It’s weird. Think about it.
Every job in the world comes with some training- a college degree or at least a period of basic hand-holding before you are handed full responsibility.
Not so for parents!
In fact, the funny thing is- you merit the title only after you already have a screaming, 5-ish pound mass of life in your arms already!
You have just been made responsible for another human life. You will work in 24-hour shifts. Immediate responsibilities include- Feeding them, clothing them, cleaning after them and trying to get them to sleep. You will perfect the art of guessing what your (highly communicative) infant is trying to tell you every time he wails. Shifts may or may not permit time for your own sleeping(although how you use the time between his feeding/purging cycle is up to you).
In a few years, your responsibilities will expand, even though your title will remain the same for a lifetime. You will soon be responsible for what they eat, when they sleep, how they do in school, what they read, what they watch, where they spend their time, how they treat others, how they are treated by others, their physical safety, emotional health, education, and skills and just about everything.
You are responsible for what they are, what they would become.
In effect, you are handed the power to influence a human being(s) that will inhabit this planet for an average of 80 years.
And believe me you, that is a LOT of impact on the world!
Welcome to parenting!
This kind of massive, unrelenting, hand-on responsibility for at least 18 years is likely to see a steep experiential learning curve and a tsunami-level churn of emotions all along the way. However, whatever the parent might be experiencing, there is one constant in every parent’s life – they want the best for their child. Most parents want to do their absolute best to see their child gets the best. As a parent, I can vouch for the fact that one of the biggest fears of a parent is to fail to help your child achieve their full potential. For a parent, the fear of not helping a perfectly capable child fulfill their potential is as real as the fear of watching a child lose to a disease or drugs.
But, hey! This stint is loooon…g. And it’s demanding as hell. This stretch is a marathon, not a sprint.
It needs patience. Lots of love. Confidence. And strategies. Yes, good parenting requires good strategies.
Because as long as the marathon may seem, it is still crucial to make the best use of every day of influence we have with our children.
As Gretchen Rubin says in her best-selling book The Happiness Project:
Every day matters.
Most parents want to get this parenting thing right. They are afraid they are doing it wrong.
Turns out, a large part of the parenting outcome can be predicted by something called the Parenting Styles. Simply put, parenting style is the style of communication, response and discipline parents use to raise their children. Psychologists define parenting styles are based on two main attributes:
The extent to which the parent responds to the child’s need in a warm and supportive manner. Responsiveness can range from no response to any of your child’s needs to fulfilling every one of their demands.
It is the extent to which parents want their children to meet behavioral expectations. Again, this can range from no expectation at all to very strict enforcement of expectations – and the repercussions expected if a child does not comply.
An interplay of these two factors determines the quality of nurture, control, and independence that their children experience. In other words, it defines the quality of their childhood.
Depending on how far the two factors are toggles up and down, psychologists identify and classify 4 major parenting styles, the first 3 of which were identified by a developmental psychologist called Diana Baumrind. Baumrind based her work on a series of studies she conducted to observe people’s parenting approach based on how and how much they demanded of their children and their responsiveness to the children’s needs.
She classified parenting styles into three major categories, defined by the four major attributes- known today as the Baumrind Parenting Topology.
The authoritarian style of parenting involves high demandingness and low responsiveness.
Parents set the rules, and children are expected to follow them. Usually, the rationale behind those rules is not explained to children, and compliance is strictly enforced. Questions are usually met with,” Because I say so.” Since they do not have to explain their rules to their children, communication is often one-way. Adherence to a behavioral code is non-negotiable. High expectations from children are a norm and failure to stick to those standards often results in harsh punishment.
Children raised using this parenting style are often well-behaved and compliant, but only as long as they are under the gaze of the parent. Since they are often subject to harsh punishment such as spanking and yelling, they are observed to hold on to anger and resentment in childhood and adolescence. As a result, they are known to exhibit anti-social and reclusive behaviors later, often leading to substance abuse and suicidal tendencies. One major tendency shown in children raised in an authoritarian household is that they lack self-direction because they are used to following orders without question. As adults, they are likely to have difficulties making decisions on their own, leaving them feeling rudderless and frustrated.
The authoritative parenting style is characterized by a combination of demandingness and responsiveness in an assertive, positive manner. Parents adopt a child-centric approach while using disciplining tactics with their children. The authoritative parenting style picks up elements of authoritarian parenting- they enforce limits on their children, do not give in to unreasonable demands, set behavioral expectations and dole out consequences, but also temper their responses according to the needs of the child. Authoritative parents are consistent in their messaging and encourage two-way communication.
An authoritative parent places tremendous focus on listening, which in turn encourages critical thinking, communication, and emotional regulation. Children raised in authoritative households do not hesitate to bring a problem to their parents. The environment in an authoritative parent’s home is warm and respectful. Parents hold their children to very high expectations, but they also take responsibility to provide them with adequate support and time required for them to demonstrate the expected levels of maturity. When children face consequences, they know exactly what they will get(or not) and know what they are getting it for.
