Q: What would you say are the different kinds of parenting?
Actually, researchers have already done that work for us. Today they recognize four classifications of parenting styles (which also correspond well to teaching styles). Which one are you? You can help find out by determining which of the following 4 blocks of questions you find yourself saying “yes” to the most. Be honest!
Do you have lots of rules that you expect your children to obey without explanation? Do you find yourself nagging your kids while rarely offering praise? Do you allow your kids very few choices? Do you often use shame as a disciplinary technique, saying things like, “Why can’t you ever do anything right?”
Do you have high expectations for your children, but provide them with the skills to manage them? Do you set rules and consequences, but also listen to your children’s perspective, allowing for possible extenuating circumstances? Do you encourage your kids to do things for themselves? Do you discipline your children, but also coach them how to do better the next time?
Do you continually provide your kids with praise? Do you believe guidelines are better than rules? Do you see yourself and your children as buds? Do you believe that kids will be kids and it’s unhelpful to make a big deal out of their mistakes? Are you the direct opposite of a “helicopter” parent?
Do you think your kids only need the bare minimum, like food and clothes? Do you tend to avoid interacting with your children because you’ve got your own issues to deal with? Are your kids often unsupervised? Do you feel emotionally disconnected from your children’s development?
If you picked Group 1, you might be an “authoritarian parent.” These parents are very demanding but show little nurture. They are often status-oriented and controlling. Their kids grow up to struggle with self-regulation because they were taught only to manage the expectations of others. Their kids tend to have lower self-esteem and often associate love with obedience.
If you picked Group 2, you might be an “authoritative parent.” (I know it sounds like “authoritarian” but I didn’t pick the names.) These parents set reasonable and consistent boundaries, encourage their children’s independence, and behave the way they expect their kids to behave. They are predictable and approachable in their interactions with their children. Their kids tend to have self-confidence, are generally happy, and possess good coping skills.
If you picked Group 3, you might be a “permissive” or “indulgent parent.” They hold minimal expectations for their children’s behavior. They believe in giving kids “their space.” They are nurturing and lenient, often using tangible rewards to shape behavior instead of consequences. They avoid conflict with their children. Their kids often display lower achievement, find it difficult to manage their own lives, and are prone to act out and engage in substance abuse.
You probably didn’t pick Group 4 because the “uninvolved” or “neglectful parent” wouldn’t be reading a parenting column. They have very few demands or boundaries for their children because they are too stressed with their own problems to administer them. They don’t often show love, but when they do, it’s frequently by purchasing things. They respond to their children’s needs more out of annoyance than nurture. Their kids tend to do poorly in school, become involved in delinquency and substance abuse, and have a hard time managing social relationships.
Psychologists agree that Group 2, the “authoritative parent,” finds the most success. This is because they nurture their children — allowing them to feel the security and acceptance of a family — while also providing the boundaries and consequences that are necessary for kids to thrive in the real world. These parents serve as reliable role models, so their kids internalize good behavior. Though they hold their kids accountable for good decision-making, they allow them the freedom to grow independently.
So how do you become more of an authoritative parent? The simplest answer is more unconditional love. Because we’re human, the love we share with others is often as much (or more) about us as it is about them. If you’ll look carefully at categories 1, 3, and 4, that is often what’s going on.
Unconditional love, however, puts the emphasis on doing what’s best for the child, not you. Notice I didn’t say what makes the child happiest. I said what’s best for him or her — the things that are most likely to make your child a thriving, high-character adult.
The process will not always be roses and rainbows, and your children won’t be perfect, so don’t expect them to be. But when your work is done, you’ll have given them the traits necessary to ensure that the life story they write for themselves is a successful one.