Most people who step into parenting have little to no experience in raising children. I think we spend more time studying on how to buy a car or a first home than we do preparing for parenthood.

Personally I wish that prenatal classes had a series of parenting classes as an integral piece to its program. Pregnancy can be all consuming but if we do not provide parenting classes when they are stepping into creating a family, it just does not happen in the child’s early years when it counts the most. It is not until conflicts and problems begin to manifest and then when you want help, you possible will be on a long wait list for the program. I say YES to prevention.

We tend to resort to relying solely on what is natural to our unique personality and recreate patterns of parenting we have seen and experienced firsthand in our own families growing up. It is a little like a hit and miss, trial and error strategy that often lacks some vital skills. I hear parents say the all too common phrase “When I was growing up, my parents …never let me…blah, blah, blah…”
Teens, in particular, dislike hearing those stories of what our parents did or allowed/didn’t allow us to do, like somehow they are getting off easy compared to what we had to live with. In the teens mind this translates into “You don’t get it, you don’t understand.” You ,meaning us!

Parenting styles range from being authoritarian to permissive, rejecting and neglecting, democratic, and persuasive and everything in-between. See if you can spot your style from the following descriptions.

An authoritarian parenting style tends to be high on limits and low on love, with a focus on discipline, firm limits, and punishment. They value obedience and respect but there is little negotiation on rules and chores. There is a tendency for children to obey when the external force or threat is present but revolt when the force is removed. Should children question and challenge the authority, they are assumed to be rebellious and disrespectful. (This kind of scenario can also be prevalent in the work place.) Even though authoritarian parents love their children, their children often feel they do not have a close and warm relationship with their folks. Let’s face it; there is a definite appeal to the authoritarian style of parenting or management. If everyone did exactly as they were told life would be a lot easier for those of us in charge. We can see, however, how such a style does emerge. In Dr. Peter Marshall’s book, Now I know why Tigers Eat their Young, how to survive your Teenagers with humour, I quote

“I have never “negotiated” a diaper change, and seeing a toddler about to determine whether or not a spoon can be inserted into an electrical outlet has never prompted me to explore choices with them… We do not give young children many choices.”

Despite the fact that most of us initially adopt an authoritarian style of parenting for obvious safety reasons, we need to learn to adapt our parenting techniques along the way. Children who grow into their teen years with little alteration in the authoritarian style of parenting tend to:

Perform moderately well in school.
Be uninvolved in problem behaviour
Demonstrate lower self esteem,
Show higher levels of depression,
See the world in black and white and
Show little tolerance and lack ability to compromise.

On the opposite spectrum, the permissive parenting style or indulgent parent is high on love and low on limits. Permissive parents attend to the emotional needs of their children but tend to be inconsistent with discipline and setting boundaries because they back down in the face of their children’s defiance. They do not know how to assert their authority or are unwilling to risk their children feeling denied or disappointed. Children learn to manipulate parents to get their way which contributes to them adopting a false sense of control over adults. On a positive note the parent’s intentions are excellent. They value individuality and self expression. They facilitate rather than direct. They provide opportunities, value their children’s opinions and encourage them to express their feelings. Eventually, however, permissive parents often feel resentment because they do not feel respected or appreciated. Despite the fact that permissive parents are warm, they tend to impose relatively few demands or hold any expectations which inhibit their children’s ability to be self reliant. This leaves children without a clear sense of direction and difficulties in trusting their own decisions.

The rejecting, neglecting parenting style is low on love and low on limits and is sometimes referred to as an indifferent parenting style. There is a lack of emotional involvement and supervision of children. In my attempt to try to understand this style of parenting, I have come to the conclusion that these individuals are immature and unenlightened to the precious needs of all people for attention and love. I feel that this kind of parenting is a result of their own unsuccessful attempts in meeting the developmental tasks of adolescence while growing up and therefore do not have the skills needed to raise healthy, well adjusted children. Parents will attempt to control a child’s behaviour by ineffective means. The child ignores whines or argues. Parents withdraw and stop’s yelling or threatening. The child gets their way, controls the parent and then the parent ups the ante to more aggressive measures or physical abuse and the child either complies or refuses to co operate by more ignoring, whining or running away. A vicious cycle of power, control and conflict is constantly in motion. These children perform most poorly in all domains, i.e. in academic performance, social competence, problem behaviour and psychosocial development.

The democratic or balanced parenting style is high on love and high on limits. Parents and children are equal in terms of their need for dignity, respect worth and trust yet parents have the veto power over decisions that affect the health and wellbeing of the children. Parents present expectation, not demands and support responsibility and independence. They monitor and impart clear standards, are assertive but not intrusive and restrictive. The democratic style of parenting have the following set of balanced parenting beliefs according to Ron Huxley.

1. Parents need to model right from wrong by their words and deeds.
2. Discipline is different from punishment.
3. Blaming and shaming a child is not acceptable.
4. Consequences are inevitable and some frustration is o.k.
5. Children need encouragement in order to try new activities.
6. Children must be taught how to solve problems
Discipline is used to teach and guide, not punish, manipulate or control.

The research is clear. Children raised in democratic families have better

  • Decision making skills
  • Greater self reliance
  • Show confident in their ideas and opinions
  • View their parents as being fair
  • Respect their parent’s right to exercise authority

I believe that all parents are doing the best they know how to do. Unfortunately, sometimes that is not enough for a child’s optimal development. It is not a case of not wanting to do a great job but more a lack of awareness with unresolved traumas from their own upbringing and in not understanding how to meet children’s needs. It is important to continue to raise awareness around the impact and influence we have on our children’s lives.
If you have identified your particular parenting style and need to do some tweaking please check out some of the parenting resource books on my website