Can defining your parenting style make you better at it? Fifty years ago or more, “parenting styles” were hardly a topic of conversation, let alone all of the articles and books written on the subject. It was simply expected that you raise your children the same way your parents raised you, and the way their parents raised them.
Not a lot of thought was given to “What kind of parent do I want to be? What parenting style fits our lifestyle and family?” But as our society has become more psychologically and socially aware, we are more conscious of how particular methods may affect children. Additionally, our cultural conversation now frequently turns to parenting styles and how they affect the big picture.
There are many different parenting styles. You’ll likely find that you are a blend of a couple of them. Some parents are strict and rigid, others very lenient and laissez-faire and some fall somewhere in the middle. It’s important not to go to the extreme in one direction or the other. That creates an out-of-balance situation within the family.
And remember as you explore different parenting styles: it’s important that you find the style that works best not just for you, but for your family as well.
4 Types Of Parenting Styles
1. Strict Parenting
Often referred to as an “authoritarian” or “dictator” style, strict parenting is characterized by many hard-and-fast rules. The parent is clearly the head of household and tends to command respect in all circumstances. There are clear limits and consequences for pushing them, which are enforced firmly.
One of the beneficial things about this parenting style is that everyone has a clear role and understands the limits, leaving little in question. The negative thing about this parenting style is that the parent may function as a brick wall, with little room for change or growth for family members.
This parenting style runs the risk of alienating the child later in life, either through the residual anger or resentment, a strong-willed personality or a more sensitive child whose needs are not recognized.
2. Lenient Parenting
This is sometimes referred to as “permissive parenting”. These parents don’t expect or demand a lot from their children, and tend to provide little in the way of discipline. The rules are very flexible and tend to not be well-defined. These parents often say they want their children to grow up to “make their own decisions, rather than be told what to do.”
The positive thing about this parenting style is that the wants of the children are usually made known, and a lot of attention is paid to their psychological well-being. The negative side to this parenting style is that the child may have little self-discipline and poor motivation, and the parent does not provide enough guidance and structure.
A family that is too lenient may become uninvolved or neglectful.
3. Helicopter Parenting
These parents hover over their children, anxious and concerned. They have difficulty letting their child grow up or assume increasing responsibility. These parents obsess over every issue their child may have and must be right in the middle or close by every activity their child is involved in. The parents may overindulge their child with attention and material things.
These parents often want to continue to help their child with decisions even after the child has become an adult, say, by choosing their college courses for them or going on a job interview with them (yes, this actually happens!).
4. Secure Parenting
Then there is the middle ground parenting style, which is often called “authoritative” (as opposed to authoritarian) parenting. I like to call it the “secure parenting” style.
This method provides structure, expectations and rules, but also maintains flexibility and respect for the child as an individual. The parent provides guidance, rather than demands. Discipline tends to be more growth and learning focused, rather than punitive. The rules are clear but simple and few. Consequences for breaking rules are consistent with the misdeed.
The child’s needs and wants are balanced with the needs of the family. The child’s personal space is respected, yet he is reminded that he is also part of the family and must sometimes participate as a whole. From a young age, he is allowed to make simple choices and decisions, and then given increased responsibility as well as more privileges. The aim is for the child to be relatively self-sufficient by the time he graduates high school, or at least able to make sound decisions on his own.
The secure parenting style is the most effective. It requires mature, stable adults to be raising the child. A good parent is empathetic and patient, as well as consistent and dependable. A good parent wants to raise a child to become independent, responsible and thoughtful.
This may require that you examine your own childhood and the methods and styles your parents used. What did they do well? What would you change about their parenting style? Is there anything they really “messed up” on? If there is some trauma in your past or difficulty in your family of origin relationships, seek out psychotherapy to help work through these issues, so they will be less likely to negatively affect your own parenting.
If you are planning to have children in the near future, or are a new parent, discuss these parenting styles with your partner. It is important that the two of you understand the areas of parenting where you disagree and come to some type of consensus or compromise. Defining yourself as a parent is a crucial step in raising a child.
How you raise your child should not be an afterthought; it is one of the most important things you will ever do. Defining and refining your parenting style will be time and energy spent that will pay off in the long run and in the life of your child.