Time and time again, whether it be in the therapy room or in my mind or talking with friends and other moms, I hear: “I wonder if I’m doing this whole parenting thing right?” If you haven’t ever thought about, please let me know, I would love to hear how you keep those thought at bay.
Parenting is a process, and there is a great deal of information, opinions and parenting books from a variety of “experts” that leave parents feeling confused and overwhelmed by which advice or suggestion to follow.
One of the most helpful frameworks I have found to understand to parenting comes from Dr. Diana Baumrind, a developmental and clinical psychologist, best known for her research and contribution to defining different parenting styles. Through her research, Dr. Baumrind identified three primary parenting styles, with the fourth parenting style added later. The parenting styles are:
- Authoritarian: The predominant characteristic is the parent shapes and controls the child’s behavior with high standards, that are often absolute. The rules are there for a reason, the parents make the rules and do not need to discuss the “why” or “reason” for the rules. The rules can change at any time, and the child is to comply with all requests made by parents. In this parenting style, there are high expectations, with consequences for not meeting those expectations, sometimes within reason and other times without proportion to the undesired behavior.
I make the rules and I don’t have to say why. Do what I say and don’t disappoint or go against my standards, beliefs, and expectations.
- Permissive: A parent who engages in this parenting style does not embrace punitive parenting. Instead, a permissive parent is understanding, accepting and affirming towards a child’s interests, behaviors, and desires. Conflict between parent and child is avoided at all costs. A parent with this style will talk with a child about what he/she wants to do rather than impose a standard of conduct or impose consequences for undesired behaviors or actions. Instead, anything goes, and parents do not exercise a framework of expectations or standards. The child can determine, control and self-regulate as many activities as he/she wishes. Finally, a parent engaged in this style would rather be their child’s friend than a parent.
You can do what you want, as long as it makes you happy. You learn through your mistakes, who am I to tell you what to do. I just want you to like and accept me.
- Authoritative: This parenting style is characterized by rational thinking and honest communication between parent and child. Priority is placed on fostering independence in thought and behavior with clearly defined expectations and compliance with particular values and behaviors. Parents who engage in this parenting style discuss why rules and expectations are in place, inside and outside the home, with clear and consistent consequences when behaviors and expectations are not met. In comparison to Authoritarian parenting where rules can change without warning and no explanation is needed, the Authoritative parent strives to change the rules as needed and discuss the rules as they change so there are no surprises or unclear expectations, rules and consequences.
I am here for you and I want you to be happy and grow into the person you are meant to be. I have expectations and values I want to teach you and for you to follow, and I’ll make sure you understand the “why” of what I ask from you. Your behavior has consequences.
- Neglectful: This parenting style was added after the original three listed above. This parenting style is damaging and harmful to a child’s development. Parents who engage in this parenting style do not meet the emotional, physical and psychological needs of a child. For example, a parent in this style may be away from the child for extended periods of time leaving the child alone. And when the parent is present physically, he/she is disconnected, preoccupied and unaware of the details of their child’s life or needs. This type of parent does not take the time to learn about what is going on in their child’s day to day life, whether with school, friends, or emotional concerns. And the parent does not create a safe emotional environment to talk about feelings or get support, advice or protection.
I’m so overwhelmed in my life. I can’t even focus on being a parent. She’ll be ok, she doesnt need me to be here, she’s independent and capable to care for herself. I don’t need to know the details of my child’s life, it’s fine, that’s how my parents raised me.
So that’s a brief description of the parenting styles. Here is what the Dr. Baumrind’s research found when comparing the children parented from the following styles:
- Children were more often anxious, depressed and withdrawn
- Had difficulty coping with frustration
- Academically successful
- Not likely to be involved in high-risk behavior, such as drinking, drug use, theft, truancy, gang-related behavior
- Children had difficulty managing their moods and coping with frustration
- Insecurity in situations because of a lack of set expectations and boundaries
- Lower academic success and engagement
- High rates of defiance and rebellion when interests and desires were not supported
- Gave up quickly with situations or tasks that were challenging
- Poor social skills
- Higher rates of antisocial behaviors (truancy, stealing, vandalism, breaking the law, social misconduct)
- Children were more happy, energetic and self-confident
- Able to manage emotions and cope with a variety of situations
- Open communication between parent and child benefits child’s development, self-esteem and security in with stress and life experiences
- Strong social skills
- Academically successful (equal to Authoritative parenting styles)
- More flexible thinking about gender-typed traits
- Children are more often depressed, anxious, insecure
- Difficulty forming and maintaining meaningful relationships with peers and others
- Low self-esteem
- Difficulty expressing feelings and will often hide feelings
- Low academic performance and achievement
It’s pretty clear from the research, the parenting style to aim for is Authoritative. Of course, there are moments in parenting when circumstances or events influence a change in parenting styles. Like when you are on vacation or traveling or sick and let some of the rules and expectations go. That’s being flexible and finding creative ways to cope or enjoy life. So don’t base or define your parenting style for a moment or event. Instead, look at the overall trend in your parent/child interactions. And what’s even more interesting is when your partner/spouse has a different parenting style than you do; which will be the second part of this post, coming soon.
© Copyright Dr. Claire Nicogossian 2016