There are four basic parenting styles that different characteristics of parenting fall under: Authoritarian, characterized by high demand and low responsiveness; Authoritative, characterized by high demand and high responsiveness; Permissive, characterized by low demand and high responsiveness; and Uninvolved, characterized by low demand and low responsiveness. The best of the various parenting styles if Authoritative, where the parent sets high standards, expectations, and rules, but is also very responsive to the child and open to dialogue about the rules.
The following is a closer look at the most favorable parenting style, and the favorable aspects of the other parenting styles:
First let’s address why the authoritative parenting style is the best. It is the best because it takes the two most important aspects of parenting, and combines them. It focuses on developing and maintaining close, warm relationships with our children while at the same time establishing structure and guidelines that are enforced. It is the most balanced approach to parenting, and thus the hardest form of parenting to accomplish. However, it is not impossible to emulate the characteristics of this parenting style, as long as you understand how it works.
First and foremost, let’s look at how parents using this style set behavioral guidelines. Because authoritative parents want their children to respect boundaries, they need to clearly define what those are. Parents need to set a clear standard, or set of rules that are to be followed. However, there needs to be flexibility in this as every child learns and grows differently. For example, a four year old told no who then disobeys would have a worse punishment then a two year old because their capacity for understanding is greater. In addition to having clear rules set, there needs to be the willingness to change said rules if the child can show why that is a good idea. Thus, there should be an open discussion about guidelines, and children should be allowed to voice their views and opinions. In other words, your child needs to know that you will listen to what they say, and if their argument is logical and convincing, you will change your mind and thus the rules. For example, if you set an 11 o’clock curfew for weekends, your teen will have the opportunity to explain to you why they feel it should be later. You still have the final say, but you will allow them to use reason and logic to explain the folly in the guideline or rule set. Maybe they can’t realistically be home by then on weekends because they can’t get out of the house until 8, so if they were to see a movie it would have to be a later showing, which means they would have to leave the movie early to meet curfew.
This is a good approach because it gives guidelines, but encourages your child to use logic, reason, and higher-level thinking to align their “wants” with the guidelines. Many times they will see while trying to form their argument, that you are correct.
Next is the relationship aspect between parent and child. In permissive and uninvolved parenting, the parent is more like a peer or associate than they are a parent. In the Authoritative approach, the relationship is based on mutual respect, and thus is typically healthy, close, and friendly. While parent and child are not best friends, they certainly have a friendship, and their relationship can withstand conflict. With the authoritative parenting approach, this relationship is created by appreciating your child’s uniqueness and differences, and encouraging them to explore those. It is also maintained by using empathy and understanding, rather than authority, or “what I say goes because I am the parent.” Parents have to take a real interest in their child’s life, goals, likes, dislikes, etc.
Showing your child love and being their friend is a great aspiration, but it must be combined with healthy guidelines and limitations, otherwise the child will not become the adult you want them to be.