When it comes to style every one of us is a unique individual, bringing our own particular preferences and creativity to any given situation. When we become parents, we take our personal style into the adventure of parenthood. Although we are unique individuals, we more or less tend to fall somewhere along the continuum of four broad categories of parenting styles. Some of these styles are more beneficial to our children than others, so it is important to be aware of what we are doing and how our family is being affected. It often happens that a mother and father will have two differing styles, which can become confusing for the child especially if there is conflict between the parents.
The great thing about being a parent (or a human being, in fact) is that we have the potential to learn, to change and to grow. Parenthood is probably one of the steepest learning curves that we face. With a humble and positive attitude it can be the best adventure of our lives, but the key is a willingness to learn, and to ask for help when needed. This article will identify and outline in broad strokes the four main parenting styles and how these styles are likely to affect our families.
The Ultra Strict Parenting Style
This style is also known as “authoritarian” and is often used by those who believe that their way is the right way. They probably grew up with the motto that “children should be seen and not heard”, and they expect obedience, without question or complaint. They see their parental role mainly as being “The Boss” and taking charge in all situations. They don’t feel the need to explain their requirements or rules to their children, and do not appreciate being questioned about anything. Rules are often strict, and disobedience results in harsh punishment. Although this style can result in a seemingly ordered and smooth-running household, the emotional and relational cost to the family can be very high. Communication is not usually free-flowing, and there is a lack of warmth and nurturing. Obedience can be fear-based rather than from an internal sense of self-control. Children brought up with this parenting style are often shy and have low self-esteem, sometimes suffering from fearfulness in social situations. There is also the danger that once children grow up and “escape” from this strict control they may start trying out all sorts of detrimental behavior just because then now can.
The Super Cool Parenting Style
The opposite extreme of the style described above is the super cool, permissive or laissez-faire parenting style. Parents who use this style may be having a counter-reaction to their own ultra strict upbringing, or it may just be a result of their own laid-back personality. Either way, they see their parental role mainly as being “A Friend” to their child, almost as fellow-travelers on life’s journey, they will come alongside the child to help them on their way. This style can be very indulgent, giving the child whatever he wants just to keep him happy, and the parent can avoid setting limits or rules for fear of upsetting the child. As a result there are few demands or expectations, and the child does not learn to be self-disciplined and to have self-control. With this kind of parenting style communication is usually very good, with a warm and nurturing atmosphere which is loving and close. However the lack of discipline and structure can result in the child feeling insecure, and perhaps struggling to reach maturity in adulthood.
The Can’t-be-bothered Parenting Style
The neglectful, uninvolved or can’t-be-bothered parenting style is the most detrimental to the child. This usually happens when parents are extremely busy or otherwise occupied and don’t take the time required to meet their child’s needs, whether physically, mentally or emotionally. Parents who use this style see their role as having been mainly completed in biologically bringing the child into the world. Now the child is expected to grow up quickly and take care of themselves, making few if any demands on the parent who is busy with “more important” things. There is usually a lack of communication in the home, and not much warmth and nurturing. Discipline may be absent too, or at best erratic, while expectations of self-control and maturity are largely left up to the child to work out for themselves. Children who are brought up with this neglectful parenting style often have low self-esteem, behaviour problems and poor academic performance.
The Firm and Secure Parenting Style
This style is also known as the “authoritative” style. It shares some similarities with the “authoritarian” style, as well as some significant differences. The similarities are that there are clear boundaries and expectations, but the difference is that in a firm and secure parenting style there is open communication. Parents explain their reasons for setting the rules, and children are free to ask questions and discuss their feelings. Failure to meet the expectations results in appropriate consequences which help the child to learn important life skills such as making decisions and taking responsibility. Good behavior is positively reinforced and the relationship between parent and child is warm and nurturing. Children who have been raised with a firm and secure parenting style usually show self-confidence and are comfortable with expressing their opinions and evaluating risks before making decisions.
Perhaps while reading the above you have realized some of the negative effects your default parenting style may be having on your child and your family. It takes courage to be honest with yourself and with others, and then to do something about it. Don’t be discouraged and think it’s too late to change now… start with small steps, one thing at a time. Ask for help, and you will be amazed at the progress you can make over time. The best part is that as you make changes for the better, your family will be blessed in turn.
Sylvia Smith is a relationship expert with years of experience in training and helping couples in therapy. Her mission is to provide inspiration, support and empowerment to everyone on their journey to a great marriage. She is currently associated with Marriage.com, a reliable resource assisting millions of couples to resolve their marital issues. She holds a Master’s Degree in Arts (Clinical Psychology with an Emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy).