Understanding Parenting Styles & the Lasting Effects They Have in Early Childhood
Every parent is entitled to raise their children the way they see fit. And while parenting styles vary, parenting styles can affect everything from your child’s diet, weight, and health to their daily routine, the decisions they make, and how they feel about themselves throughout their lives.
To help you find the most effective parenting style for you and your family, let’s take a look at the four main parenting styles studied in developmental psychology.
Authoritarian parents are strict and controlling. The authoritarian parent demands obedience with their clearly stated rules. And their strong sense of justice means they will punish their children for not behaving as ordered instead of disciplining them. So instead of teaching their children to make better choices, they focus on making their kids feel sorry for their mistakes.
These parents refuse to be challenged by their children and discourage compromising. The authoritarian parenting style is both highly demanding and not very responsive.
Examples of Authoritarian Parenting
Authoritarian parents typically share the following beliefs:
- Kids should be seen and not heard.
- It’s “my way or the highway” when it comes to rules.
- They don’t consider their children’s feelings or opinions when problem-solving.
- They say, “Because I said so,” when a child questions their reasons behind rules.
- Kids should always follow the rules without any negotiating or exceptions.
How an Authoritarian Parenting Style Can Affect Your Child
Children of authoritarian parents might:
- Be timid or have low self-esteem because their opinions aren’t valued.
- Have poor social skills.
- Become good liars to avoid punishment.
- Lack spontaneity.
- Rely largely on the voice of authority.
- Have higher levels of depression and anxiety.
- Become aggressive and hostile, feeling especially angry toward their parents.
- Suffer from mental health problems into adulthood, while never being able to realize their full potential.
Authoritative parents are warm and communicative with their children while still enforcing the rules. They are both demanding and responsive and look for a balance between being listened to and giving their children independence. This parenting style can foster a healthy, positive relationship between parent and child.
Authoritative parents are assertive but not restrictive, encouraging cooperation, assertiveness, self-regulation, and social responsibility in their children.
Examples of Authoritative Parenting
Authoritative parents will:
- Put a lot of effort into building and maintaining positive relationships with their kids.
- Invest time and energy into preventing behaviour problems.
- Enforce rules, discipline, and consequences while considering their children’s feelings and opinions.
- Explain the reasons behind their rules.
- Use positive parenting and reinforcement for good behaviour, such as praise and rewards.
How an Authoritative Parenting Style Can Affect Your Child
Authoritative parents tend to raise children who:
- Are well-adjusted, happy, and successful.
- Have a sense of independence.
- Perform well in school.
- Avoid problem behaviours.
- Are comfortable expressing their opinions.
- Are good at decision making and evaluating safety risks.
- Grow up to be competent, responsible adults.
Permissive parents are usually responsive, warm, and accepting, but not demanding. They don’t enforce the rules, and they avoid confrontation.
Some permissive parents worry about interfering with their children’s creativity and sense of self. Others try to be friends with their kids or compensate for their own strict or poor upbringings by being very accommodating, giving their kids the freedom and material things they ask for.
Other permissive parents may give in to their kids’ wishes conditionally—e.g. if they have good grades. And the most extreme type of permissive parenting is very lax and indifferent. These parents are too concerned with their own problems—financial, mental health, work, or are merely too self-involved. They don’t exert control over their kids and instead give them freedom and material things so their kids won’t demand anything of them.
Examples of Permissive Parenting
Permissive parents tend to:
- Set rules but rarely enforce them.
- Rarely discipline/give out consequences.
- Think their children will learn best without parental interference.
- Only step in when there is a serious problem.
- Be very forgiving.
- Take on more of a friend role than a parenting role.
- Not put much effort into discouraging poor choices and behaviour.
- Think “kids will be kids.”
How It Can Affect Your Child
If parents are too permissive, their children might:
- Have low self-esteem and feelings of sadness.
- Have health problems, like obesity and cavities, because their parents don’t limit junk-food intake or enforce healthy habits like teeth brushing.
- Feel entitled to privileges and material items.
- Be more involved in problem behaviours as they get older—e.g., substance abuse—especially as a way of rebelling if their parents try to regain control. and,
- Perform poorly in school.
- Have little appreciation for authority and the rules.
Uninvolved parents are not demanding or responsive. They provide little to no attention, nurturing, or guidance, so their kids have complete freedom to do as they please. In the worst cases, this type of parenting is considered a form of neglect.
Sometimes, this neglect is unintentional. Parents with mental illnesses, including addiction, may not be able to meet their children’s basic physical and emotional needs consistently. Other times, parents don’t have proper knowledge about child development. Or, they are too overwhelmed with their own problems, like work, chores, and finances, to focus on their children.
Examples of Uninvolved Parenting
Uninvolved parents usually:
- Don’t ask their kids about school or homework.
- Don’t know where their kids are, what they are doing, or who they are with.
- Don’t spend much time with their kids.
- Don’t enforce rules.
- Don’t spend time or energy on meeting their kids’ basic needs.
- Expect their kids to raise themselves.
How It Can Affect Your Child
Children of uninvolved parents tend to:
- Have low self-esteem.
- Have poor mental health.
- Perform poorly in school.
- Have frequent behavioural problems.
- Have poor relationships with their parents as they get older.
- Be at risk of substance abuse.
- Have lifelong problems caused by their parents’ indifference or inability to parent them.
CAN/SHOULD YOU MIX AND MATCH?
While different children need different parenting practices, they do not need different parenting styles. For example, a parent should not be authoritarian when their child is difficult, and permissive when their child is behaving well.
Instead, parents should be consistent and stick with the most effective and beneficial parenting style for their families.
Throughout the many years of psychological research on parenting styles, the authoritative style has been consistently linked with the most positive outcomes for children. And since children thrive on consistency and structure, along with warmth and acceptance, the authoritative style may be the most effective parenting style for all children.
Consider the outcomes for children of different parenting styles when choosing the best style for you and your family. If you want to be an authoritative parent but you’re overwhelmed with stressors in life, consider these tips for taking a break and avoiding parental burnout. And once you recharge, you can focus your energy on being the best parent you can be for your kids today and for the rest of their lives.