*Originally published in March 2009
While there are literally thousands of books out there offering parenting advice, psychologists and child-care specialists have identified four basic types of parenting skills. Studies have begun to monitor the effectiveness of each in achieving what most parents want for their children.
Each of us was raised differently. Because of this, we will parent differently.
The four main parenting styles are:
1. Negligent parenting
You’ve had children possibly unwillingly. Or maybe you’re exhausted with simply trying to put food on the table, or perhaps your lifestyle is such that you are seldom at home. It could be that you were never nurtured as a child and so don’t know how to nurture. Perhaps through divorce, you have been separated from your child and in time, the phone calls and visits start becoming an effort that you would rather avoid.
You may be suffering from an illness or chronic depression that doesn’t allow you the energy needed to have much interaction with your child. Whatever the reason, the negligent parent may love the child and cater for her basic needs, but does little more. Affection may be absent or infrequently shown.
2. Authoritarian parenting
“Do as I say, not as I do,” determines this type of parenting. This parent requires that they be in absolute control all the time. The child is not allowed an opinion that doesn’t conform. Choice doesn’t enter into the equation and “Because I said so,” is sufficient explanation for any rule. Rules are numerous, not explained or negotiated and applied to the point of physical punishment (smacking is common to this parenting style.) Sometimes this child may not even be aware as to why she is being punished. Children who don’t adhere to the rules (and even those who do) are often heavily criticised and made to feel that they are not living up to their parents’ expectations. Fear is used frequently to control the child. “If you don’t pack your toys away right now, you will get a smack and be sent to your room,” is typical of this parenting approach.
There is zero tolerance for non-compliance and commonly the emphasis is on what the child has done wrong, rather than on what they have done right. The parents may be overly critical of themselves and may be perfectionists setting high standards which they feel they themselves seldom achieve. This feeling of failure is then transferred into high expectations for the child to achieve in order to validate the parents.
3. Permissive parenting
Find yourself giving in to your child’s demands every time? Do you ignore unacceptable behaviour rather than confront it? Do you find yourself describing obnoxious behaviour in euphemisms such as ‘discovering her will’, ‘expressing her individuality and freedom’, ‘probably gets the behaviour from me’, and ‘typical tot behaviour’?
This type of parenting lies on the opposite side of the scale from the authoritarian parent. (Often these parents suffered under the rule of authoritarian parents and so opt for a parenting style that is as far removed from their own experience as possible).
This style of parenting is characterised by few, if any rules and boundaries. Often the parents need to be liked by the child, which they believe necessitates not imposing limitations on behaviour.
Permissive parents are mostly loving and warm, and seldom attempt to implement any form of discipline. They are commonly very involved in their children’s lives. Parents may choose to ignore or brush off bad behaviour, such as rudeness, inconsiderate actions or aggression. Children are not expected to do anything, least of all help around the house with age-appropriate chores. The child may also be placed on an indulgent pedestal, which permissive parents believe is their way of showing unconditional love. Like most parents, permissive parents want to spare their child any pain. However, the permissive parent takes it to extremes.
4. Democratic parent
The democratic parent falls between the authoritarian and permissive parent. Rules are set, but negotiation occurs with the child as to why the rule is being made, and appropriate consequences may be discussed if the rule is broken. Unlike an authoritarian parent, the democratic parent makes few rules, but expects them to be obeyed.
Affection and love are expressed frequently and the child’s needs, where appropriate, are met. Should the need for discipline arise, the child would be made aware as to why she is being disciplined. However, encouraging alternatives, preferable behaviour is more often than not the way used to get the desired result, and forgiveness is frequent.
Parents are encouraging rather than critical, and the emphasis is on acknowledging success rather than failures. Age-appropriate independence is encouraged. The child is made aware of any shortcomings, but this is seen as separate from the child and not reflective of the child herself. “Throwing sand at other children is not acceptable,” rather than “You are a very bad child for throwing sand.”
These parents encourage children to accept responsibility for their actions, rather than to blame others. Democratic parents are consistent in their approach and encourage, as opposed to over-enthuse. They teach by example, such as: “I’m going to tidy up my room so I can find my things when I need them; why don’t you do the same?”
In this type of parenting, the child is built and not broken.
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