that when they reach adolescence, these kids are relatively high in academic performance and low in drug use and delinquent behavior. Authoritarian parents tend to have children that are unhappy and have low self-esteem, and keep to themselves. This is most likely a result of the intense pressure from their parents to be successful, and can often result in the opposite effect, with their children doing poorly in school. The children of permissive parents have the ability to do just about anything they want, so they tend to be impulsive and perform poorly in school. In addition, during their teenage years these children are more likely to experiment heavily with alcohol and drugs. Generally, these children have a disregard for rules, because their childhood was totally lacking in boundaries. Children of rejecting- neglecting parents also tend to perform poorly in school. They also have trouble forming peer relationships based on their fear of abandonment. As adolescents, they are more likely to experience depression, engage in risky sexual behavior, and misuse drugs and alcohol. The negative effects these children experience tend to worsen throughout their lifetime. Ultimately, parenting style has an extreme effect on child development, which lasts well into adolescence and adulthood.
It is very important to note that even though you might not think about your parenting style on a day-to-day basis, your parenting style has an enormous effect on your child. As stated above, authoritative parenting produces the best results in terms of social, academic and behavioral skills that prepare the child for their future. One way to implement a more authoritative environment in your home would be setting clear rules for your children, but also being open to conversation that is specific to different situations. An important part of authoritative parenting is bidirectional communication in which the parent listens to what the child thinks and adjusts their expectations, in addition to making their own rules. Another thing parents can do is monitor their children’s behavior, but also trust them to make the right decisions, and make them responsible for their actions. Ultimately the most important thing is to behave in a way that you would want your child to emulate, listen to your child’s needs, and set clear boundaries that are appropriate and helpful to the child. Every parent wants the best for their child and to help make this happen remember to be aware of how your actions impact them.
Saxon, Jill, and Robert S. Siegler. How Children Develop, 3rd Edition. New York: Worth, 2010. Print.