While we’ve written about parenting teenagers before, I recall that we briefly touched on the idea of parenting styles for children in my university psychology module. This got me thinking about what specific styles can we classify parenting behaviour into and if a ‘best style’ exists. After all, we hear many anecdotes about Asian parents, Tiger moms, and helicopter parenting. To derive some clarity, I went to do some research on parenting styles. I’ve found the model of four parenting styles, initially developed by psychologist Diana Baumrind in the 1960s and further refined by Stanford researchers Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin in 1983.
Characterised as demanding and responsive parents, this type of parenting involves setting expectations for their children while helping them find ways to solve potential problems. These parents maintain the power dynamic between parent and child but still actively consider their child’s feelings. As this extends into a child’s teenage years, these parents continue to implement rules and enforce the consequences of rule-breaking while clearly explaining the purpose of their actions. However, they also use positive reinforcement like praise and rewards to guide their teen’s growth. As a result, children and teenagers who grow up under authoritative parenting tend to become successful, motivated, and socially capable.
As demanding yet unresponsive parents, this parenting style takes the form of strict restrictions and harsh punishments focused on ensuring the child’s obedience. Parents may justify this style of parenting to educate children on the harshness of the outside world. Thus, such parenting aims to condition children to survive despite negative responses. Supposedly, children can thrive in any condition if they learn how and when to behave while also having the endurance to resist negativity. However, this may also have unexpected adverse outcomes, such as training teenagers to become proficient liars to circumvent restrictions. It may also cause teenagers to become over-reliant on direction from their parents, suffer from mental illnesses, or translate resentment into rebellious or aggressive behaviour.
These parents are characterised as undemanding yet responsive. A common theme is how parents want to be their child’s friend. This tendency may increase to deal with the difficult period of parenting teenagers. Leaning too far into this mindset may lead parents to laxly enforce rules if they believe that freedom is conducive to their children’s learning. This may also result from parents attempting to give their children the space they lacked while growing up.
However, the lack of early intervention or discouraging bad practices sends the wrong signal to children, even if permissive parents intervene when the problem escalates. Children who underwent this parenting style report worse impulse control, less respect for authority, and more immaturity.
This style is characterised as undemanding and unresponsive. We tend to see this parenting style in extreme cases. Parents might not be deliberately neglectful; we see such instances in which the parent is absent for one reason or another. They may be distracted by other stressors in life such as their work, other pressing family matters, etc. What is clear is the detrimental effect this has on child and teenager development. Leaving any child or teenager to effectively fend for themselves without any kind of assistance is bound to go wrong. Teenagers growing up under this style are more likely to suffer from delinquency, substance abuse, and mental illness at older ages.
Best parenting style?
Parenting is a complex issue that remains contested within the field of psychology. While the authoritative parenting style seems to be the best, other parenting styles have also proven effective. For example, the authoritarian parenting style is more prevalent in Asian countries where parents garner more respect.
This parenting style seems to have fewer adverse outcomes in the East compared to the West, suggesting a cultural aspect to parenting that has yet to be fully explored. More importantly, parents may realise that certain practices they employ may fall under one style. In contrast, others might be characterised by another parenting style. This is quite normal; different families have different attitudes toward parenting teenagers.
Nonetheless, psychologists agree that actively caring about your child’s development is positively correlated with their happiness and growth later in life. So long as the uninvolved parenting style is avoided, the consensus is that many parenting techniques should be used. Perhaps it is essential for your teenager that you remain less involved in some aspects of their life. In contrast, your support in other elements might be critical to their development and happiness. Ultimately, being engaged with your teenager is the best way to carve out the best parenting style for you and your family.
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What is the healthiest parenting style?
The healthiest parenting style is often considered to be authoritative parenting. This style is characterized by setting clear and consistent boundaries while being responsive and nurturing to the child’s needs. Authoritative parents provide a balance of warmth and discipline, and they actively involve themselves in their child’s life while allowing their child to develop independence. This parenting style is associated with children with higher self-esteem, better academic performance, and fewer behavioral problems.