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parenting styles permissive, authoritative, authoritarian

Which of These Parenting Styles Is Yours?

One parenting style is associated with the best outcomes for kids. Is it yours? 

Parenting is powerful – certain parenting styles are associated with a much higher likelihood of risky teenage drinking, while others have been found to protect against psychological distress in children raised in warzones. If you’ve ever doubted whether you’re getting through to your child, rest assured: You are.

But in what way? What messages is your parenting style sending? Take the quiz below to learn which of the four types of parents acknowledged by child development experts best describes you. Then read on to learn the pros and cons of each of these styles, and how you can grow as a parent.

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Experts recognize four styles of parenting: authoritative, permissive, authoritarian, and neglectful. (Parenting styles can differ between spouses, which can be difficult for both their relationship and the child. Read more about learning to reconcile two different parenting styles.)

What these parenting styles mean

Authoritative parenting

You have rules and high expectations for your child, and your child faces consequences when they fail to live up to them. But you also reward good behaviour and achievements and warmly support your child’s emotions and goals; they are secure in your love for them. You think of yourself as a guide, rather than an authority figure. You lay down the law, but you listen to your children and involve them in decision-making when appropriate. They feel they can come to you with their problems and mistakes without facing judgment.

The authoritative parenting style is widely considered by child development experts to be the most effective and beneficial style for raising typical children. It is associated with less risky behaviour in the teenage years and long-term social and emotional health.

Permissive parenting

You are warm and attentive, and your kids are secure in your love for them. You might try to influence kids’ behaviour through friendship, rather than by setting and enforcing rules (which you might rely on a partner to do). You care about your family’s peace and happiness above all. You may have had a strict, authoritarian upbringing yourself and decided you want to be a different kind of parent.

A warm, nurturing and encouraging environment is really, really good for kids. Children who grow up with permissive parents typically grow up feeling loved and safe. This style of parenting is associated with resourcefulness in children, and higher self-esteem.

However, studies show permissive parenting means a lack of consequences can inhibit kids’ self-control and personal responsibility. They are also more likely to display more aggressive behaviour over time, misbehave at school and see lower academic achievement; as teenagers, children with permissive parents are much more likely to engage in heavy underage drinking than children brought up under other parenting styles.

You can grow as a parent by setting and enforcing a few boundaries with your child, to provide them with the structure research has shown children need in order to thrive. Challenge yourself to set rules around one or two areas that are important to you – perhaps bedtime/curfew, or finishing homework. Make the rule, explain it and the consequence of breaking it to your kid in a moment of calm (not in the moment s/he isn’t living up to it), and then – do it. You can! You might not like it, but (a) it will be less of a battle as your kid gets used to it, and (b) your kid will be better for it in the long run.

Once you’ve done this, congrats: Your parenting has become more authoritative.

Authoritarian parenting

Kids are, by definition, immature, and for you, parenting is about correcting that. There’s nothing wrong with punishment (unless it’s physical, of course); it teaches kids the consequences of their actions, so they learn what is acceptable behaviour. You also tend to take good behaviour for granted when it occurs, since it should be the norm. You care about keeping your child on the correct path in life above all.

Research shows children need boundaries and structure to feel secure, and children of authoritarian parents can be very high achieving. However, the downside of authoritarian parenting is that it is rooted in punishment – which quite simply doesn’t work in shaping behaviour for the better (and actually makes behaviour worse over time). This style’s demand for obedience also shuts down the possibility of dialogue and communication; studies have found kids of authoritarian parents are less likely to go to their parents for counsel, and more likely to consult peers.

Authoritarian parenting is associated with less resourcefulness in children, low self-esteem, difficulty regulating emotions, poorer social skills, bullying behaviour as well as being bullied, and worsening academic performance. And teens of authoritarian parents are more likely to abuse alcohol than their peers with authoritative parents.

You can grow as a parent by allowing your child more agency (particularly if they are older). This doesn’t mean letting up on your high standards, but rather, inviting your child’s point of view, really listening to it, and allowing them more control over less make-or-break aspects of their lives. Perhaps invite them to come up with their own study schedule that also includes time for them to pursue their own interests, or agree to compromise on a purchase.

Once you’ve done this, congrats: Your parenting has become more authoritative.

Uninvolved parenting

Your parental motto is, “The kids will be all right.” You stay above the fray and prefer to set an example for your children. You likely have a busy schedule, and can only be involved in the details so much. And you’re looking forward to the day when you can have an adult conversation with your child; until then, it’s honestly quite boring and there’s not much you feel you can contribute. This parenting style runs the risk of being neglectful.

Sadly, there’s no real upside to this parenting style. Uninvolved parenting – even if unintentional – is the most damaging way to raise a child, because it doesn’t create a foundation of trust from which kids can safely explore the people and world around them. Children of uninvolved or simply absent parents struggle to form relationships with their peers and others.

You can grow as a parent by getting more involved in your child’s life, stat. Ask questions about your kid’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences, and set some household rules. It’s going to be difficult, particularly if you have an older kid who is used to your extreme hands-off approach, and you may need to seek a therapist’s help in managing the transition to a more authoritative parenting style.

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