What’s your parenting style

By Dr Anjana Kannankara

“If you have not been hated by your child at least once, you have never been a parent”. ~ Bette Davis

Good parenting is no piece of cake. It is no mean feat either to inculcate discipline in children and bring them up in the right way. Every generation sees changes, some good, some bad and some absolutely terrible. During our childhood we listened, we obeyed, we understood and we never questioned. It’s not the same anymore with the younger generation. Most parents unfortunately seem to have hardly any control over their children these days.
The parenting style can affect everything from the physical appearance to how the child feels about himself. It’s important to ensure that the parenting style is supporting healthy growth and development of a child because the manner in which parents interact with a child and how they discipline him would influence him throughout his life.
Researchers have identified various types of parenting styles based on the theory of Diana Baumrind, a developmental psychologist at the University of California at Berkeley in 1960s and later expanded by Maccoby and Martin in 1983. Each style takes a different approach in raising children and can be identified by a number of different characteristics.

Authoritarian parenting

• Imposing strict rules and punishments
• Not believing in having meaningful open verbal communication
• An attitude that parents know all
• Not taking the feelings of children into consideration
• High demands with less warmth or responsiveness
Authoritarian parents believe children should not be heard but must follow the rules without exception. Children do not get a chance to be involved in problem-solving challenges or obstacles, might be subjected to spanking or abusing publicly and do not get appreciated for achievements. Yet, the style is said to bring some positive outcomes like instilling responsibility, fostering unity, achieving set goals or creating a safe environment.
Children who grow up with strict authoritarian parents tend to follow rules much of the time. But, their obedience comes at a price; they are at a higher risk of developing self-esteem problems because their opinions are not valued.
They may also become hostile or aggressive. Instead of thinking about how to do things better in the future, they often focus on the anger they feel toward their parents. Since authoritarian parents are often strict, their children may grow to become good liars in an effort to avoid punishment.

Authoritative parenting

• Putting in considerable effort into creating and maintaining a positive relationship with the child
• Explaining the reasons behind the rules and actions before implementing
• Enforcing rules and giving punishments but taking the child’s feelings into consideration.
• Provides consistent emotional support where by the child feels confident to rely on parents if in trouble
• Showing appreciation, encouragement and giving rewards when needed
Authoritative parents do have rules and they use consequences too. But they validate their children’s feelings, while also making it clear that the adults are ultimately in charge. In the words of Laurence Steinberg, PhD, a professor of psychology at the Temple University, children develop healthier ways if this method is followed.
Authoritative parents invest time and energy into building a bond with child, nurturing their emotional and all round well being. They also apply positive discipline strategies to reinforce good behaviour, like praise and reward systems. Researchers have found kids who have authoritative parents are most likely to become responsible adults.

Permissive parenting

• Setting rules occasionally but rarely enforcing them
• Not giving out consequences very often
• An approach that the child will learn best with little interference
• Not believing in keeping children under control, rather treat them as equals
• Not asserting the authority of parents
Permissive parents are lenient and often step in only when there’s a serious problem but are forgiving too. They usually take on more of a friend’s role than being a disciplinarian. They often encourage their children to talk with them about their problems, but usually don’t put much effort into discouraging poor choices or bad behavior. They are afraid to set limits hence kids have too much freedom and choices while expectations are low.
Though kids who grow up with permissive parents receive emotional support, they are more likely to struggle academically and may exhibit many behavioural problems as they don’t appreciate authority and rules. They often have low self-esteem and a lot of sadness. They are also at a higher risk for health problems because permissive parents often fail to limit junk food intake and cannot efficiently enforce good habits.

Uninvolved parenting

• Not asking the child about school or homework or what happened during the day
• Rarely knowing where the child is or who he is with or what the child has been doing
• Not spending much time with the child
• Not available to support the child even in serious situations
Uninvolved parents expect children to raise themselves. They may be neglectful but it’s not always deliberate. At least in some cases, uninvolved parents lack knowledge about child development and their mental state. And some are simply occupied with other problems. Children with uninvolved parents are likely to struggle with self-esteem issues. They tend to develop frustration while growing and perform poorly in school. They also exhibit frequent behavioural problems, have trust issues and rank low in happiness since parents are unavailable for support.

Overprotective parenting

• Comforting a child quickly after a simple fall that produces no distress
• Strict rules that do not allow a child to get dirty or creative
• Punishment that does not fit the crime
• Constant supervision and micromanagement
• Over-emphasis on being successful in school
• Rely heavily on a system of rewards and punishments
An overprotective parent wishes to protect children from harm, hurt and pain, unhappiness, bad experiences and rejection, hurt feelings, failure and disappointments. The greatest drawback in this is bringing up underprepared children. Overprotective parenting will frequently encourage a child to lie, when he finds expectations to be too high or unreasonable, to avoid getting into trouble. These children might fail to thrive in standard situations. When the parent is fearful of many things, the child becomes overly scared as well. Normal, healthy risk-taking is discouraged and children grow up to be hyper-sensitive teenagers. Most importantly, the communication between parents and their children may not be effective as they mature.

Not fitting into one category

Sometimes parents don’t fit into just one category, so there is no reason to despair if there are times or areas where the parent inclines to be permissive and at other times more authoritative. The key is to understand the fine line of distinction between discipline and punishment as well as the importance of communication and understanding with kids.
Most studies are clear, however, that authoritative parenting is the best parenting style though all researches do not give positive results. But even if a parent identifies with other parenting styles more, there are steps that can be taken to incorporate this method into the lifestyle.
Parenting style alone does not determine the outcome of a child. Sometimes the temperament or behaviour of a child itself forces the parent to change the style of parenting. Differences in social context can make a difference, too.
With dedication and commitment to adopting the best parenting style possible, one can maintain a positive relationship with the child while still establishing authority in a healthy manner. In the long run, the child will reap the benefits of the parenting style if executed properly and with caution.

(The author is director, TGL
Foundation, and chairperson CSA)

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