Types of Parenting Styles: Finding Yours and Why It Matters

happy child with adult

What’s your parenting style? It’s a common question, especially in online parenting quizzes or magazines. Parenting styles — not to be confused with parenting practices — are part of your child’s environment. And it’s a part that plays a big role in shaping who she becomes. 

Learning about different parenting styles isn’t just a new trend with cute labels. Researchers and developmental psychologists have found parenting styles affect a child’s home environment, but that’s just the start. They also influence her personality, physical health, emotional and mental health, and success throughout childhood. 

Not sure which style of parenting you follow? Read on to learn about the four parenting styles and how they affect a child’s life.

What Are Parenting Styles?

Parenting styles are psychological theories or ideologies behind the strategies parents employ while raising children. Parenting styles are not the strategies themselves. A parenting style is a combination of several elements including:

  • A parent’s actions towards the child
  • A parent’s attitude towards the child, e.g., warmth or affection
  • How much a parent demands of a child
  • How much a parent responds to a child
  • Methods for discipline, e.g., time-ins versus time-outs
  • Communication style, e.g., yelling or talking
  • Maturity of the parent
  • Self-control levels of the parent

A parenting style is more than just a label — it drives the child’s environment. Each parenting style has a unique impact on the child’s health, self-esteem, emotional intelligence, social development, and mental well-being. 

How It All Started: Origins of Parenting Styles

In the 1960s, psychologist Diana Baumrind studied family socialization, particularly the various methods to raise children and how it affects children’s behavior. Baumrind observed preschoolers and discovered three types of parents:

  • Authoritative
  • Authoritarian
  • Permissive

To expand on Baumrind’s findings, researchers later added a fourth parenting style: uninvolved. 

Authoritative Parenting

types of parenting styles: parent with two children outside in fall

Let’s first take a peek at what authoritative means. Although this word is sometimes used to mean dictatorial (or even bossy!), authoritative can also mean complete or based on accurate information. In authoritative parenting, a parent’s authority relies on concrete information — never the “because I said so” argument. 

An authoritative parent establishes firm yet clear rules and expects a child to follow these rules but not without question. An authoritative parent explains why the rules are in place and provides the support and guidance needed to follow the household rules.

If a child fails to follow a rule — which can happen more than we like! — an authoritative parent doesn’t jump to quick punishments. Instead, an authoritative parent teaches the child the right behaviors and supports him in making new, better decisions. A child experience consequences rather than punishments. In this way, children learn how and why the rules are important. 

To a child in an authoritative home, rules have meanings. They aren’t just arbitrary ultimatums. Rules help foster emotional self-control and independence.

Attachment parenting is a popular parenting philosophy, and many of the tools in attachment parent (such as babywearing) mesh well with an authoritative parenting style due to the emphasis placed on high responsiveness. 

An authoritative parent:

  • Is both demanding and responsive
  • Responds positively to children
  • Is warm 
  • Is assertive but not pushy
  • Offers feedback and constructive criticism 
  • Offers forgiveness for mistakes
  • Prefers positive discipline over punishment 
  • Uses reward systems as well as praise

If the above statements reflect your parenting style, you may be an authoritative parent.

How Authoritative Parenting Impacts Children

Although the authoritative style focuses on rules, authoritative parenting does have a positive effect on child development. Children who grow up in authoritative households are generally cooperative (in home and school) and responsible. They also demonstrate strong emotional regulation and good decision-making skills. 

This is because authoritative parents provide clear expectations and lead with confidence yet still attend to the emotional needs of the child.

Authoritative parenting also contributes to the overall physical well-being of a child. A 2015 study published in the Pediatric Dentistry journal found children of authoritative parents had the fewest dental cavities when compared to children parented under other styles. This could be attributed to the authoritative tendency to create rules while explaining their importance — like how brushing teeth before bed prevents cavities.

Authoritarian Parenting 

Not to be confused with authoritative parenting, the authoritarian parenting style is characterized by strict rules with harsh demands for compliance. Unlike authoritative parenting, authoritarians prioritize obedience above all else. Parents who use authoritarian parenting expect compliance without question. You might hear “because I said so” a lot in an authoritarian household.

An authoritarian parent:

  • Expects compliance without attention to a child’s emotional needs
  • Is demanding but not responsive
  • Is cold
  • Focuses on punishment over positive instruction
  • Has high expectations with little warmth

If a child in an authoritarian house fails to follow a rule, punishment is the response. Punishments, unlike positive discipline, lead to a child feeling bad without the proper tools to learn from past mistakes.

