Permissive, Authoritarian, and Authoritative Parenting
Parenting researchers and family experts have coined several types of parents. These labels aren’t a one-sized-fits-all kind of thing. Often, we tend to be more like one type than others. But before we get caught up in labels, remember that just being an intentional parent, who strives to do their best in each moment, is often the best parenting type.
Childhood development experts have found three main types of parents from cultural and family studies. These were found based on a parent’s involvement, acceptance of the child, how they controlled behavior, and how much independence was given.
These are generalizations based on research. Many of us may have characteristics of more than one type. And while each child and situation may require different approaches, research clearly shows that certain characteristics work better than others.
I encourage you not to get too bogged down in labels and whether you are fitting into a certain category. If you notice something you are doing that is hindering you, your child, or your relationship, make the effort to improve. Your kids deserve your effort. But also give yourself grace. Parenting is hard and we can’t always get it right.
The three main parenting types as discovered by researchers are the Permissive, Authoritarian, and Authoritative styles.
- There are no rules.
- Often very loving and warm.
- Parent is often scared of their own authority or are scared to make their kids not like them.
- Doesn’t want conflict.
- Give in to kids or goes back on what they say.
- Research shows more runaways come from this type of parent.
- Usually not involved, attentive, or the opposite (overindulgent)
- Little behavior control.
- Allow kids to make decisions they aren’t yet capable of making.
- Grants too much independence.
Kids of permissive parents often (not always) are:
- Demanding or dependent
- Struggle with school, doing tasks, and relationships
- Not usually as loving. Attention usually only given when child does something well.
- Uses fear-based parenting techniques.
- Enforces rules or punishment without discussion or understanding.
- Consequences don’t match the offense, usually punitive in nature.
- More yelling, criticizing, threatening
- Gets desired behavior in the short term.
- Doesn’t give enough independence.
- Makes decisions for the child.
- Is often cold, unattached
- Tries to force more mature behavior than kids are capable of.
- Can be manipulative
- Doesn’t allow kids to express themselves
Kids from Authoritarian parents often:
- Have low self-esteem
- Hostility towards parents, sometimes with anger or force
- Often don’t like school, but do well because of parental force
- Have anxiety
- Are withdrawn from relationships
- Haven’t had a chance to develop their identity
Neither of these as a whole sound very great. The third style discovered by researchers is the Authoritative Parenting style. Many longitudinal and many cross-cultural studies have found this to be the most effective parenting style.
- Give age and child appropriate independence, but still are involved and aware
- Are involved in their child’s life
- Use empathy and understanding
- Help build resilience in times of stress through support and problem-solving
- Are willing to change behavior management techniques
- Warm, sensitive, loving, affectionate, encouraging, communicate
- Help kids self-regulate
- Teach emotional intelligence
- Use teaching moments and preventative parenting
- Allow kids to make decisions within their ability
- Use natural or logical consequences with discussion
- Allow kids to be themselves and love unconditionally
These kids usually:
- Do well in school and relationships
- Have stronger emotional and mental health
- Have high self-esteem
- Are willing to take advice from their parents
- Are generally compliant
- Develop a sense of self
Please remember, you could be the best authoritative parent out there, and your child will still have bad days and will still make sad choices. The sad choices are part of the growing up process. We want our kids to make mistakes while they are young. They will learn and they can come to know we are always there for them. And even the healthiest people have a hard time sometimes.
Each of our children are unique with their own needs and wants. Additionally, certain personalities and temperaments may require parents to veer slightly one way or another off the authoritative pendulum. That’s part of what makes an authoritative parent great, their ability to modify things to fit their child.
There really isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula for parenting. But adapting the authoritative characteristics and being intentional in your parenting certainly has been shown to be effective.
By: Emily Scott PhD
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