Raising children isn’t for the faint of heart as any parent can tell you. There are all sorts of daily wins and daily struggles, and your parenting style is how you deal with the ups and downs. Psychologist Diane Baumrind theorized four parenting styles in the 1960s that we still use as guidance today: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive and uninvolved. She based the parenting styles on two key elements: parental demandingness and parental responsiveness. In other words, how high are expectations? And how does a parent respond when those expectations are not met? Here’s everything you need to know about each parenting style.
Authoritarian or Disciplinarian parenting
If you’re a big believer in rule-following without exceptions, you might be an authoritarian parent. Your parents might have been authoritarian parents if they said things like “because I said so” or “because I’m the parent,” or if you thought they were strict. There is no negotiation in this parenting style, and there is no middle ground. Obedience is the name of the game, and consequences are enforced, and parents don’t trust their children to make the right choices on their own. Expectations are high, and authoritarian parents expect them to be met. There doesn’t have to be aggression for authoritarian parenting to occur.
There is no reward system in authoritarian parenting because kids are expected to do what they’re told as a baseline for existence. Punishments are often used in authoritarian parenting, which can backfire and result in lower self-esteem for the child and a child that doesn’t feel valued, or who must hide things for fear of punishment. There is no explanation given for the punishment and communication only flows from parent to child, which can be confusing to a child in order to course-correct his or her behavior for the future. Shame is a big factor. Children can also be aggressive themselves as they mirror authoritarian parenting. There are some pros, though: children of authoritarian parents can be well-behaved and can often make better assessments when it comes to risky or unsafe behavior. This style of parentingcan also be called disciplinarian parenting.
The uninvolved parent is one who doesn’t spend much time with their child or encourage them much. They meet the basic needs of shelter and food, but that’s about it. There are hardly ever any consequences because there are no rules, no guidance, and no attention. Children of uninvolved parents often end up raising themselves. The neglect isn’t always intentional and can be a matter of circumstances or lack of parenting knowledge.
Children who have uninvolved parents might feel like what they do doesn’t matter and might have low self-esteem because no one at home is encouraging them or rooting for them, and there is little to no communication. There is no love and no support and children might end up feeling like a nuisance or a burden to an uninvolved parent.
If you feel yourself setting rules and not enforcing them or letting incidents go without punishment, you might have a permissive parenting style. Permissive parenting—which can also be called indulgent parenting—means letting children figure things out on their own, and only stepping in when something very serious is going down.
Permissive parents sometimes set boundaries and rules, but don’t follow through with them on the basis of “kids will be kids” or “they’ll figure it out on their own.” That means not sticking to your guns, which can ultimately end with your child believing they’ll never have consequences to actions. Permissive parents often are seen in more of a “friend” role than a parent. There is a lot of love to go around, but very little response when kids act out. Bribery on the front end can also beis sometimes used in lieu of punishment on the back end. Children of permissive parents are often asked their opinion on major decisions, resulting in a lack of respect for authority on the child’s part as they feel they should have a say in everything.
Children raised with permissive parents might buck authority altogether because there are no consequences and rules where they come from, which could result in chronic behavioral problems and loneliness or sadness. They might have a hard time self-regulating as well.
The authoritative parenting style is when parents really try to keep the lines of communication open with their children, no matter what age. It sets an expectation of respect. The goal in authoritative parenting is to have a positive relationship with your child, even if you do have to punish your child. Feelings are very much explained and valued in authoritative parenting, and a lot of weight is put on listening and communication. The child feels validated, even if there is a punishment associated with a behavior, and the adults remain in control of the situation.
Tactics like positive reinforcement, rewards and praise are part of authoritative parenting. The payoff is a child who feels comfortable sharing feelings, regardless of the punishment. This style of parenting sets your child up for success in the long run because they can evaluate situations more clearly in order to make good decisions.
Authoritative parenting is often called the “best” parenting style approach because it has the most flexibility built into it. Parents can punish their children when needed, but children get the feedback they need in order to correct the behavior. It sets children up for good communication. There are clear expectations, but there is also clear communication as to why these expectations are to be met by the child.
No parent fits cleanly into one parenting style, and we are often a mix of several different ones, plus outside influences such as grandparents, other family members and teachers. Your parenting style might of course depend on your child’s temperament as well, as well as his or her peers and how they are parented.