As the name suggests, the Permissive Parenting style is very lenient. These are parents who believe that kids do not require direction and regulation from them. They adopt a “Kids will be kids” approach and shy away from imposing rules and discipline. This parenting style takes elements of the authoritative parenting style in that the parents are generally warm and responsive to their kids, but the parents adopting this style do not believe in the enforcement of discipline or rules. They expect kids to regulate themselves, leaving little or no room for limit-setting.
These parents often bend their own rules, resulting in the children receiving mixed and inconsistent messages.
Children growing up in a permissive parenting environment show impulsive behavior, because of the disregard for rules and limits. Since they grow up without having to live up to expectations, they tend to run into conflicts as adults. Their sudden encounter with authority in later life leaves them at a higher risk of anxiety and aggression. Similar to children of authoritarian homes, children of permissive parents are also prone to the risk of depression and substance abuse due to too much and too little of the same things- control and limits. They typically fit the bill of ‘entitled children.’ Physically, such children are likely to be obese because they do not encounter any limits on junk food intake. They also show poor dental health and personal hygiene due to poor enforcement of essential good habits in childhood.
Expanding on Baumrinds’ parenting styles classification, two other psychologists Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin recognized a fourth category of parenting style.
The uninvolved parent hardly has any rules for their children, mostly because making and enforcing rules is simply too much work for the parent. They are hardly aware of what their children are up to, and they don’t offer any guidance or parenting attention. They treat children like adults, only smaller in size. There is hardly any communication with their children, not even for expressing anger or concern. The atmosphere in the homes uninvolved parents is of general apathy and disarray. Typically, a mental illness, addiction to substances or a complete lack of knowledge or interest in child-rearing causes a parent to neglect their children. Too much of an obsession with other problems like spousal conflicts or work-related problems can also lead to uninvolved parenting.
Children of uninvolved parents are used to being neglected. They simply do not see anyone put energy or time into their needs, which leads to low self-esteem in adolescence and adulthood. Due to the lack of adult interaction and direction, such children tend to suffer in school. Experts peg this style of parenting to be the worst, because children grow up to be socially withdrawn, and have the greatest risk of delinquent behaviors. These children are basically left thinking, “Why am I even here?”
Recent research insights have also pointed to the development of several other parenting styles over the decades, especially in response to changing lifestyles in today’s world.
Positive parenting is authoritative parenting with positive consequences for the child. There’s plenty of communication and parents support their children consistently through all developmental stages.
Concerted cultivation is a term used for a parent’s intentional efforts to cultivate and nurture a child’s talent and passion through consistent, high-quality training and periodic feedback on their progress in activities outside of school. Though this is a great thing for most children, experts warn that crossing the sweet spot for extra-curricular activities leads to a modern phenomenon called ‘overscheduling.’
Advocated by child psychologists Blythe and David Daniel, this style of parenting recommends adjusting your parenting style to focus on the unique needs and nature of each child.
Slow parenting believes in letting children explore the world at their own pace, with minimal scheduling and organization from parents. Toys, video games are limited leading to stimulation and learning derived from natural environments.
Child psychologist William Sears coined the term Attachment Parenting to define a parenting style that is not just warm and responsive but also involves lots of physical contact like co-sleeping, hugging and kissing. Also called ‘Immersive parenting,’ this parenting style advocates harnessing the healing power of touch and skin contact.
Helicopter Parenting refers to parents who ‘hover’ over their children, like a helicopter, in a bid to protect them. Coined in 1990, this term gained popularity when parents would attempt to contact professors for their children’s bad grades or do their children’s homework to keep them out of trouble. Social psychologists believe this trend began due to the culmination of two social phenomena – the rise of the perception of child endangerment and the rise in employment and disposable income for parents. The ‘one-child’ trend is also believed to have fueled this trend.
Alloparenting is parenting that involves the whole community or an extended family in the raising of children- a trend that has drastically diminished with the advent of nuclear families with the exception of certain African and Asian communities. Facebook groups are the new Alloparenting community where parents( especially moms) seek each other’s counsel while raising their kids.
Narcissistic parenting is marked by extreme possessiveness of the parent over the child and anxiety over their growing independence. This style of parenting deters healthy parent-child bonding, especially in later years.
Lawnmower parenting is a close cousin of helicopter parenting, with the additional feature of parents attempting to “mow down” any obstacles or discomfort in their children’s path so they never have to face any discomfort.
Free-range parenting fosters child-appropriate independence by allowing children to exercise autonomy with limited parental supervision. Free-range parenting encourages intentional priming of independence in children, unlike uninvolved parenting. It is also seen as the opposite of helicopter parenting, which curbs independence in children.
Our parenting style is an inheritance. We parent the way we were parented.
