In the 1960s Diana Baumrind, a developmental psychologist, and later in the 1980s, Maccoby and Martin, helped to define four styles of parenting. What is important about this is understanding how we parent or how we were parented can help us identify if we are best serving our children, or what long-term effects may still be present in our adult lives. Significant research has been done on the four parenting styles to determine their impact. The four parenting styles are Authoritarian, Authoritative, Permissive, and Neglectful (or Uninvolved). Often parents repeat the type of parenting style that was implemented during their upbringing, and, as adults, whether we become parents or not, we continue to parent ourselves utilizing those same methods, for better or for worse.
Do you ever hold yourself to unmeetable standards of perfection? Do you ever hear a critical voice telling you your efforts weren’t good enough? Do you ever feel like what you have to say doesn’t matter and can’t really affect an outcome? Were you afraid to get in trouble as a child? Do you ever worry about upsetting others and fear how they will react? If any of these are true, you may have been raised in an Authoritarian style of parenting. This is the “Do it because I said so” demanding approach. In this style, the child’s motives are not explored, growth lessons are not imparted, but rather, the parent serves in more of a dictator role. This doesn’t mean their intentions are to be harmful, but rather, they are not flexible in their approach. Often the consequences are not known before the infraction occurs or the known consequences are too harsh for the violation.
The second approach also considered demanding, is Authoritative. However, in this style, why the parent holds their child to high standards, they are geared toward that individual child’s needs and considerations. For example, if a child asks to join the swim team, the parent might insist that before the child joins they commit to seeing the season through to the end. If mid-way through the season the child begins to fuss about their involvement, the parent will demand the child fulfill their commitment. However, once the season is over the furthering of the child’s swim career would be discussed, with the child’s desires respected. This style does lay out clear expectations and rules, as well as known consequences, so the child can learn and grow within those parameters. When a child does something undesirable, a lesson is always imported as to why the behavior was unacceptable and the repercussions flexible to the necessity of learning. This method of parenting is considered the most successful as it allows a child, in later years, to understand responsibility and self-awareness. It also lets a child know they are loved and valued as the expectations are clear and the punishment is about the action, not the child. This style says “I love you, but I don’t love how you behaved.”
The Permissive style of parenting lacks consequences and clear expectations. In this style, the parent is lenient and does not enforce any pre-established consequences. We see the parent as a friend more than a disciplinarian. The unfortunate outcome of this method is a child who does not have self-discipline and often lacks commitment. Because a child is not offered a measure of excellence to aspire to, they often don’t.
With the Neglectful (or Uninvolved) style of parenting, this can reference abuse, abandonment, or isolation, where there are no clear expectations, no clear recognition of love or value, and no demands. These parents are often not involved in their child’s lives, or minimally so. What this also references are parents who do not seek to know their child, nor invest in their growth. This can range from a parent too busy with work to a parent who abuses drugs or alcohol. This leads a child to uncertainty in themselves, a sense of self-doubt, confusion in their self-worth, and requires them to seek their growth through outside sources.
Also, consider that each caregiver may have a different style of parenting and thus, adding additional challenges to a child’s upbringing. This can also put strain on the relationship of the caregivers if an approach to a child’s upbringing is not mutually approved.
As you can see, how we parent and how we were parented can determine a great deal about the mindset we carry into our adolescence and adulthood. For many adults, the remnants of these learnings continue in the same pattern that they experienced as a child. I encourage you to consider how you were raised, or how you are raising your children and seek the guidance you need to thrive.