Parenting Styles | Personal Relationships From Infancy to Elderhood
By: Mihaela Zlatanovska
This blog has been reviewed by Mihaela Zlatanovska and Gingin Chien; edited, formatted and published by Nicholas Murray.
This blog is Part 2 of the Canadian Positive Psychology Association’s Personal Relationships Series, by Mihaela Zlatanovska and Pariza Fazal. In the previous blog, we explored the four attachment styles and their effects on relationships, as well as strategies to cultivate a more secure attachment style in adulthood. In this blog, we will be covering the four types of parenting styles and how they can affect your relationships, along with tips for cultivating an authoritative parenting style.
Parenting Styles — What are they?
As children grow and develop personal relationships, they learn about the inner workings of relationship dynamics and social-emotional regulation. They also develop unique attachment styles based on the parenting they receive. As they start to look at the parents of their friends, they begin making comparisons between their friends’ families and their own. As a result, they might begin to challenge their parents’ parenting, even though these behaviours might have once been the undisputed norm in the household. Once children have been exposed to other types of parenting styles they may develop new preferences and opinions on parenting. Although this introduces new challenges, this is a normal part of the parenting process.
Parenting styles consist of parental behaviours and motives. Diana Baumrind categorized these behaviours into four different parenting styles based on two dimensions: demandingness and responsiveness. Demandingness refers to the level of expectations the parent has of the child. Responsiveness is an indication of the level of warmth, trust, respect, and love the child is receiving from the parent. On these two continuous dimensions, Baumrind named four different parenting styles: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and uninvolved parenting.¹
If the parent relies on strict rules, a minimal dialogue with their child, and there is a low level of warmth between the parent and the child, they might be using an authoritarian parenting style. Authoritarian parenting is highly demanding but low on responsiveness. Children who receive this type of parenting struggle to feel heard and understood and feel as though they have no respect from their parents. Consequently, this may result in rebellion from children. This type of parenting has also been associated with an insecure attachment style, meaning the children don’t perceive their parents as being a secure base.
If you have high expectations of maturity from your child but still work to understand their feelings and concerns, you are applying an authoritative parenting style. Authoritative parenting is high in both demandingness and responsiveness. This allows the child to develop and explore the world in a safe and guided manner. This parenting style is praised to lead to the most positive and adaptive developmental outcomes in children. If you use this style, you would likely see an increase in friendliness and energy within your relationship dynamic. Additionally,your child is expected to become more self-reliant, self-controlled, curious, and achievement oriented. This parenting style has been associated with a secure attachment style, meaning that the child perceives the parents to be a secure base they can return to.
If there is a lot of open communication between you and your child, your child has the freedom to make all of their own decisions, and you work hard to make sure they are always happy and pleased, you are using a permissive parenting style. Permissive parenting is high in responsiveness but low in demandingness. Although this might sound like a good style, this lack of direction, rules, and guidance results in a weak sense of self-discipline. For example, your child might struggle with being academically motivated and they might be disruptive at school. Finally, this parenting style is also associated and might lead to an insecure attachment style with the child.
If you offer no communication, rule-setting, guidance or direction and show little warmth and affection to your child, this is called uninvolved parenting. The uninvolved parenting style is low in both responsiveness and demandingness. Behaviours you might notice in your child may include a lack of decision making skills, low self-esteem, and low self-understanding. Unfortunately, like the previous parenting style, this type of parenting also is associated with insecure attachment styles.
Cultivating an Authoritative Parenting Style
There is no formula or list of behaviours with frequencies that need to be met to help a child develop “perfectly”. This list does not exist because we are infinitely complex and variable.
The bonds we form with those around us during our youth, have an impact on the relationships we develop as adults, although it’s important to mention here that this is not an exact science. There is no formula or list of behaviours with frequencies that need to be met to help a child develop “perfectly”. This list does not exist because we are infinitely complex and variable. However, we can group up certain behaviours into the parenting styles we’ve previously discussed.
The four parenting styles are an indication of the type of relationship or bond that a child has with their caregivers. Although it isn’t the sole determinant in whether we have a healthy or unhealthy relationship, it can lend some insight into the choices we make in our friendships, romantic, and working relationships. Here are 4 tips on how you can help your child thrive in the present and in their future relationships:³
- Listen to your child: This might sound simple and straightforward, but this skill is very important. Whether your child is narrating what happened at school for the 5th time, or if they express that something is hurting even though there is no injury, make sure to listen to them. By listening and paying attention, you are showing them that you care. As a result, they will feel comfortable speaking to you.
- Validate their emotions: This works hand-in-hand with the previous tip: validate their emotions. When your child cries about something that might seem trivial to you, pause and remember that it might not be trivial to them. If you struggle to understand or put yourself in their shoes, try to simply comfort them by listening and showing affection. Try not to disprove or brush aside their concerns. Again, this will build trust between you and your child.
- Establish clear rules: Although it is important to show warmth and affection, it is still important to set clear guidelines and rules. Feel free to establish a few “family rules” and explain them to your child. It is best if these rules make sense and they are able to understand them, because it will prompt your child to follow them. For example, instead of simply saying “Go to bed because I said so”, try saying “Go to bed so that your body can rest and you can have a good day tomorrow”. Bringing this into today’s current pandemic context, a study by Patrick and colleagues (2020) ^4 have found that families who established rules and routines showed both the children and parents had better mental health in contrast to families who didn’t respect these rules.
- Balance freedom with responsibility: This might seem difficult and daunting to undertake but let’s look at an example. Let’s say your child is a little disoriented and forgetful in the morning which makes their day start off on the wrong foot. Set your child up for success by helping them out. You can sit down with them and create a little checklist together of the things they need to do in the morning or the items they need to take with them to school. For the first few days, help them out, but slowly let them become independent with completing and remembering the checklist. This will teach them to be responsible but also gives them a sense of autonomy.
If you wish to contact me for more information, any questions you might have, or just to discuss the information I have shared, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you liked this article and are interested in more, please take a moment to like, share, or comment! If you are interested in learning more about the types of skills I’ve mentioned or positive psychology more generally, I encourage you to become a member of the CPPA. And don’t forget to check out our Student Zone too!
- Baumrind, D. (1991). The influence of parenting style on adolescent competence andsubstance use. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 11(1), 56–95.https://doi.org/10.1177/0272431691111004
- Patrick, S. W., Henkhaus, L. E., Zickafoose, J. S., Lovell, K., Halvorson, A., Loch, S., Letterie, M., & Davis, M. M. (2020). Well-being of parents and children during the covid-19 pandemic: A national survey. Pediatrics, 146(4). e2020016824. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2020-016824