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As a new parent, you’re bound to get plenty of advice from concerned family and friends, but you will quickly find that when it comes to parenting, there’s no one-size-fits-all. Before you start filtering out what works for you and what doesn’t, it might be helpful to learn about the basic categories of parenting styles defined by Diana Baumrind, a well-known child developmental psychologist1.
In the 1960s, Baumrind published a study of four main parenting styles, based on her observations of over 100 middle-class preschool children in the United States, setting the foundation for the study of modern parenting styles today2.
How it’s measured: Demandingness and Responsiveness
Baumrind used two factors to categorise the methods parents used to raise their child. Demandingness represents the amount of control you, as a parent, would want to have over what your kid says and does. Responsiveness, on the other hand, is about how willing you are to meet your child’s needs.2 Depending on where you are on the spectrum of Demandingness and Responsiveness, you could fall under the following parenting styles.
1. Authoritative: Nurturing independence
Do you set rules and boundaries for your child? Do you make it clear that mistakes are OK, and an opportunity for learning and growth? Are your kids able to share how they feel with you when they are upset? If your answers are yes, you have an authoritative parenting style. With this warmer and more responsive parenting style, parents create a safe environment for their little one to trip, fall then teach them how to get back up again4. As the child grows, parents have the mindset of growing together with their children as well[.
An authoritative style also helps a child figure out how to express his/her emotions the right way, and develop good decision-making and social skills.3,5 They’ll also learn to respect boundaries and rules when they are set in place for good reason.
2. Permissive: Saying ‘yes’
Do you find yourself saying ‘yes’ to your child most, if not all, the time? Does your child get new toys every time he/she asks? Will you often give your child permission to watch the television past their bedtime? If so, you have a permissive parenting style. More of a friend than a parent, the permissive parent agrees to most things their child wants.
However, it is not all roses and sunshine – children who grow up with permissive parents often find themselves having trouble with authority and self-discipline when they grow up. They might also end up impulsive and have an inflated sense of self.5
3. Authoritarian: Rules are everything
Are you a firm believer in setting rules for your children? Do you deal with any trespasses quickly and swiftly? The strictest out of the bunch, parents who use an authoritarian style are big on rules for their children. A hierarchy is established in the family with parents sitting right on top. Rules are not meant to be broken.
Kids brought up with this parenting style could feel like they have to behave perfectly all the time to avoid punishment.4 This could affect the development of self-esteem5, but there are other benefits too. Rule-centric parenting has been shown to be effective for some families, with children having mastered self-discipline through their upbringing.
4. Neglectful/Uninvolved: The absent parent
Are you rarely involved in your child’s life? Do you know very little about where your child is or where they have been? Are you indifferent about setting rules for your child? Whether by choice or not, there are parents who are absent in their child’s lives.2,4 As a result, these children learn to be independent and take on responsibilities usually expected of older kids at a young age.
While some children flourish when given the opportunity to be independent, there are definitely plenty of downsides too – some children might engage in impulsive behaviour, and even find it tricky to catch up in school.5
Baumrind’s parenting styles have set the stage for many forms of modern parenting practices but that doesn’t mean you’ve to choose only one. Often, finding the right fit requires some trial-and-error, and mixing-and-matching. Some kids thrive with more rules at home and others react better with freedom to make their own mistakes. As you delve deeper into the topic, you might even discover that you’ve already adopted a parenting style that naturally fits into your lifestyle.