How Authoritarian Parenting Affects Children

Children who live in authoritative and authoritarian households both learn to follow the rules. The difference is that children in the authoritarian households tend to lack the emotional stability of children reared through authoritative practices.

Researchers find children living under extreme parental control are more likely to develop low self-esteem as well as behavior problems. Low self-esteem can contribute to aggression and general feelings of anger and discontent. 

In the most extreme cases, children of authoritarian parents develop good lying skills to avoid strict punishments. Researchers from a 2012 University of New Hampshire study also found children raised in authoritarian houses are more likely to become delinquents with generally mistrusting personalities.

Permissive Parenting

While authoritative parenting focuses on high demand and high responsiveness, permissive parenting is characterized by high responsiveness with low demands. Although permissive parents are loving, they don’t set many rules, and if any rules are broken, there are few (if any) consequences. 

Permissive parenting communication often seems more friend-to-friend rather than parent-to-child. For example, a permissive parent may ask about grades or schoolwork but offer no consequences for poor grades. Poor behavior is justified by a “kids will be kids” attitude. 

A permissive parent:

  • Creates household rules but rarely enforces them
  • Doesn’t focus on consequences or punishments
  • Shies away from heavy interaction 
  • Is warm, loving, and responsive but not demanding
  • Acts like a friend rather than a parent 

If the above statements resonate, you may have permissive tendencies. 

How Permissive Parenting Affects Children

Because of a lenient parenting style, children who grow up in permissive households tend to struggle with authority — simply because indulgent parents don’t model the value of rules or the importance of self-control.

Children of permissive parents are likely to struggle with grades, according to researchers. Emotionally, these children may be at a higher risk for feelings of sadness. 

Permissive parenting also affects the health of a child. One study explored the link between permissive parenting and obesity. Children with permissive parents were more likely to consume low-nutrient-dense foods as well as struggle with obesity. There is also a direct correlation between lack of rules about oral health — such as brushing teeth before bed — and increased risk of dental decay. 

In the most extreme cases of permissive parenting, a child may develop egocentric tendencies and impulsive behaviors, according to a study published in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

Uninvolved Parenting

The fourth style of parenting, later added to address parents who didn’t fall into any of the initial three styles, is uninvolved.. Uninvolved parents, sometimes referred to as neglectful parents, don’t provide for children’s emotional needs. In extreme cases, an uninvolved parent may even fail to provide the basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, and education.

An uninvolved parent:

  • Is neither demanding nor responsive 
  • Declines communication, e.g., failing to ask questions about school or friendships 
  • Does not make rules
  • Does not provide instruction or punishment 
  • Is indifferent, neither warm nor cold

How Uninvolved Parenting Affects Children

Without any rules, support, or communication, children of uninvolved parents lack proper direction in life. This increases a child’s risk of illicit behavior, missed school days, and poor behavior. These children struggle to regulate their emotions and can be at a high risk for suicidal thoughts or tendencies. 

Impact of Different Parenting Styles

You’ve probably heard the phrase that children are like little sponges who soak up the world around them. Just like they learn to brush their hair by watching you brush your hair, they’re learning to simply be by watching you, too. As children are exposed to certain parenting styles, their personalities develop in response. 

For example, if you adopt an authoritative parenting style, your children are more likely to demonstrate kindness towards others, according to a 2006 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. With kindness comes other positive personality traits like empathy and conscientiousness.

Dr. Thomas G. Power, a researcher studying the link between childhood obesity and parenting styles, determined that children fell under one of the following four categories:

  • Assertive and self-controlled (authoritative)
  • Discontented, distrustful, or even withdrawn (authoritarian)
  • Little to no self-control (permissive)
  • Desire to retreat from warmth and love (uninvolved)

If you notice any signs of discontentment or lack of self-control in your own children, it’s not too late to adapt your parenting style and use healthier parenting strategies.

The first step is to mindfully reflect on your parenting styles, your responsiveness, what you demand of your child, and how you interact with your child. Replacing any punitive parenting strategies with positive discipline and loving instruction can make your home more peaceful and have a lifelong effect on your child.

Which Parenting Style Is Most Effective?

types of parenting styles: child being held

When it comes to parenting styles, the term effective can be subjective, but this is a question many parents want answered. Learning which style is more effective is a good way to perform a quick analysis of your own style — to make sure you’re on track.

