All the parenting advice can often be overwhelming. With all the do’s and don’ts clogging your mind, establishing the way forward seems impossible. Maybe finding a general course of action first, will let all other things fall into place. Go on this personal journey to determine your and your partner’s parenting styles, and the effect it could be having on your children.
There are four parenting styles, can you identify with one? Keep an open mind.
These are the laid back ‘cool’ parents that are often more friend than parent. Their children can do pretty much what they want to, without any real consequence. Here children aren’t pushed or motivated to do anything, leaving the child to be more self-regulatory. They are also real responsive and more interacting than other parents. The first man to identify parenting styles, Baumrind, said in 1991 that permissive parents “are more responsive than they are demanding. They are non-traditional and lenient, do not require mature behaviour, allow considerable self-regulation, and avoid confrontation”.
Outcome: Well, as can be expected, children brought up with an indulgent style throw the really special tantrums ‘I don’t want to!’, ‘No!’ with feet and arms banging on the floor. See, they are just not that good with authority and as a result aren’t really the teachers’ favourites at school. All the negative feedback then result in unhappiness and low self-esteem. More seriously though, these children are prone to aggressiveness and could run into problems with the law.
‘Watch out!’ ‘Children should be seen, not heard.’ ‘You better do this or…’ ‘Because I said so.’ ‘Do as I tell you to do, not as I do.’ Sound familiar? Well, in many South African households this is the case, so you are not alone. Baumrind (1991) is of the opinion that authoritarian parents demand obedience, with the hidden motive of status usually driving the extreme rigidness.
Outcome: These children do not put a foot wrong. They know and fulfil their duties without question and usually excel in them too. An obedient child might sound like heaven, but coupled with the aloofness or non-responsiveness of these parents, the outcome is not usually as hoped. Just as is the case with the indulgent parenting style, their self-esteem isn’t what it should be, as they often can’t fulfil the very high standards and expectations of their parents. And so their happiness also isn’t quite at its optimum. This combination of factors often leads to aggression.
Oh this one is bad, really bad. In fact, it yields the least positive outcomes of all the parenting styles. These parents just coast through the upbringing of their children. They don’t have much to say to their children, aren’t really involved, and don’t expect much either. While they still provide for their children’s every need, they are neither indulgent nor authoritarian (Baumrind, 1991).
Outcome: Children who had to endure this style, often suffer extreme feelings of rejection, and as a result have very low self-esteem. They don’t do well at school, aren’t good at relationships or anything else really. They can often spin out of control too, with delinquency being the frequent outcome.
Now this is where you want to be – the ideal. These parents are not too lenient, but also not too rigid. They’ve found the sweet spot in between. They express their love, but set boundaries too. They expect a lot, but support a lot too – giving their children the tools to achieve their goals. Their children operate in the safe space of rules and guidelines that they often had input in. Punishment is not these parents’ tool of choice, with forgiveness and positive reinforcement rather taking its place.
Outcome: ‘I have a voice worthy of being heard, but I also respect our differences.’ Yes, that is what any parent wants to hear. It means that your child has good self-esteem, good social skills, is adjustable, more likely to be a leader, and more likely to be a happy, balanced individual.
Not for everyone
Sadly, this parenting style cannot be applied universally, as a little something called HUMAN DIFFERENCES come into play. A multitude of things can disturb the perfect equilibrium that is authoritative parenting, like culture, environment, background, family, income, religion, etc.
Take, for instance, families who live in dangerous neighbourhoods. Setting strict ground rules and constantly reminding your child of consequences will probably save your child’s life and keep him/her safe from bad influences.
Also consider the differences in culture. While the authoritative style may deliver the desired outcome for most children in the Western culture, Asian American children will not thrive in its application. For most of them, the authoritarian parenting style is a symbol of nurturing and respect, harmony and love. They do not bend the rules, but they are not subjected to aloofness. Their parents are kind and supportive too, almost like that of the authoritative parents.
So where does that leave me?
While getting your child to do the right stuff often makes you look like the monster, adding a good heap of love and support will go a long way. Most parents naturally combine nurturing and disciplining: ‘I do this because I love you.’, ‘You are grounded, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t love you…’ ‘This is wrong, but let me show you how…’ Without the love and support, you, in fact, come very close to being that monster. It will be less likely that your child will accept your authority, and more likely that the child will become rebellious.