With the exception of certain extreme cases, I support that every parent wants to be a good parent. The term “parenting style” refers to the set of strategies that a parent uses in their child rearing. Various factors have been shown to influence one’s parenting style: Culture, personality, parental background, family size, socioeconomic status, educational level and religion. While all these factors together shape each person’s unique perception of what being “a good parent” means, life circumstances also come into play affecting parenting practices.
Whatever factors are involved, though, the bottom line is that parenting styles are linked to different child outcomes. For this reason, identifying one’s own style and striving towards better parenting practices where needed, appear to be crucial.
Two major dimensions have been repeatedly found to define the quality of parenting: Parental responsiveness (the extent to which parents provide their child with warmth and support provided, and consider their child’s needs and emotions) and Parental demandingness (the extent to which parents set maturity demands, and use supervision and disciplinary actions). Based on these dimensions, four basic parental styles can be identified:
Authoritative Parenting: It is high on both responsiveness and demandingness. While authoritative parents set rules and standards for their children to follow and monitor their behaviour, they are more democratic in their way of doing so. First, they encourage autonomy, assertiveness, individuality and self-regulation. Second, rather than punishing they tend to be nurturing when their child fails to meet their expectations. In other words, they exercise behavioral but not psychological control. Authoritative parents are also openly affectionate and promote two-way communication with their children; they are willing to listen to their children, answer their questions and promote discussion.
- Child outcomes: A number of positive outcomes have been found to be related to authoritative parenting: High self-esteem, good self-regulation, adaptability, achievement, social competence, high happiness levels and low levels of antisocial or aggressive behavior.
Authoritarian Parenting: It is low on responsiveness but high on demandingness. Authoritarian parents tend to exercise considerable behavioural and psychological control; they require conformity to rules, while also restricting their child’s emotional expressiveness and assertiveness. Failure to follow the rules set usually results in punishment. They usually communicate less effectively with their children, being one-sided (“I’ll tell you what will happen, you listen”), allowing less expressiveness on their child’s side, and failing to explain the reasoning behind the rules set (“You do it because I said so”).
- Child outcomes: Authoritarian parenting has been linked with children showing signs of anxiety and anger. While they conform to authority figures, they may lack self-regulation in the absence of such figures. These children usually rank lower in self-esteem, social competence and happiness, while they are also susceptible to bullying.
Permissive Parenting: It is quite high on responsiveness, but low on demandigness. The characteristic of permissive parents is that they have few –if any- demands and rarely discipline their children. They tend to be nurturing and communicative, often taking on the status of a friend more than that of a parent.
- Child outcomes: Permissive parenting has been linked with children exhibiting uncontrolled and impulsive behavior. These children tend to rank low in happiness, self-regulation and self-reliance.
Uninvolved Parenting: It is low on both responsiveness and demandingness. Uninvolved parents invest little time or attention to their children, usually dismissing or rejecting their needs. Some might as well make negative attributions to their children or express some form of hostility. Power assertive techniques and little communication are common among uninvolved parents.
- Child outcomes: Uninvolved parenting ranks lowest of all across all life domains, usually leading to a range of behavioral and psychological problems.
“So where do I start?” Summing everything up, the 4 key areas you need to be checking yourself on are: Behavioural control, Warmth-Acceptance, Communication, Promotion of child’s self-regulation and Autonomy.
As I always say to parents I work with, it is never too late to improve your parenting and create a better relationship with your child!