Parenting styles

Parenting can be a terrifying responsibility to take on for most of us. Being responsible for bringing a child into the world and raising him/her right is a something many of us might feel unprepared for. We worry about so many things which may go wrong. We try to read books on parenting, talk to our own parents and others, watch videos in order to understand ‘how to parent’ and raise our child in the best possible way. There is no such thing as a perfect parent just as there is no such thing as a perfect child. Parenting is a skill which is perfected through practice and experience. The parents’ and the child’s temperaments will have a huge influence on their style of parenting as well. Each parent will have their own unique way of raising their child.

A parenting style is a psychological concept which talks about standard strategies that parents use in their child rearing. The fact that parenting styles have a big impact on children and their personalities is undeniable and proven through research. During the early 1960s, a psychologist called Diana Baumrind conducted a study on more than 100 preschool-age children (Baumrind, 1967). She was able to identify four important dimensions of parenting: Disciplinary strategies, Warmth and nurturance, Communication styles and Expectations of maturity and control. Based on these parameters, Baumrind suggested that the majority of parents display one of three different parenting styles. Further research added a fourth parenting style (Maccoby & Martin, 1983).The four parenting styles that were observed were

  • Permissive Parenting – The permissive parent attempts to behave in a nonpunitive, acceptant and affirmative manner towards the child’s impulses, desires, and actions.  Such a parent will consult the child before taking decisions and explains family rules to the child.  However, a permissive parent makes few demands of the child regarding household responsibility and orderly behavior.  The parent presents himself/herself as a resource for the child to use as he/she wishes, not as a role model or a healthy disciplinarian. The child is allowed to regulate his/her own activities as much as possible without being forced to obey any rules. Such a parent may use reason and manipulation, but not overt power to accomplish his/her ends. Permissive parenting often results in children who rank low in happiness and self-regulation. These children are more likely to experience problems with authority and tend to perform poorly in school. Ex: Abhinav wants a car which his parents can’t afford. No amount of reasoning will stop his demands so they finally mortgage the house to buy him his car.
  • Authoritarian Parenting – The authoritarian parent attempts to control the child according to a strict standard, which he/she sets or which he/she believes their faith has set. The parent values obedience as a virtue and uses punishment, often corporal, when the child does not follow the parent’s edicts. Such a parent believes in keeping the child in his place,  in restricting his autonomy, and in assigning household responsibilities in order to inculcate respect for work. He/she regards the preservation of order and traditional structure as highly important. Such parents do not encourage verbal give and take, believing that the child should accept his/her word for what is right. They do not explain the reasons why certain family rules are in place and do not allow the child to ask questions. Research has shown that authoritarian parenting styles generally lead to children who are obedient and proficient, but they rank lower in happiness, social competence and self-esteem.Ex: Shanthi’s father has told her that she has to study between 5-9 pm everyday and is not allowed to play in the evening with her friends. Her mother agrees with her father. No matter how miserable this makes Shanthi, she has no choice but to follow her father’s instructions.
  • Authoritative Parenting – The authoritative parent attempts to direct the child’s activities but in a rational, issue-oriented manner. The parent encourages verbal give and take, shares with the child the reasoning behind his/her rules, and solicits any objections the child might have. Both independence and disciplined conformity are valued. Therefore, the parent exerts firm control at points of where the parent and child disagree, but does not hem the child in with restrictions. He/she enforces her own perspective as an adult, but recognizes the child’s individual interests and special ways. The authoritative parent affirms the child’s present qualities, but also sets standards for future conduct. He/she uses reason, power, and shaping by regime and reinforcement to achieve her objectives, and does not base her decisions on group consensus or the individual child’s desires. Authoritative parenting styles tend to result in children who are happy, capable and successful (Maccoby, 1992). For ex:  Pooja and her mother have come to an agreement that she can go out with her friends on Saturday night if she does her share of the household chores throughout the week.
  • Uninvolved Parenting – An uninvolved parent is characterized by few demands, low responsiveness and little communication. While these parents fulfill the child’s basic needs, they are generally detached from their child’s life. In extreme cases, these parents may even reject or neglect the needs of their children. Research says that uninvolved parenting styles rank lowest across all life domains. These children tend to lack self-control, have low self-esteem and are less competent than their peers. Ex: Suresh has been partying and doing drugs for the last two years whenever he goes out with his friends. His parents realize he is not doing well but feel that they are too busy to babysit him all the time and that he is old enough to look after himself.

There are many reasons for the differences in parenting styles among different families such as culture, personality, family size, parental background, socioeconomic status, educational level and religion. A mother and father within a family could often have contradictory parenting styles which could lead to confusion and conflict in their child-rearing strategies. There is no single model of parenting that is suitable to all families. Each family needs a unique blend of parenting styles to fulfill the needs of the child and the parents and foster a good relationship between them.

This article might have helped you identify your own parenting style and given you a glimpse of its pros and cons. If you are struggling with issues related to parenthood or wanting help with how to parent , you can contact us at TalkItOver for further information and professional counselling.

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About Sarayu Chandrashekar

Sarayu Chandrashekar is a qualified Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT). She has an M.S in Marriage and Family Therapy from Purdue University, USA, an M.S in Psychological Counselling from Montfort College, and a B.A in Psychology from Christ University, Bangalore. She has worked in a de-addiction centre and a family therapy clinic in the US as well as with the Association for the Mentally Challenged, Bangalore in the past. She has also completed a research study for her MFT degree on Indian couples living in the US and their marital satisfaction. She has nearly 1000 hours of counselling experience. She incorporates a combination of systemic family therapies and cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) in her work. She has a passion for couple and family therapy and group work.