What’s Your Parenting Style?

What’s Your Parenting Style?  Guest Post By Rebekah H.

There are some days when I pray to God that my parenting techniques won’t have the final say in who my children grow up to be. No one’s perfect, especially as a parent. On the other hand, there are days when I wish that my parenting could have MORE impact… do kids ever listen?!

How much of who your child is will be determined by you as a parent? In the end, we know that people are all interesting cocktail mixes of their environment, their own biology, and ultimately, their own choices. However, as parents, we want to do everything we can to give our children the skills and nurturing that they’ll need to become healthy, happy, and functional adults.

Everyone’s approach for this is different. No two moms are the same, and the same mother will probably even be a little different for each child. This might be due to lessons learned from the previous children, and of course, because every child is different and calls for a different approach. However, there are four major parenting styles that have been identified by child psychologists and researchers. These styles are identified according to their disciplinary approach, communication style, and hands-on technique. Here are the four types, along with a brief description:

Authoritative

Authoritative parenting is largely believed to be the best style to help children grow up healthy and responsible. Authoritative parenting incorporates high expectations for children (and clear follow-through on consequences) along with an open channel of communication. In authoritative parenting relationships, the reasoning behind rules is communicated, and children’s own insights, questions, and concerns are openly discussed and encouraged.

Authoritative parenting is more likely to use the word “consequences” than “punishment” and while parents do follow through on discipline, they’re more likely to allow for exceptions, and to consider children’s feelings when determining rules and results. Authoritative parenting is also more likely to use positive reinforcement for good things that children do. Authoritative parenting nurtures children who have a solid idea of their own value and responsibilities.

Authoritarian

Authoritarian parenting is usually thought of as the old-fashioned approach. This style of parenting might value phrases like “children should be seen and not heard” and “spare the rod, spoil the child” although of course, it’s seldom as straightforwardly Dickensian as that. Authoritarian parenting also has solid rules and consequences, but children are not included in the decision-making process. Instead, children are expected to obey parents and follow rules without question. Children with authoritarian parents are actually more likely to follow rules outside of the home as well. However, the drawback is that children of authoritarian parents are more likely to struggle with self-esteem issues, and have a difficult time establishing their own authority in adult life.

Neglectful

Neglectful parenting is widely believed to be the most harmful form of parenting. Often, children with neglectful parents feel insecure. They might have a hard time forming bonds with others, including children their own age. Often, the cause for neglectful parenting is that parents are struggling with their own mental health problems, or they’re often absent from the house due to work or other concerns. Children from neglectful homes often exhibit behavioral challenges, and they crave parental involvement in their lives.

Permissive

You might be a permissive parent if you prefer to be considered your child’s friend rather than their parent. Permissive parenting avoids punishment when possible, only intervening in children’s behavior if there’s a pronounced problem, sometimes pointed out by neighbors, teachers, or other parents. Children of permissive parents usually demonstrate more behavioral issues as they grow up. They might struggle in school and have a difficult time with self-esteem. They’re also more likely to report that they’re unhappy.

How to Find the Sweet Spot

Although clinical articles online make it seem easy to sort parents into these four categories, and plenty of tests claim to help you identify your own personal style, the truth is usually much more complicated. Most parents will show a varying spectrum of all four styles (yes, even the neglectful one sometimes… we all get distracted!) The truth is that often, we go into parenting with ideals for a by-the-book authoritative approach. Often, a tendency to be permissive or authoritarian will come out in reaction to each child. Some seem to call for a firmer hand, others need sensitivity in the guidelines.

In order to incorporate more of the ideal authoritative style into your own home, keep balance of these two important things:

  1. Keep communication open between you and your child. Consider their needs and concerns when you act, just as you hope they’ll consider others when they choose to act. Clearly communicate why you need certain rules in place, and listen with compassion, empathy, and respect when they communicate with you.
  2. Be consistent. No child can be completely happy without certain boundaries; we depend on them. Make sure that you follow through when children need to understand the consequences of their own actions. This article has some helpful advice for setting boundaries and being consistent.

Easier said than done, right? So how can you be sure that you’re giving your child exactly what they need? Well, in some ways you can’t. We all make mistakes, and none of us are perfect. However, in another way, you can be sure you’re giving your child exactly what they need if you can just give them your love and attention. Every child goes through hard times, and often, they’ll rebel against the rules, or find themselves unsure of their place in life, no matter what you do. However, in the end, the vast majority of people make it through childhood with a manageable amount of baggage and the skills to resolve their own problems in time. So don’t be so hard on yourself!

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