I will describe each of the four parenting styles and draw conclusions regarding likely outcomes at the end of the article.
The first parenting style is authoritarian parenting. In short this type of parenting is demanding but not response. It is characterized as restrictive, punishment-laden, and distant-emotion driven. The child is directed rigidly with little or no explanation. Feedback from the child is not sought or appreciated. It is termed authoritarian because corporal punishment, shouting and angry criticism are used a a form of discipline. The result, from the child’s view, is that their inner perceptions are of little value. The outcome of the child’s behavior is foremost with no consideration about how the behavior was reached, The goal, often well-intentioned, is to teach the child about how to behave and survive. The authoritarian parent sincerely believes that this type of parenting offers the best path for the child to thrive. Inherent in this style of parenting is the premise that the world is often harsh and unforgiving. Outside of the home and parental influence the child will surely encounter anger and aggression. The authoritarian parent is preparing the child for that certainty.
The second style of parenting is termed “Indulgent” or “Permissive” parenting. This type of parent is responsive but not demanding. There is a strong emotional connection between the parent and the child, but few behavioral expectations are in place. Permissive parents are “friends” with the child this changing the behavioral expectations. The parental role is neglected. The outcome for the child is seldom positive because because the permissive parent does not require that the child learn to regulate themselves or behave appropriately. While this type of parent is nurturing, responsive and accepting, the child remains unfamiliar with anger and aggression by others although this will doubtless be experienced in adulthood. In short the danger is that this style of parenting does not prepare the child for inappropriate behavior by others. Children of permissive parenting tend to be impulsive. Control and regulation of their behavior was never learned. They often expect to get their own way. Children of permissive parents can thrive. This occurs when these children develop a sense of emotional security to compensate for the porous boundaries with the parent. Out of necessity they learn to tolerate uncertainty and disappointment.
The third style of parenting is called “Uninvolved.” It is as dangerous as it sounds. Basically uninvolved parents expect the children to raise themselves. They do not devote much time or effort toward meeting the child’s basic needs. Whenever I see a child from the uninvolved style of parenting, I assess two facts: The first is to what degree is the absence of involvement and is the absence of involvement intentional. I observe this often in parents with mental health issues or substance abuse problems. The “Uninvolved” parent my be unwilling or unable to care for the child’s physical or emotional needs on a consistent basis. Of the four parenting styles, these children receive the least amount of nurturing, guidance and attention. If the neglect is egregious my code of ethics and my sense of morality demands that I notify the authorities. All of the staff at the Lighthouse Emotional Wellness Center rigorously adhere to this policy
The final and most effective style of parenting is the Authoritative style of parenting. The type of parent is both demanding and responsive. Note the difference between Authoritarian: demanding but unresponsive to Authoritative: demanding and responsive.
This style of parenting is child-centered. These style holds high expectations of maturity. Authoritative parents are responsive in that they seek out understanding the child’s inner experience. This style of parent teaches the child to regulate their emotions. They encourage the child to find find appropriate outlets to solve their problems. They often say “ I can do this for you, but I want you to figure it out yourself.” The encouragement of autonomy is tempered with warmth and nurturing. There are consequences for poor behavior for the child but the consequences are measured and consistent. They are never arbitrary or violent. The child knows the the authoritative parent is displeased but never fears the withdrawal of parental attachment. The authoritative-parented child knows why they are being punished because the authoritative parents makes the reasons and the consequences known through assertive communication. The result is that children of authoritative parents are more likely to be well-liked, successful, generous and capable of self-determination. The most valuable reward for authoritative-parented children is that they will likely use this style when they become parents.
I have suggested a broad view of the four styles of parenting. Variables like the child’s temperament, parental cultural patterns, and single versus double parenting remain considerable factors. Research and my own instinct support my belief that firm and predictable boundaries about behavior and consequences tempered by nurturing and empathy offer the child the best path to higher levels of autonomy, self-esteems social interactions. Children of Authoritarian, Permissive or Uninvolved parenting are often doomed to repeat the same conflicts over and over albeit with a different cast of characters.