The combination of your attitudes and values that you have towards parenting and your children is called your parenting style. It goes beyond the nuts and bolts, the daily tasks of raising children, and instead is the umbrella term for the emotional environment that you create as a parent within your family and which directly impacts how your child grows and develops.
Parenting styles were first described in the research by Diane Baumrind in the 1960s. She was interested in exploring how parents controlled their children and how they involved them in social activities.
What is the importance of knowing parenting styles?
When researchers defined the four parenting styles, it enabled them to do further studies on the outcomes of children who were parented in one style vs another. Research findings can then help parents to choose parenting techniques that best support their child’s’ physical, mental and emotional development.
So what are the four main parenting styles?
Authoritative parents encourage their child to be responsible, think for themselves and to critique and consider the reasons behind rules and guidelines.
They have more of a balance between enforcing certain familiar standards and encouraging individual thinking and behaviour. These parents are highly interested in helping their child to develop autonomy, even at a young age.
In an authoritarian style household, orders placed upon children are to be obeyed. Parents aim to control their child, use the threat of punishment and specific punishments to achieve this control. They expect blind obedience from their child (aka “because I said so”) and practice stern discipline when behaviour standards are not met.
In some authoritarian families, there may be a withdrawal of parental affection in order to help maintain control over the children.
The permissive parenting style is highly responsive and warm to the children but parents are often reluctant to enforce rules. Children are often not held to specific standards within the family unit and as part of greater society.
Uninvolved parents are just that, uninvolved. They offer little to no emotional support and fail to enforce any standards of behaviour. Parents are not nurturing and warm. Food and shelter are the bare minimum that is provided to children.
There are two factors to consider in each of the parenting styles:
Responsiveness – This is how a parent fosters individuality and self-regulation by being an attuned and respectful parent while supporting the needs of their child.
Demandingness – This is the behaviour of a parent towards a child while supervising them, disciplining them and managing disobedient behaviour.
Can you have more than one style of parenting?
The ultimate answer is yes. As a parent, you may draw on from more than one style. For example, you may be more authoritarian when it comes to meal times, enforcing the family rule that everything on the plate must be eaten. On the other hand, you may be authoritative when encouraging your child to negotiate when they will do their homework vs. having some screen time.
It is very unlikely as a parent that you fit in one box. Instead, you may find that you draw from one particular style and backed up by a second or third.
The parenting style that you choose is directly linked to how you grew up. You may have had highly authoritarian parents so you have consciously chosen to reject that style and strive to be more authoritative. Or perhaps you had permissive parents and feel that this style negatively impact you so you choose to be more authoritarian. Whichever style of parenting you choose, it is important that you consciously choose it.
Why should we care about parenting styles?
When researchers look at child outcomes, parenting styles is one of many variables that can be considered. There are many things that can influence how a child grows and develops including culture, gender, socioeconomic status, personality, experiences, family values and beliefs (including religious and spiritual values) and the impact of others involved in the child’s life.
Ultimately researchers agree that an authoritative parenting style is associated with positive outcomes for children by helping children grow into responsible, balanced and well-adjusted adults.
What about parenting characteristics?
We’ve all heard about helicopter parents, tiger mums and even lawnmower parents. Where do they fit into the big picture? These are what I call parenting characteristics.
Helicopter parents are those who pay extreme attention to their child’s life and activities. These parents hover over their child and are overly involved in their child’s life. Unlike the parenting styles which have been in the research since the 1960’s, the term helicopter parents was described in the 1990’s. It is generally accepted that helicopter parenting has a negative influence on children. Children often struggle with setting boundaries and fail to learn how to judge what is safe and what isn’t, because a parent is always there to swoop in and save them.
Helicopter parenting is not a philosophy like the parenting styles are. Instead it is often a reflection of a parents emotional state as it is often associated with anxiety, excessive worry and fear. It may develop as a response to a particular incident or in response to a parent’s own childhood. However it develops, the negative consequences outweigh the benefits (less childhood injuries due to constant parental presence).
Tiger Parents are those who are excessively strict and demanding particularly around academic or sporting achievement. It is primarily a characteristic of an authoritarian parenting style. It is a relatively new term in parenting circles, first described in 2011 by Amy Chua in her book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”. While children of tiger parents frequently are high achievers there are significant downfalls to this parenting characteristic including a higher rate of depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, and suicide.
The latest descriptive term to come out in the media and parenting support professions is lawnmower parenting. Lawnmower parents go to great lengths to ensure that their child does not face struggles or failures. It is a progression of helicopter parents who not only control their child’s life but start to control and influence their environment around them. The negative consequences are similar to those associated with helicopter parents but extend to include a lack of developing resilience as children are prevented from experiencing the normal ups and downs of life the help develop this essential life skill.
What parenting style do you currently fit into? Is it where you want to be? Or would you like to take characteristics of one or two of the others? We are in control of the parenting style that we choose. When we want to change it, we can. If you’d like some help with this then get in contact with me and we can have a chat.
Be the best type of parent you can be, for the benefit of yourself and your child!