Monday, 24 June 2013

Styles of Parenting

I'm at a bit of a loss when I try to think about what has inspired me to write today’s blog on parenting styles.  Perhaps it’s because I got woken up at 04:37 this morning by little girl and allowed her to stay up from that time instead of maybe forcing her back into bed.  A little bit of regression may be in order, changing the once-cot, now a bed, back into its original cot form to ensure that she doesn't come through to our room at some pretty hard-to-function hours.  Maybe I'm being too lenient, too understanding, but I guess I just think that she is none-the-wiser about time and her circadian rhythms dictate her sleep-wake cycle and not the fact that she wants to watch mommy and daddy walk around the house in an early morning daze.  This morning I was in a deep sleep, dreaming, when I got a hunch that I was being watched.  I opened my eyes and saw her blue eyes staring at me; I actually jumped I got such a fright.  So, what parenting style should I be using? Laissez faire? Cruel to be kind? Dictator’s my way or the highway?

Psychology textbooks list a range of between three to five styles of parenting.  The ultimate goal really is to balance the parenting dimensions of warmth and control. Parental warmth refers to the amount of affection and approval the parents display towards their child, whilst parental control is how restrictive the parents are.  These two factors are vital as they are believed to ultimately affect a child’s aggression and pro-social behaviour, their self-esteem, the internalisation of morals and values and their development of social competence.

Developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind identified three distinct styles of parenting:


An authoritative parent will combine a high level of control, but willingly displays warmth, acceptance and encouragement towards their child as they discover their own independence (level of autonomy).  Parents such as this will place boundaries for their children, but will also take the time to explain why these boundaries are in place and the relevance of placing limitations on behaviour.  It’s basically being objective and flexible.  I guess this type of parenting (a style I am very much in favour of and try to strive towards) allows the child to feel confident in being able to communicate with their parents and parents allowing their children to have a voice. Almost completely opposite of the latter is the authoritarian style of parenting. This style adopts a more controlling and rigid approach with regards to enforcing rules and boundaries.  It can be somewhat absent of warmth towards the child. Commands are issued and are therefore expected to be adhered to; it can, unfortunately, leave the child out of the family’s decision-making process.  Permissive parenting is the opposite of authoritarian; little to no boundaries are placed on the child’s behaviour.  Parents are so preoccupied with showing “unconditional love” that they overlook, and fail to set, boundaries.  There is a high degree of warmth and acceptance of the child, but limitations are not in place to guide the child.

Parenting is a balancing act; I am quickly discovering this fact. What is too much and how much is too little?  Returning to the styles and combining them with warmth and control, we can see that authoritative parenting offers a high level of control combined with a high level of warmth, where authoritarian displays high control and low warmth with permissive being the opposite of that.

And so my quest to be an authoritative parent continues...



  1. This is a great post and proves that you should get up at 4.30am every morning!

    My only quibble is in the terminology. I, like you, try to be authoritative as it suits my personality. I have some friends who would be classed as 'permissive' and are bringing up wonderful kids. The language used to describe this kind of parent is generally negative while it doens't necessarily need to be so.

    1. Stephen, you are absolutely right. What's written here is based on the definitions by Baumrind...textbooks and findings are one thing, but actual living evidence is another all together as you have so rightly pointed out. The post was written from what theorists say and not necessarily my own personal views/comments - for the most part.

  2. Great blog. I think parwnting styles exist on a continuum even tho we have one style that dominates!

  3. Yeah, I have to agree with Stephen - the descriptions of the styles above are so biased that there is no doubt as to which one you should be preferring (if it's a conscious choice or you're simply decide to go with what suits your personality). For all we know children raised in a permissive style are more likely to become highly successful sports stars (or strippers) and children raised by an authoritarian become CEO's (or dictators)... We all love to judge another parent when we see their child doing something we wouldn't allow e.g. my friend's 2-year old was walking laps along the edge of their dining room table - but for all I know he becomes an Olympic gymnast in 15 years' time and my wife and I will probably say "oh he's lucky, must've got good genes!"


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