Are you an attachment parent?An authoritative parent? A jellyfish spineless parent or a just-like-my-dad-did-it parent? If you know your parenting style, you can make adjustments as your kids grow. When your first baby is on the way, you’ve already had the chance to observe other parents with their kids. You may have decided that you don’t want to do it “that way.” Or you may already know that you don’t want to parent the way your parents raised you. Having your own guiding set of principles is helpful for the journey ahead.
But What Style is Best?
Many psychologists believe that an authoritative parenting style hits the sweet spot.
“The authoritative style seems to be the most beneficial for successful growth and development,” says Javiette Samuel, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor at University of Tennessee, Knoxville who specializes in child development.
“This style recognizes that the parent has the ultimate power and control. At the same time, it takes the child’s thoughts, feelings and perspective into account.” But not all moms and dads are authoritative from the get go … and some don’t think they have much back bone at all for their kids. “As long as you are clear and honest with your child, you can be authoritative,” says Betsy Brown Braun, author of You’re Not the Boss of Me: Brat-Proofing Your 4- to 12-Year-Old Child (William Morrow, 2010). “But remember, there’s no such thing as perfect!” she adds.
Don’t Be Too Harsh
One of the hardest parts about being a parent — and embracing a parenting style — is wondering if how you’re doing things will lead your child to become a happy, well-adjusted adult. Moms can spend an excess amount of time second guessing themselves, though they quickly snap to when their child gets hurt.
Talk about a parenting style: How you approach your sobbing child with a boo-boo is actually a bigger deal than you may think. Studies suggest comforting a crying child is better for their long-term development than telling her to suck it up, for instance. While it’s tempting to roll your eyes when your child treats his skinned elbow like a broken arm, a little snuggling is actually better for him. In a 2013 National Institute of Mental Health study of preschoolers, researchers found when parents acted harshly to their child’s negative emotions, those kids tended to have more meltdowns and intense emotional reactions to things. They found that kids whose parents didn’t comfort them when they were upset found it “relatively difficult to behave in a socially competent manner.” Soothing your child will pay off better in the long run.
Types of Parenting Styles
Psychologists say parents fall into four different styles as parents: authoritarian, authoritative, uninvolved/neglectful or permissive. The way you parent influences your child in dramatic ways. For example, if your style is uninvolved/neglectful, the consequences may be that your child’s left feeling lonely, with low self-esteem and with little self-control as an adult. By contrast, permissive parents who act like their child’s friend, often fail to serve as a strong figure with set rules or expectations leaving kids unsure of expectations.
While the authoritative parent sets high expectations for her kids, the authoritarian parent has trouble letting a kid develop by himself. Ultimately the “best” parenting style may be a combo of all the above, but it’s important to know your parenting style so that you’re in control of your kids until they can be safely in charge of themselves. “It is important to remember that parental control is not negative,” says Samuel. “When used in a warm and loving manner, it neither hinders growth and development nor dominates children. Rather, it helps children understand and respect boundaries, their role as the child and the adult’s role as the parent,” she says.
Know Your Parenting Style
- Has strict rules and expectations
- Is very demanding but not responsive
- Doesn’t express much warmth or nurturing
- Utilizes punishments with little or no explanation
- Doesn’t give children choices or options
- Listens to kids
- Encourages independence
- Places limits, consequences and expectations on behavior
- Is warm and nurturing
- Allows children to express opinions
- Encourages children to discuss options
- Administers fair and consistent discipline
- Is emotionally distant from kids
- Offers little supervision
- Shows little affection to kids
- Has no expectations or demands for behavior
- Doesn’t go to school events and conferences
- May intentionally avoid kids
- Is often too overwhelmed by their own problems to deal with the kids
- Has few rules or standards of behavior
- Is inconsistent with any rules
- Is usually nurturing and loving to kids
- Seems more like a friend
- May use bribery for results