This is part 1 in a series of posts about Parenting Styles. In this series, we'll talk about what are the four known parenting styles as proposed by one developmental psychologist, Diana Baumrind. We'll see how each style looks, what do they mean for our children's development and what can we do about it.

Have you ever stopped to think about what kind of parent you are? Take a moment to reflect on the following questions: What defines the way I parent my children? How do I decide what to do in different situations with my kids? How intentional am I in my parenting? How do I want my kids to grow up?

These questions, and others like them, guide us to the concept of Parenting Styles. In this series of posts I will tell you everything you need to know about parenting styles, what they are, how do they look and which one is best for your children (spoiler alert in case you’re in a hurry, it’s the authoritative parenting style 😉).

So, grab a cup of latte or another beverage, and let’s dive into what the heck are parenting styles.

A Word of Caution

As you read about parenting styles, please please bear in mind that this is a schematic way to describe how people parent. Think of these as archetypes of parents and not as definite and specific kinds of people. Usually, people do not fit 100% in one style or another, but tend to flow between styles. It’s true that you can identify yourself or other people in one major style, but don’t treat it as a diagnostic, deterministic criteria. As you’ll see later in the post, styles are not permanent and can be malleable..

What are Parenting Styles?

I like to say that parenting is like being a captain of a ship. Whether you want to think of yourself as Grace O’ Malley, Captain Stubing or Jack Sparrow, it doesn't matter. The truth is that when you became a parent you were handed this ship and were told to bring it to safety. And now it's up to you to figure out how you're going to do it.

Generally speaking, parenting styles are a way to describe and communicate the way we choose to navigate this ship. Or, if you want to be more concrete, how we parent our children. Each style is a construct of behaviors, beliefs, and expectations that affect the way we communicate with our children.

Your Parenting Style has (or at least it's supposed to have) a deep connection to your parenting values, meaning everything you think that parenting should be like and what you would like to achieve as a parent. If you want to learn more about parenting values and how to figure them out for your self, you can subscribe to my free email course right below.

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There are several theories and models of parenting styles but in this post, I will use the model presented by Diana Baumrind. Baumrind was a clinical and developmental psychologist who researched parenting styles extensively and developed the 2-dimensional model I’ll explain in a bit.

diana baumrind parenting styles
Diana Baumrind

Baumrind passed away recently, on September 13th, 2018, at the age of 91. This post is dedicated to her memory.

Two Dimensions of Parenting

There are many ways we can look at the way we parent our children, and we are going to look at two of them:

  • How much do we enforce rules in our family.
  • How much warmth and closeness do we create with our kids.

Baumrind used different terms that mean basically the same thing. She talked about how demanding vs. undemanding, and how responsive vs. unresponsive we are towards our children.

The first dimension refers to the rules we set for ourselves and our kids, and how we enforce those rules. Think about your own parents for a minute – what were their expectations from you as you grew up regarding rules? What happened if you didn’t follow through on one rule or another? Were there repercussions?

The second dimension, that of responsiveness, refers to the amount and the way we as parents respond to our children’s needs of closeness and warmth. Or in other words, how supportive are we towards our kids in their times of need.

Want a quick example? You got it.

Let’s say you are in the playground with your kids. As you watch them play in the merry-go-round, another child falls down from the slide and starts crying. His mom rises from the bench and approaches him. There are many things she can do, so let’s look at two options.

Option 1: The mom approaches the child and scolds him. “What were you thinking, climbing like that on the slide?!”, she says loudly. “I told you I don’t allow that kind of behavior!”. She picks him up roughly and drags him away from the playground.

Options 2: The mom approaches the child and comforts him. “Oh honey, are you ok? I told you that climbing like that is not allowed”. She is clearly not pleased but she maintains a soft voice. “This is what happens when you’re not careful”. After checking that the child isn’t hurt, she lets him continue with his games.

child playing in a playground

If you take this example and think about the two dimensions, where is the mother on the demandingness scale in option 1? Pretty high, right? Not at the top of the scale, she did let him play, but she failed to notice he broke the rule when he climbed on the slide and now she’s angry because of that, to the extent she doesn’t really check that he’s ok. That also puts her pretty low on the responsiveness scale.

The mom on option 2 is not so high on the demanginess scale. She told her child not to climb on the slide, so there are rules, but she doesn’t punish him for breaking that rule. She’s high on the responsiveness scale, as she talks softly and calmly, checking that her son is ok.

If we take the two dimensions, and divide each to two sections, high and low, we get four parenting styles: Authoritative, Authoritarian, Permissive and Neglectful. In the next section, I will describe each parenting style.

parenting styles diana baumrind

Authoritarian Parenting Style

The Authoritarian style is high on demanding and low on responding. Authoritarian parents are very strict on the rules they set for their kids. They expect full compliance without questioning and enforce those rules with punishment of varying kinds. They tend to monitor their children on a daily basis, knowing where they are and what they do through the day.

Authoritarian parents also do not accept the option of a democratic dialogue between parents and children. The law of the land is the law of the parent, and that’s it. The mother from the first playground example is more of the authoritative style (although perhaps not of the really strict kind).

Permissive Parenting Style

The Permissive parent is low on the demanding scale and high on the responsive scale. These parents tend to enforce little control over the behavior of their children. They aspire to keep a close, warm and responsive connection with their child. Therefore, they rarely use punishments or other way of rule enforcement. Therefore, their children have a lot of freedom to make decisions about their lives, even at young ages. Obviously, the parents tend to believe in democratic conversations and see themselves as equals. Often, these parents think of their relationships with the kids as friendship and not as a parent-child traditional relationship.

Authoritative Parenting Style

The authoritative parent (not to be confused with authoritarian) is high on the demanding scale and the responsive scale. These parents try to find a balance between having clear expectations from their children and treating them in a kind, warm and respectful manner. They consider each child’s age and temperament and adjust themselves to the child’s needs. They believe that a family should have democratic freedom of speech but that their role as parents is to lead and make the final decision. They are consistent in their rules and expectations, but they also allow flexibility when needed.

Neglecting Parenting Style

The Neglecting parent is low on both the scales of demandingness and responsiveness. Actually, Baumrind didn’t talk about this style but it was later added by other researchers. These parents tend to treat their parenting in a haphazard way. They don’t set strict rules, and the rules that are set are not being enforced in a conclusive, consistent way. They also don’t try to respond to their kids in a warm, supportive way.

What do Parenting Styles Mean?

Now that we know more about parenting styles, and especially how do they look like, it's time to ask what do they actually mean for our children. Another way to ask that question is “What are the benefits and risks of each parenting style?”. This question will be at the heart of my next post.

In the meanwhile: have you ever wondered what's the ONE thing you can do today to start moving your parenting style to a more relaxed, connected place? Subscribe below to get my Parenting Mindfulness Guide and start taking control of your parenting ship right away.

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Featured Image by Juliane Liebermann

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