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What is your parenting style?

Parents worry a lot about providing the right environment for their children. Are we selecting the right school? Do our children have good friends? Are we giving them a good diet? The list is long. However, ironically, one of the most significant impact a parent has is by what they themselves do to their children – by virtue of their style of parenting.

So what are the different styles? Essentially there are four different styles of parenting – authoritarian, authoritative, permissive and uninvolved.

Authoritarian: Rules are strict and failure to follow results in punishment. The reasons for rules are not explained and there is no room for negotiation.

Permissive: There are few rules and the parent is lenient and avoids confrontation. The parent takes on the status of a friend rather than a parent.

Uninvolved: Here, parents fulfil their children’s basic needs but are detached, talk very less to their children and neglect the child.

Authoritative: Parents establish clear rules and guidelines and explain the rationale; children have freedom to explore within the established limits. Parents are willing to listen and negotiate and the child is encouraged to be assertive and responsible for his/ her behaviour.

Take the following hypothetical example. Your daughter in STD X wants to go for a late night movie with her friends during the week day. What would you say? The answer and how you convey your decision varies depending on your parenting style. The authoritarian parent says “no movies with friends, no night shows – go to bed”. There is no explanation or choice given. The permissive parent does not like the idea, however says “ok – please be careful” and lets the child go. The authoritative parent explains “week days are not appropriate as you have to go to school the next day and you will feel tired at school. Why don’t you go with your friends this weekend for an evening show instead? Or we could go together for the movie?”

What style should parents employ?

Most parents use a combination of styles. Parenting styles can change as the child grows and is affected by both the parent’s and child’s temperaments. A husband and wife can also differ in their approach to parenting.

The different styles of parenting have different impact on children. Previously in Indian society, Authoritarian parenting was very common. Stress on hierarchy, obedience and proficiency was paramount, resulting in children who were obedient, proficient, but lower in self-esteem, happiness and social competence.

Now, there is an increasing tendency in today’s society to lean towards being a Permissive parent, fulfilling every demand of the child without giving any tasks or responsibility to the child. This typically leads to insecure, rebellious children who are free to do whatever they please. They find it hard to get along with other children, have a weak sense of responsibility and low confidence. Permissive parents think their child will not love them if they say no and think they are doing their kids a favour – but the children are actually being robbed of learning to cope with reality and handling disappointments.

In contrast to the extremes of Authoritarian and Permissive parenting, the Authoritative parent establishes clear and rational rules and guidelines and gives choices within limits. Their children typically grow up to be happy, successful, responsible and confident with good self-esteem.

To be continued in Part II.