What Parenting Style Is Best?

By: Jon Henshaw, M.A.

Parenting style refers to how a parent behaves around their children. A parenting style isn't determined by individual events, like a moment of conflict. Instead, it's defined by the overall demeanor that a parent has when they are engaging their children.

Human development and family studies researchers have designated three distinct types of parenting styles. Although no parent will fit these archetypes perfectly, most parents will relate to one of them.

Authoritarian Parenting Style

The authoritarian parenting style is sometimes referred to as the military parenting style. A parent puts an emphasis on obedience, and usually has very strict family rules. An authoritarian parent is usually more concerned about the child doing what they say, and focuses less on the opinion or desires of the child. Authoritarian parents also see children as lesser people than adults. Therefore, they are treated as such.

Authoritarian parenting stifles intellectual growth and creativity. It also encourages children to either rebel against their parents, or to become submissive, which is often carried into adulthood.

Permissive Parenting Style

The permissive parenting style is an anything goes style. Parents are usually permissive, because they don't want to interfere with their child's development, or they're unconcerned about their lives, because of their own selfish interests. Regardless of the reasons parents become permissive, the outcome in their children's behavior is usually the same. Children of permissive parents usually engage in attention seeking behavior, also known as acting out.

Many children who observe friends who have permissive parents, crave to have the same for themselves. However, that's not usually true for the child of a permissive parent. They are usually craving the attention of their parents, and inside, feel unloved, unimportant, and not cared for.

Authoritative Parenting Style

The authoritative parenting style is considered to be the healthiest and most balanced approach to parenting. Authoritative parents set and enforce limits, but they do so to protect their children. They also engage their children with reasoning when enforcing those limits.

Authoritative parents create balance between authoritarian and permissive parenting styles. For example, there are times when a parent needs to have their child obey them, regardless how they feel about it, and there are also times when a parent needs to allow their child to make mistakes and take chances without their interference.

Children imitate and learn much more from their parents than most parents realize. Even the slightest behavioral nuances are picked up by children, and acted out in their own lives. Styles of conflict, and the way parents carry themselves will be relived to some extent in their children's lives. Therefore, it's important for parents to pick a parenting style that best fits how they would like their child to behave now, and later when they become an adult. After all, it's a parent's responsibility to prepare their children to survive in this world without them.

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