The tricky part is both authoritative and authoritarian styles have success with kids following rules. The difference is the effect each style has on a child.

A truly effective parenting style is one that helps a parent raise a well-adjusted, confident, happy child who has high emotional intelligence. To do so, an effective parenting style must:

  • Prioritize clear expectations of the child
  • Prioritize high demands of the parent coupled with a high responsiveness rate
  • Pave the way for open and loving communication
  • Place priority on positive discipline rather than punishment

Which Parenting Style Do You Follow?

Most parents find they don’t fit solidly into just one category. For instance, you may employ authoritative practices for the most part but struggle with leniency (a sign of permissive parenting) when children start to beg. 

To find out which parenting style you follow, it’s important to evaluate your demandingness and your responsiveness. 

Comparing Your Demands With Your Responsiveness

If you find yourself with high demands but are warm and responsive, you may follow an authoritative parenting style. If you find yourself with high demands but are colder and less responsive, you may employ authoritarian parenting strategies.

On the other hand, if you have low demands but are still warm, nurturing, and responsive, you may be a permissive parent. If a parent has low demands but is indifferent and completely unresponsive, this parent may be uninvolved. 

Where to Go From Here

Because the different types of parenting styles have a direct effect on a child’s emotional and physical well-being, it’s important to evaluate your own parenting style. For example, do you struggle to stick with the pre established consequences when your child begs? It’s not too late to give your parenting style a makeover if needed. 

Armed with knowledge and motivation, you can learn to incorporate a more positive parenting style by emphasizing your authority while still tending to your children’s needs. With dedication, you’ll find that you and your children have stronger bonds while their behavior improves.

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Generation Mindful creates tools, toys, and programs that nurture emotional intelligence through play and positive discipline. Join us and receive joy in your inbox each week.

When Your Kids Are Not Listening: From Yelling To Connection

With three children under age five and 1,440 minutes in a day, for years I felt like I spent most of those minutes in a day either yelling, lecturing, or bargaining with my children.   Like a broken record, my requests would echo as I stood by, silently praying that this time they would cooperate without me needing to yell. Can't they see me? Can't they hear me?! After years of this, my husband and I arrived at one simple conclusion -  our children do not listen. Having a now third child had us feeling extra exhausted, fed-up and like we were in a near-constant battle with a pair of three and five-year-old tiny humans that we loved so much. Was it too much to expect for them to listen without our needing to yell or to repeat ourselves what always felt like five times?
Mom with baby in brown carrier and a young child in a white jacket
The complete lack of listening that existed in our family was brought into 20/20 focus for me the morning I decided to tackle the grocery store with all three kids in tow instead of waiting for the weekend. Wearing our youngest, with another in the cart and our eldest holding onto the side of the cart, we walked in and I was feeling good. I’ve got this. It took all of about three minutes for things to head south.  My oldest son saw the sample station and darted off. I called after him to stop. He didn’t.  Picking up my pace to catch him, I nearly took out a display with my cart. Once at the food station, I tell him he can take just one sample and then we were all done. It was like he grew additional arms. He started shuffling cheese puffs into his mouth as I heard myself saying “No more cheese puffs. We're all done.”  My son persisted to shovel snacks into his mouth. Now feeling both ignored and out of control, I yelled, "Just STOP!" in a voice so loud and full of rage I nearly scared myself. By the time I was able to get my son away from the food tray, both he and my 5-month old son, who had fallen asleep in the sling, were crying and my middle child was throwing items from the snack aisle into our cart. I felt like I'd landed in a game of parenting Jumanji. Wrangling my middle child into the cart while attempting to console my youngest and to get my older child to stay by my side, I left the store without buying a thing, with a fire burning inside me so bright I felt like I might explode. When my husband came home that night, I crumbled. I felt angry, I felt guilty, but more than anything, I felt like a failure and I could not stop crying.

Woman standing in front of the window upset

This shopping incident was not an isolated incident but more of an example of the THEY DO NOT LISTEN TO ME feeling I'd been dealing with what felt like all day every day.  Playtime, Mealtime. Bedtime. Cleanup-time. It never stopped.  I was tired of yelling because frankly, yelling didn't feel good, it was exhausting and it wasn't helping my kids learn to listen.  I felt broken, or like maybe our kids were broken? I wasn't sure, but I knew something had to change. Our family couldn’t continue like this.

