What type of parent are you? What type do you want to be? Maybe you’ve never thought about your personal parenting style before, or maybe you’ve thought about it nonstop since becoming a parent.
There are several different styles of parenting. We’ll discuss several below, along with the pros and cons of each, as identified by experts.
Before we start, keep these three things in mind:
In the 1960s, psychologist Diana Baumrind identified three main styles of parenting: permissive, authoritarian and authoritative. Other researchers built on Baumrind’s work a few years later, adding a fourth style: uninvolved (also known as neglectful).
The number of distinct parenting styles proposed by experts has proliferated in recent years, with some of the newer entries including toxic, helicopter and positive parenting. We’ll cover each of these below.
Authoritarian parents mainly want obedience, order and good behavior. They believe kids should obey instructions without talking back, rules are to be strictly enforced and disobedience should be met with firm punishment.
Some things you might hear an authoritarian parent say are:
Authoritarian parents set high expectations, but aren’t very nurturing.
They establish strict rules and clear boundaries. They’re not as responsive to their child’s emotional or physical needs, relying mostly on one-way communication. The child’s opinions and preferences usually aren’t a factor.
Authoritarian parents rely on punishment to ensure obedience. Often, it’s more about making kids feel sorry than about helping them learn.
Authoritarian parenting has some seemingly positive effects. For example, children tend to be well behaved and are generally better at following detailed instructions. However, kids raised by authoritarian parents may be more likely to:
At the other end of the parenting spectrum are those who want to nurture their children’s independence. Permissive parents place few limitations on their children, seeing them as friends rather than subordinates. They believe their kids’ happiness comes first.
Some things you might hear a permissive parent say are:
Permissive parents are highly nurturing, but expect little from their children.
They tend to be very protective, caring and affectionate. They are highly responsive to their child’s emotional or physical needs. However, permissive parents have a hard time setting boundaries and enforcing consequences.
Children raised by permissive parents usually know that they are loved and generally have good self-esteem. Some adults credit their permissive upbringing for instilling a sense of independence.
However, permissive parenting can have several negative effects. Children raised this way may be more likely to:
A parent who’s uninvolved tends to stay out of their child’s way – or make sure the child stays out of their way. There are few, if any, positives to this style of parenting.
It’s important to note that very few parents choose to be uninvolved – it’s often a product of circumstances beyond their control. It could be a family crisis that pushes everything else to the side, or financial hardship that forces a parent to work more than one job. Some people believe they’re not cut out to be a parent, or they’re just not sure how to raise their child.
A couple things you might hear an uninvolved parent say are:
Uninvolved parents tend to be low on nurture and expectations for their child.
Rules are generally not enforced, much less established. An uninvolved parent may show little interest in their child’s education or social life. They may not be able to do much more than provide for their child’s basic physical and emotional needs.
Children of uninvolved parents can develop resilience, but it’s a resiliency born of necessity. In terms of overall wellbeing, children raised by a neglectful or uninvolved parent usually fare the worst:
Not to be confused with authoritarian parenting, authoritative parents aim to nurture a positive relationship with their children. They view children as members of the family, not as subjects to be ruled. Authoritative parents believe that being a supportive presence and nurturing your child’s autonomy are not mutually exclusive.
They are highly nurturing and set high expectations for their children. Authoritative parenting differs from other styles in a few key ways:
Authoritative parenting has several positive impacts on children:
In recent years, a growing number of parenting experts have outlined a number of additional parenting styles. Some are a variation of one of the four main styles we’ve already looked at. But three are worth mentioning here.
This is hands-down the most harmful style of parenting. A toxic parent’s core style can be either authoritarian or uninvolved.
Signs of toxic parenting include:
The effects of toxic parenting can be devastating. It causes children to feel trapped, and it can forever damage the parent-child relationship.
Helicopter parents are driven by a well-intended desire to protect their children from disappointment or hurt. As a result, they try to orchestrate every aspect of their child’s life – choosing what activities they participate in, who their friends are, even sometimes doing their work for them. This approach is sometimes described as ‘hovering’.
Some experts believe this style is especially common among Gen X parents (those born from 1965 to 1980), who may be overcorrecting for their own upbringing.
This is a form of authoritative parenting that places special emphasis building a caring, nurturing relationship between parents and children by doing the following:
Learn more about the benefits of positive parenting.
Remember, no parent is perfect. And no parent fits neatly into just one parenting style. What matters is that you are present in your child’s life – ready with affirmation and support, setting clear boundaries and expectations, and picking them up when they fail.
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