Developmental psychologists look at the ways that parents manage children’s environments in order to teach them about the world and help them grow skills to become independent contributors to their communities.  One way they have learned to classify parents is by one of three parenting styles: Permissive, Authoritative, and Authoritarian.  Each of these parenting styles have their positive and negative qualities, but Authoritative parent has been identified as the most effective approach to parenting.  Here is a review of each style:

Permissive

This parenting style is characterized by few rules and limits.  Children are permitted to do and say things that are typically not age-appropriate.  These children have more influence on the rules and culture of the home than the parents.  Examples may include staying up past bed times or eating extra sweets beyond what parents feel is good for them.  Parents may describe feeling helpless to stop their children.  The children often throw fits or call parents names.  Parents do not clearly define rules in the home.  In homes with permissive parenting, parents often feel overwhelmed and consumed with chaos.  This is partly because children are driving the rules and culture of the home.

The consequences of permissive parenting result in children and adults who struggle to follow social rules or respect authority figures.  Behavior issues and follow-through are difficult for children of permissive homes.  These children can be a “handful” in relationships and often struggle with anxiety and depression because they have a vague sense of not fitting in even though they cannot quite explain why.

Authoritarian

This parenting style is on the opposite end of the parenting spectrum.  These parents set strong, even harsh rules providing no room for negotiation.  This parenting style is inflexible, “military” parenting.  Parents tell these children where and when to sit and they do not talk unless spoken to.  Parents treat opinions like arguments or defiance.  Authoritarian parenting offers a one-sided interaction where rules are handed down, and children must adapt.

The consequences of authoritarian parenting results in compliance, but it often leads to rebellion and rebellious behavior along the way.  Children grow up without understanding the world and purpose for rules.  This results in a level of naivety about the world and relationships.  They see relationships in the form of compliance or lack of compliance and struggle to view social interactions for other purposes such as expressing care, learning and/or negotiating.  As adults they focus on behavior and tend to think more black and white.  They struggle to enjoy and engage life, or when they do it is with reckless abandon in the form of rebellion.

Authoritative

Parents of this “ideal” parenting style set clear boundaries with flexibility.  Authoritative parenting separates negotiable from non-negotiable rules.  Parents explain their underlying purpose for rules.  (No playing with balls in the front yard because if they roll into the street you may chase and get hit by a car).  Negotiable rules change and adapt based on the maturity of the child.  (I want to ride my bike alone because I’m a big kid now vs. I want to ride around the park and let me explain the rules of biking that I have learned).

Authoritative parenting establishes a clear authority but focuses on skills and knowledge acquisition instead of obedience like authoritarian parents or being happy as permissive parents.  This type of parenting is the most effective because parents generally get all three things from their children: knowledge and skills, obedience, and happiness.  These children end up better adjusted as adults.  They use more critical thinking skills and are generally better able to navigate the challenges of adulthood more effectively.

The best way to engage your kids is to lavish them with love and praise and hold them to the highest standards they are capable of performing at.  Under praise, and they may feel hurt or questions themselves.  Under challenge, and they don’t respect adults or themselves.

Hopefully these parenting insights offer thoughts to improve your engagement with your young budding children.  To learn more follow other blogs on my website, or schedule an appointment for an interview specific to your family’s needs.

For more on parenting consider these articles:

Family Structure

Attachment in Relationships

Consequences vs Punishment

Family Vacations

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