Parenting Styles – should we care?

The first question that comes to mind is why do parenting styles differ so much?  Why is it such an emotive topic guaranteed to raise hackles…..?  Why don’t we all just agree on a set of characteristics that the experts say work well and which are guaranteed to produce well rounded, wonderful adults?!! That would be great, wouldn’t it! Lol   Well our styles differ due to culture, parental background, religion, personality, parental educational level, family size, all the things that make society what it is, i.e.,  diverse.    

Developmental psychologists, educators, teachers, legislators and experts from various fields and parents of course have all weighed in heavily on the merits and demerits of various parenting styles.  Four basic styles have emerged in the research.  These parenting styles are:-

1.     Authoritarian

2.     Authoritative

3.     Permissive

4.     Uninvolved


Only 4 you are possibly thinking!  What about:-


1.     Attachment parenting (or emotional bonding parenting. Joined at the hip anyone??)

2.     Over parenting  (think helicopter parent, i.e., an overly involved parent)

3.     Slow parenting (Step back parenting where kids are allowed to explore the world at their own pace.  Gadgets are limited and simple toys are preferred. Lots of family time required and children are encouraged to make their own decisions)

4.     Positive parenting (Similar to authoritative parenting, parents are supportive and encouraging of their kids, mistakes allowed!)

5.     Narcissistic parenting (Overly possessive of their children and even threatened by their child’s increasing independence.  They believe their child exists for their benefit alone)

6.     Taking Children Seriously parenting (This parent will do nothing against their child’s will and will not make them do anything that they don’t want to do either).

7.     Toxic parenting ( abuse of child basically)

8.     Dolphin parenting (like dolphins, playful and sociable.  The opposite of the Tiger Parent in that they avoid overscheduling their kids and listen to what their kids might like to do.

9.     Tiger Parenting (24/7 demanding schedule of usually highly academic pursuits, no tolerance for ‘waste of time’ activities such as play…..

10.  Male/Female differentiation parenting  ( Parenting differently depending on whether you are working with your male child or female child)


There are probably even more labels out there, I’ve just tired of them!  You may be starting to scratch your head now, maybe even laugh or wonder what kind of parent you are since you haven’t heard of half of these terms!! Should you even care???  Without wanting to make people feel anxious about yet another buzz word, fad etc. regarding child rearing, I think it is interesting to look at the different types of parenting out there to help us to gain a greater understanding of child behaviour, family dynamics and even classroom, playground and social behaviour.  Do we all fall neatly into a parenting category?  Is there a correct parenting style or method?  Personally I believe not and like everything in life we all probably borrow parenting practices from all the above mentioned styles depending on situations, mood and so on.  So let’s have a look and examine our styles and beliefs about parenting.

Authoritarian Parenting

What does it look like?  Basically strict rules are set and parents expect their children to follow them to the letter.  Naturally if a child fails to follow a rule, a punishment results.  An authoritarian parent never explains the reasons for the rules and usually will simply say to the child when challenged, ‘because I say so’ or something along those lines.  Authoritarian parents usually have very high demands.  They have great expectations of their children and tend to meet out harsh punishments for mistakes or failures.  Shouting and physical punishment are usually part of the package.  Such parents rarely give feedback and if they do, such feedback tends to be negative.  Contrary to what authoritarian parents may think, they do not discipline their children, they punish them. 

So what kind of child will an authoritarian parent raise?  Children raised within this type of home tend to be very good at following rules but often have abysmal self-discipline.  As these children have never been encouraged to explore or act independently, they don’t really ever learn how to set their own standards or limits, so when the parental figure is not around to monitor things, this can lead to problems and poor choices. 

The general expert consensus appears to be that authoritarian parenting is overly punishment based.  It also comes up too short on warmth, and unconditional love that all children need.  Children from very authoritarian homes sometimes are also overly aggressive outside the home, have lower self-esteem and have problems in social situations due to not having great social skills.  They are also apparently more prone to depression and anxiety. 

But is it all bad?  Having rules and structure is surely good?  Right?  Hmmmm, what else is there parenting-wise?

Authoritative Parenting

I know, sounds like the other one….. Don’t you just love experts and their terminology…..?   Ok, so what is authoritative parenting?  No surprise here, these parents also have rules that they expect their children to follow.  However, the huge difference here is that these parents will listen to their children’s questions and give positive feedback.  They want their children to understand the reasons for the rules and so when the children break the rules these parents will follow up in an assertive and supportive way rather than in a punitive way.  Authoritative parents want their children to be self-disciplined and responsible socially and will monitor their children’s behaviour carefully but discuss and explain when necessary.    So what kind of children can we expect from this type of environment?  The consensus appears to be that such children tend to be able, successful and generally happy. 


Permissive or Indulgent Parenting

Such parenting style is quite the opposite of the first two.  Permissive parents make few demands of their children.  They don’t generally expect high levels of maturity and self-discipline from their children.  Such parents are far more responsive to their children than demanding of them.  They talk to their children and lot and are generally very nurturing.  Some might say such parents are friends to their children rather than parents.  So is all this ‘lovey doveiness’ good for kids?  I am afraid not.  The experts take is that such children “rank low in happiness and self-regulation.  These children are more likely to experience problems with authority and tend to perform poorly in school.” 

Right, so the all rules and regulations isn’t good and the nice, softly, softly approach is rubbish too….. So what else is there???


Uninvolved Parenting

This parenting style is described as having few demands, little communication and not much responsiveness.  Such parents will of course cater to their child’s basic needs, food, clothes, school etc. but generally absent themselves from their children’s lives, think Nanny in the Victorian era….  But we have the modern day equivalents all around us now under different guises such as ‘quality time’, I have such a busy job, so child gets shipped off to whatever the level of care a parent can provide…   Needless to say such children usually don’t come out the other side into adulthood unscathed, they often have little or no self- control and low self-esteem. 


Which are you then?

So dare I ask which type of parent are you?  Which type of parent am I?  In my case I guess I am a mix.  Rules, boundaries, consequences for actions, some activities and a regular routine.   We all seem to be coping just fine, but I guess I won’t know for certain til my two reach adulthood when of course it’s too late to change my parenting style/s… 


Worry much?

But should we worry much?  I think not and here I’ll quote my life motto at you, ‘everything in moderation’, works in most contexts and parenting is no exception.  I think we all tend to get overly worked up about the latest research and suggested consequences of doing or not doing x, y and z.  In reality any behavioural psychologist or expert will readily admit that any links between parenting methods and resultant child behaviour are weak.  No definitive ‘cause and effect’ relationships can be established.  And here’s my favourite quote from author Douglas Bernstein, ‘There is no universally “best” style of parenting’. (Essentials of Psychology’.

Just look around you, authoritative parents have delinquent kids, while uninvolved parents get self- confident and academically brilliant kids too.  It might not be fair but it does prove there is more going on with childhood development and resultant adults that just the parenting.  I am by no means saying that good parenting isn’t needed, quite the contrary, but just don’t get too stressed out about doing the ‘right’ thing every time because there often isn’t a clear ‘right’ way……….





1.       Bernstein, D.A. (2011).  Essentials of psychology.  Belmont, CA: Wadsworth

2.       Hockenbury, D.H. & Hockenbury, S.E. (2003). Psychology. New York: Worth Publishers.



5.       The National Children’s Strategy Research Series.  Department of Health & Children. Rep. of Ireland

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