Do Parenting Styles Matter?

I have this intense need to say, “It doesn’t matter how you raise your kids. Just make sure they know you love them unconditionally, and they will be fine.” If this were true, I could defend my current parenting style, which is — get through the day without anyone, including me, having a meltdown. A scientist by nature, I looked at the research. Damn, damn, damn — I hate when I do that. Turns out, this has been studied and quantified. The results, being a measure of human nature, are imperfect. Seemingly perfect parents can, of course, raise a pole dancer and degenerate alcoholics can, in fact, raise a Rhodes Scholar. Have you read The Glass Castle? But, there are commonalities in parenting styles and the types of people these methods produce.

mean, strict, parent, sad child1. Authoritarian Parents — These parents are strict and rigid, expect kids to follow the rules at all times and impose punishments when rules aren’t followed. They don’t feel the need to explain the rationale behind the rules. These parents put a premium on obedience and are very concerned with status.

Their Kids end up: Capable, rule-followers with lower scores on happiness, social competence and self-esteem.

2. Authoritative Parents — These parents establish rules and guidelines, but are more interactive with and responsive to their children. They encourage questions and run a more democratic household. Their kids understand there are standards and expectations, but when these aren’t met, authoritative parents are understanding and forgiving. According to psychologist Diana Baumrind, they are “assertive, but not intrusive or retractive.”

Their Kids end up: Happy, capable and successful.

family, laughing, having fun3. Permissive (or indulgent) Parents — These parents have lower expectations of their kids and make few demands. They rarely discipline and are nurturing and communicative with their children. They avoid confrontation and act more as a friend than a parent. The more recent term is Peer-enting.

Their Kids end up: Less happy, having a lack of self-regulation, perform more poorly in school and often have problems with authority.

4. Uninvolved Parents — These parents supply the basic needs of life but are uninvolved and non-communicative with their kids.

Their Kids end up (shocker): Unhappy, unproductive, lacking self-esteem and self control.

Seems pretty clear #2 is the way to go. Most of us can master this occasionally, but the goal is consistency. What I like about these classifications and study results is they allow for personal style. The rules are set by the parent, not by the psychologist. It doesn’t separate out parents based on personal values and what types of rules they want to enforce. The key, it seems, is to prepare your child for an adult life where something will be expected of them, in a society where there are laws and mores, by giving them some practice. It would be so much easier to just say yes all the time, wouldn’t it?

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Author: Karen Latimer

Karen is a Family Doctor, mom of five and founder of Tips From Town.


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