There is an ongoing debate in psychology about nature vs. nurture. What determines the personality and psycho – social adjustment, the genetic code or the parenting style and external events? The debate won’t be settled soon. The truth, however, is that the relationship with the parents is crucial and determinant for a child’s future.
During the early 60′ the psychologist Baumrind conducted a study on preschool children and their parents to determine the types of parenting styles and their outcomes on the child’s psycho-social health. Based on this study there exist four major commonly accepted parenting styles.
- The child is expected to follow strict rules set by the parent without explaining the reason behind them. Failure to follow such rules usually results in punishment.
- The parent has high demands but is not very responsive to the child. He/she provides little guidance and the child is left wondering what to do and what not to do.
- The parent-child relationship is based on obedience and hierarchy. The parent shows little regard for the child’s opinions and wishes.
- Commonly referred to as indulgent parent, he/she has very few demands towards the child because he/she holds low expectations of maturity and self-control.
- The parent is nurturing and communicative, resembling more a friend than a parent.
- The parent fails to set limits and rules and tends to not monitor the child’s behaviour
- A recent approach called “Free range parenting”, popularized by Lenore Skenazy’s book, uses the positive aspects of this style. It encourages the child to function independently and with limited parental supervision
- Also known as the neglectful parent, is characterized by few demands, low responsiveness and little communication.
- He/she fulfills the child’s basic human needs but shows little care about his psychological upbringing. There are no set rules, limits or structures set for the child to follow.
- The parent establishes rules and guidelines for the child to follow, taking in account his/her *temperament and wishes followed by explaining the necessity of these rules.
- He/she is responsive to the child and is willing to listen. He /she provides warmth and feedback.
- The parenting is nurturing and assertive. He/ she monitors the child but is not restrictive or intrusive. He/she doesn’t use punishment to correct mistakes, but rather support, conversation and guidance.
A new emerging style of parenting called “helicopter parenting” is becoming very prominent in the modern times.
- It is characterized by “hovering “over the child without allowing him/her space and privacy.
- The parent is constantly intervening and covering the child’s mistakes.
- The parent completes the tasks for the child – homework for example- instead of helping him/her to do them by themselves.
*Parental responsiveness is parental supportiveness and warmth. This refers to the degree that parents intentionally encourage individuality,self-regulation and self- assertion.
*Temperament is a set of individual differences that are biologically based such as impulsivity, sociability, emotionality.
Which style is the best?
The authoritative parenting style is often considered the gold standard—the happy medium between the strict authoritarian parenting style and the permissive approach. It has been associated with the healthiest outcomes for adolescents, including lower rates of substance use, violence, and risky sexual behaviours as well as improved diet and increased physical activity. The child tends to have high self-esteem and pursues his/her goals with confidence. He/she grows to be a sociable adult with assertive behaviour. As an adult he/she handles more efficiently stressful or difficult situations and is less prone to mental health problems.
The authoritative style has such a big advantage toward the other styles because the parent is viewed as reasonable and the child complies with rules as a result of understanding them. He then follows to internalize them and develop a healthy sense of what is right and wrong. Opposed to the authoritarian style, the child follows the rules because he is scared of the punishment.
Some parents choose to give more freedom of choice to the child and to allow him/her to follow their gut and do whatever feels right. It is seen as progressive and modern, however it should be used with caution. Permissive parenting can lead to a child with low emotional balance, unrealistic expectations about life and with no sense of direction.
Of course, the parenting styles of individual parents also combine to create a unique blend in each family. This can sometimes lead to mixed signals. In order to create a cohesive approach to parenting, it is essential that parents learn to cooperate as they combine various elements of their unique parenting styles.
Raising a child nowadays can seem like a daunting and difficult experience. Faced with the pressures of modern life, parents are anxious about the way they educate their children and are often scared to make mistakes.
The good news is that there are no perfect parents and one small mistake will not risk the well-being of your child. Winnicott introduced the concept of “good enough parents” to reassure parents that there is no need to strive for perfection. You only need to give unconditional love, compassion and nurturing attention as well as set some general guidelines your child can follow to navigate this often confusing and challenging world.
🌄Sources for this article :
- Longmore, M. A., Manning, W. D., & Giordano, P. C. (2012), Handbook of Family Theories. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.
- Cherry, K (2018) Why Parenting Styles Matter When Raising Children.https://www.verywellmind.com/parenting-styles-2795072
- Smetana, J G (2017) Current research on parenting styles, dimensions, and beliefs
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