To Each His Own

What's your parenting style?

Before becoming a parent, naïveté will allow you to believe you know exactly the kind of parent you are going to be. You vow to never back down, say what you mean and mean what you say. You are going to be a take-no-bull kind of parent, producing a polite, well behaved chid. A few years pass and you're chasing a disrespectful, foul-mouthed three-year-old through the produce section.

Despite the fact that developmental psychologists have trouble finding actual cause-and-effect links between specific actions of parents and future behavior of children, researchers are not going to let parents off the hook. You may have had a lot to do with creating that little monster, so throw another log on the guilt fire, mom.

Researchers have found evidence that parenting styles affect the child you are trying them out on. During the early 1960s, psychologist Diana Baumrind conducted a study on more than 100 preschool-age children. Using naturalistic observation, parental interviews and other research methods, she identified disciplinary strategies, warmth and nurturance, communication styles and expectations of maturity and control as four important dimensions of parenting.

Based on these dimensions, Baumrind suggested that the majority of parents display one of three different parenting styles. They are either authoritarian, authoritative or what every teenager wants, permissive.

An authoritarian, or extremely strict, parent controls a child's behavior and attitude by stressing obedience to authority and discouraging discussion. These "Mommy dearest" types often turn to harsh punishment as their reaction of choice.

"Children raised by authoritarian / strict parents tended to be timid and withdrawn, less intellectually curious and dependent on the voice of authority."

An authoritative, or moderate, parent sets limits and expects children to learn from their mistakes. Breaking the rules generally has negative consequences, forcing a child to deal with them could help them learn why rules are important. "Authoritative parents reason with their children and consider the children's point of view even though they might not agree with them. They are firm, with kindness, warmth and love. They set high standards and encourage their children to be independent."

Then, they put on a sweater and have a heart-to-heart with Theo. If 1980s sitcoms taught us anything, it's that children raised by authoritative / moderate parents tend to be responsible, cooperative, self-reliant and intellectually curious.

A permissive, or indulgent, parent doesn't  take too much control. Their children tell them when, where and how things are going to be. Permissive parents do not demand good behavior.

These four-year-olds  who controlled their own bedtimes tended to be immature and reluctant to accept responsibility or show independence as they got older.

I can't say what kind of kid I am raising with my parenting style concoction. As a loving caring parent, I try to do what is best. As a loving, caring parent, I get worn down and do what I can. I start my day as a Huxtable, then turn Joan Crawford and by dinner I'm Willy Wonka.

Then it's just a matter of reminding myself: If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it.

Maureen Walter September 28, 2011 at 11:13 AM
Are you familiar with the Active Parenting workshops? Our school, which has trained 3 administrators/teachers to lead these offers them annually....they are based very much on what you write. Dr. Michael Popkins (who is based in Atlanta) developed this work based on developmental psychologist Rudolf Dreikur's work (based on Alfred Alders--it goes on and on!) of which you write (logical and natural consequences, et al....I'll be glad to tell you more if you are interested.... Maureen Walter, Montessori In Town


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