Like everything else, our approach to parenting is a combination of several factors. Experts believe that psychology behind parenting styles is defined by the following major psychological factors:
While all parents want the best for their children, parenting strategies have adapted themselves over the years to the evolving socioeconomic conditions. For example, lower inequality and increased mobility in occupational choices have made the authoritarian approach far less effective than even one generation ago. Increased access to resources from all over the globe has also given rise to a wider perspective on parenting success.
Traditional Asian child-rearing cultures adopt the authoritarian parenting style, without any negative consequences(in most cases). It is considered a cultural norm to respect the word of elders, and certain practices are considered important to uphold tradition and cultural identity, and not to perpetuate a belittling or submissive attitude. Children are not seen rebelling against such practices, because its a community norm.
The same parenting strategies can yield different results in the same home with the same conditions. An authoritative parenting style leaning towards permissive parenting may work well for a child with a natural capacity for self-regulation, and not work so well for a free-ranger child.
A few years ago, the best-selling memoir “The Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother” by Yale Law Professor Amy Chua raked up a storm on parenting styles. One of her children thrived under her authoritarian parenting style and attained precocious mastery-level musical skills on the piano, while it led to a lot of tension between the mother and the second child, especially after the child encounters failure.
The parent’s temperament including any prevalent mental illness is vital to the parenting style they adopt. Stress that is induced due to marital discord, word-related issues contribute heavily to a parent’s response.
For most of us, our parenting style is an inheritance. We parent the way we were parented. Period.
While parenting experts and researchers expound on the benefits of the authoritative parenting style, parents struggle with adopting the style because of the lack of role models to emulate, simply because they have been raised in another parenting philosophy.
Adopting a parenting style is about adapting our responses to day-to-day situations with the child. Here are a few situations that almost no parent can avoid:
Situation 1: The teen at home simply refuses to get off the phone, even though he knows the rules on screen time.
The authoritative parent approach: Kevin Roberts, a specialist in family screen behavior suggests setting consistent and specific rules. In the Parenting Consciousness Virtual Parenting summit we hosted earlier this year, Roberts spoke about how he laid down a rule about no screen time while in the car together. When his nephew broke the rule, he had his phone taken away for 3 days. His nephew did not protest because he knew the deal.
Situation 2: Toddler throwing a tantrum
The authoritative parent approach: Dr. Laura Markham, a gentle parenting expert and founder of AhaParenting.com suggests getting down to the eye-level of the toddler to make eye-contact as a first step. Acknowledge that they are having a hard time and that you understand why they think that huge chocolate might help. They might just be hungry, so offer them another favorite but healthy option(like a fruit they like). Physical contact like hugs and hand-holding soothe them effectively.
Situation 3: Siblings having a fight
The authoritative parent approach: Leeza Steindorf, the author of the best-selling book“Connected Parent, Empowered Child”, and an expert on conflict resolution recommends using a decision stick during her talk at Parenting Consciousness Conference. Each child can present her point of view, but only when it’s their turn to hold the decision stick. In a few minutes, each of them gets to hear the other’s point of view without interruptions and the fight dissolves quickly.
Situation 4: Child refusing to wear shoes
The authoritative parent approach: Tracy Cutchlow, a best-selling author and a Language of Listening coach, recommends using the “say what you see” approach. While our instinct might be to slap the shoes on their feet, a better approach would be to pause and say- ‘Wow! You like being barefoot today!’ While the child responds, it gives us time to rein back our instincts enough to figure out the reason for his reluctance and respond to his need or realize that it isn’t such a big deal anyway. It is also a great way to help the child articulate clearly.
Situation 5: Mealtimes are chaos
The authoritative parent approach: Help the child make a healthy choice by limiting their choices – for example: between a banana and an apple. Ice cream and crisps are off the table, but they can choose their fruit.
Designed by the PsychCentral Research Team led by Dr. John M. Grohol, this quiz is quick and clear.
This quiz takes about 25 minutes to finish with a FREE snapshot of an evaluation report and summary available at the end of the quiz. The full report is available for a charge.
A fun short quiz by Parents.com that helps you quickly evaluate your parenting style.
The parenting style quiz is one of the many interesting personality quizzes on the quiz hub 365 Tests.
This parenting style quiz by Active Parenting allows you to evaluate your style based on 2 parameters- Beliefs and Actions between a total of 30 questions.
This parenting style quiz by Positive Parenting Ally provides detailed descriptions to help parents choose their responses with depth and clarity.
The influence of a parent simply cannot be undermined. Research has proved time and again that parents are the largest influence on the child, no matter what academic training and peer circles a child may be exposed to making it critical to the shaping of an individual’s personality. Raising a child is an important job, in fact, the most important job of a parent.
No one said it’s easy.
But it can be conscious. Purposeful. Intentional. Fun.
Who else can power the future better than a parent?
Devishobha is the founder of Kidskintha- a global parenting and education collective, and the host of the global virtual conferences hosted on the platform. You can also find her voice on the Huffington Post, Mother.ly, Entrepreneur, Lifehack, TinyBuddha, Thought Catalog and many other publications.