Baby with open mouth crawling on the floor

Tired of feeling like I was living inside a boxing match, I was motivated to find a solution, and this is when a friend of mine recommended a positive parenting course that she'd just taken. I clicked through to read about it, and saw that the class had a 100% money-back guarantee. "Good," I thought, "So when I fail this thing, I can get my money back." I read a little further and the phrase "tools you can start to use day one" caught my attention in the course description. "Parenting tools", what a concept. Just reading the words had me feeling just a tiny bit hopeful because frankly when I looked down at the toolbelt I was apparently supposed to have been wearing, I wasn't seeing much. I remember thinking, "What the heck, things can't get much worse." and so my husband and I signed up for the class that night. We got the kids to bed, crawled into bed ourselves with our laptop, and five minutes later we were watching the first class together. About ten minutes into the 75-minute class, the instructor shared the idea that "parenting makes our own lives a-parent". At first, this idea left my husband and me scratching our heads, but by the time we'd completed the first handout/exercise, we were beginning to understand what the instructor was saying, namely, that this parenting thing has as much to do with us, the adults in the room, as it does our kids.  Class one had two big takeaways for us:
  • "What are our parenting triggers?" It turns out that my husband and I share the same trigger --- yep, you might be able to guess it --- it's "not listening". This completely knocks us "off our center" as the instructor called it, leaving us triggered and reacting instead of responding. Every. Time.
  • "How do we react when we are triggered?" It turns out that my husband and I react to feeling not listened to in a similar way as well --- we yell. And when our children resist our yelling? We yell louder. This typically ends with one or both of us overpowering our kids, them cry, and us feeling guilty. 
As I dug a little further into my feelings, I realized that my trigger of “not listening” stemmed from a deeper seed - that of control (or lack thereof in this case). When my children don't listen, I felt like I have no control, and it turns out that this is a hard pill for my type-A personality to swallow. When this happens, I revert to doing things that were modeled for me growing up, aka I yell. It turns out that tension and stress were hijacking the more logical parts of my brain I needed if I wanted to respond instead of react to my kids when they were not listening to me. I sat with this for a week and began to feel more and more hopeful. It occurred to me that instead of changing my kids, I could work on changing myself --- and that if my husband and I could become more aware of ourselves, change might actually be possible. This awareness was like a crack in the door. I could see some light making its way in and I wanted to open that door wide open.

Seedling growing from the cracks of the Earth

Over the next few weeks, I began to realize that parenting is fluid. The way we show up and the tools we use depend greatly on who we are that day and who our children are that day, too. The idea of parenting as a relationship, something we share with our children instead of something we do to them, was introduced to my husband and I in class, and this was rocking my world. I realized that my more controlling, "do what I say" approach to parenting had taught my kids to meet my demands of them with their own defense mechanisms in place, resulting in the locking of the horns feeling we had been dealing with for months/years.  But if I could shift from control to connection, so could my children. If I could feel powerful in noticing, naming and taming my emotions, so too could my children.  By about week five out of the six-week class, I found myself coming at motherhood from an entirely new place. Rather than asking, “How can I get my children to listen to me?,” I began to ask, “How am I feeling? How is my child feeling?" and "Why?" and this shift in my thinking changed everything. Instead of feeling defensive when my child got upset or didn't listen, I found myself staying curious, asking questions, and using the tools we talked about in class. When I realized that it was not my job to stop the hard moments from happening but rather, to manage my emotions and to guide my children when they do --- and everything changed. 

Two boys playing by a window

Since graduating from the class, my husband and I have made connection rather than control our goal.  We're making an effort to accept our children for who they are - complete with all of their strengths and all their struggles, and in doing so, we are finding it easier to accept ourselves as well. We're working on noticing and at times canceling the goals we've created for our children, the ones robbing us of our power to respond instead of react, and our joy. We are setting boundaries without using the words "should" or "need to". And we now look for the unmet need under any misbehavior we see, and we remind ourselves to "connect before we correct".  Parenting in a way that I myself was not parented isn't always easy. Sometimes it feels unnatural and it definitely takes practice, but starting day one, we could both feel and see the difference this approach was having. Not only in our children, but in the way it left us feeling at the end of the day.  More than anything, I've learned that my family - me, my kids, my husband - we are not broken. We are learning and growing every day, and though life still happens and I still feel stressed and overwhelmed on nearly a daily basis, that's okay. We have found our joy again, and that is everything I'd hoped for. ** This article was written by a Generation Mindful mom member who wishes to remain anonymous. Do you have a story about mindfulness and/or connection to tell? Visit here for details and submit an article to our editor for consideration.

