As a parent, it is almost certain that you will want to engage with your children as best as you can. However, it can be difficult to see how best to approach daily life with your kids – some people respond to different levels of interaction better than others. You child might be suited to lots of involvement from you; at the same time they might relish their independence.
To define a specific number of parenting styles is probably too ambitious a task, since most parents know that there are as many styles as there are children, and that often, we flitter between styles depending on our child’s personality, the particular situation involved and, sometimes, on our child’s or our own mood. Moreover, within a household, each parent can have a preference for a different parenting style.
Traditionally, most psychologists and educators refer to the four parenting styles first defined by Psychologist, Diana Baumrind (1966). She argued that our chosen style stems from two primary characteristics: responsiveness (the extent to which parents respond to their children’s needs) and ‘demandingness’ (the extent to which parents aim to control or demand more responsible behaviour from a child). The styles are as follows:
- Authoritarian Parenting Style: In these households, parents make clear that they are ‘the boss’, rely on strict disciplinary measures and use punishment frequently. This approach is said to sparks rebellion or lead to over-dependent personality traits in children.
- Permissive Parenting Style: This style is all about letting the child take the lead/giving in to their wishes. As a result, says Baumrind, children can grow to have little respect for healthy boundaries, and can tend towards egocentricity, which makes inter-personal relationships a challenge. On a positive note, this parenting style is characterised by plenty of warmth and affection.
- Uninvolved Parenting Style: These parents lack warmth yet are also undemanding. They spend minimum time with their children, to the point of being neglectful at times. They tend to show little interest in the academic achievements (or lack thereof) of their children and ask few questions about where and with whom their children spend their time. As a result, children may be impulsive or may adopt a similar blasé attitude towards life, friendship and family.
- Authoritative Parenting Style: These parents provide children with love, support and warmth, but set limits and teach children that their actions have consequences. They also maintain a healthy interest in their children’s academic progress and friendships, exercising positive levels of control. Considered the optimal parenting style by psychologists in the US, this style is said to promote self-reliant, confident children.
It should be noted that there is a difference in preferred parenting styles according to culture. Research indicates that the authoritative style is more popular among white families, while the authoritarian method is more used in families belonging to ethnic minorities. Cultural and societal factors are often decisive in persuading parents to adopt an authoritarian stance (for instance, when safety is an issue).
Moreover, identifying one ideal parenting style cannot help but be flawed, since parents normally adopt various styles throughout a child’s lifetime, and while there is a correlation between the authoritative style and positive outcomes, scientists have yet to prove that this parenting style is the sole or primary reason for these outcomes. Additionally, a group of researchers argue that behavioural genetics is more decisive than parenting styles in predicting outcomes. In her book, The Nurture Assumption, for instance, Judith Rich Harris argues that parenting styles do not significantly affect their children’s development, except in cases of serious neglect or abuse.
Finally, it should be noted that there a host of additional parenting styles that are proving attractive to parents these days, including Attachment Parenting (where the key is to create a strong bond between children and parents), Concerted Cultivation (which emphasises the importance of developing a child’s talents) and Slow Parenting (which allow children to enjoy their early years for as long as they can). The list is ample and merits exploration.
It would be unfair to say that one style is better than another outright. However, for your child, one will be better than another – it’s just a case of finding out what works and what doesn’t.
Do you use one of these parenting styles or do you use a combination of more than one? Is it working for you and your child? Let us know!