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Generation Mindful creates tools, toys, and programs that nurture emotional intelligence through play and positive discipline. Join us and receive joy in your inbox each week.

Time-in Toolkit in action

Juggling Big Emotions

As a seven-year-old girl, I remember my grandpa coming over for the holidays and juggling whatever fruit he could find in our kitchen.  He taught me to juggle using not lemons, but tissues. The fruit was too big for my little-girl hands, but like a set of training wheels, I practiced with those tissues until my hand-eye coordination allowed me to float five in the air, rotating them hand to hand all at once. When I became a parent at the age of 30, I found myself juggling again but this time the things flying perpetually around me were not tissues but diaper changes, breastfeeding, my work, my relationships, and eventually playdates, after-school activities, house-cleaning, and on and on and on --- you know the drill. Right from the start, it was a lot, and I felt like I was coming up short most days.  Fortunately, as I became a mom of two, and then three, and then four, somewhere along the way, I realized that I was not alone in the need to manage my painfully high expectations of myself and my children which left me feeling near-perpetual not-enoughness those first few years of motherhood. A Generation Mindful community member mom recently wrote to me on Facebook, and I was reminded of those days spent learning to juggle as she shared about her night with me. Rae’s night had been tough. She had been heading home from her mom’s house about an hour and a half later than usual, and her kids were hungry, tired, and off of their routines.  With her fourteen-month-old baby girl and five-year-old boy in the car, and five miles between her and home, her baby started screaming, which sent her noise-sensitive son Nick into a full-on downward spiral.  The mental effort that it takes to drive and not become overwhelmed with screaming children in the back seat is sizable, and it was all that Rae could do to breathe and to practice staying calm herself as she navigated the final few miles home.  When this frazzled mama finally got home, she gratefully handed her still screaming 14-month old child off to her firstborn, 11-year-old big sister Angela, so that she could work with her son Nick who was now darting towards the door, screaming that he missed his daddy, who was working out of state. As her young son fell to the floor sobbing, Rae sat next to him and comforted him, validating his feelings.  The juggling proceeded.  With Nick now crying in her arms, the baby had started screaming all over again. Rae could hear loud and clear that this was now an “I’m hungry and sleepy” cry. Two of her children were melting down. Two of her children needed her.  So this warrior of a mama continued to juggle, trusting her intuition to guide her even though she was finding it hard to catch her breath. She reminded herself that being perfect was not her goal --- but that instead, being present was. Rae brought her upset baby to breast, and just when she thought all was lost, something miraculous happened. With all the chaos swirling about, Rae's eldest child Angela went to sit in the family's new calming corner, and that's when it happened --- that was when little brother (mid-tantrum) Nick followed along, with no prodding of any kind. From the next room, Rae listened on as big sister guided little brother through the “What Can I Do” activity mat, an emotional awareness activity that came in their Time-In ToolKit. After listening to her son choose the way he was feeling (sad), Rae could hear her son physically calming down from the next room.   Rae finished putting her youngest to sleep and joined her older two children in their Calming Corner. The three of them played "Simon Says" and wrestled a bit. They talked through a few of the PeaceMakers mantra cards that also came in the kit, including “I am kind,” cuddled, watched some funny animal videos on YouTube, and then went to bed. Rae could not believe it.  She got online that night and shared her experience on Facebook, saying that it usually took Nick an hour to calm and process his emotions, especially when he was in sensory overwhelm as he had been that night --- but that with the help of our Time-In ToolKit and his big sister's example, on this night, he'd found his calm in just 25 minutes. What made Rae happiest of all, was that the calming had been initiated by her son and her eleven-year-old daughter without her intervention or guidance. Juggling our children’s emotions for them or reacting to them does not teach self-regulation. Children learn these vital social and emotional skills in the context of their relationships; through loving limits, compassion, and empathy given in the difficult moments like this night that Rae was having, particularly when empathy does not feel at all "deserved". As parents of little ones, we may never move 100% past the feeling that we are juggling life and the many demands on our time, but we can rest into the knowledge that, though emotions can run high, we are making it safe for our kids to feel, and in doing so, giving our children and the entire world a great, great gift. The gift of a future self-aware, compassionate adult.

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Generation Mindful creates tools, toys, and programs that nurture emotional intelligence through play and positive discipline. Join us and receive joy in your inbox each week.

Time-in Toolkit in action