For the majority of human history, parenting was an intuitive process, but in the modern world parents want to know how to parent. Many people approach parenting the same way they approach school and careers: with a manual. This has made child development and psychology a lucrative filed, as evidenced by the never ending lists of parenting books and websites. We want to know how to parent, but we want someone to tell us how.
Since parenting strategies and child development became popular in the 1940’s when Dr. Benjamin Spock introduced his seminal work Baby and Child Care, there have been a myriad of methods promoted for best raising your progeny. However, over the past ten years, many child psychologists have come to agree that parenting styles can be boiled down to three groups: Authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive. Let’s take a look at the characteristics of these parenting method in order to get a better idea of how to parent and the styles that are out there:
Authoritative/democratic: Authoritative parents are all about balance: they are interested in producing well-adjusted, hard-working, well-educated kids. However, they also want to make sure their kids get some enjoyment out of their lives in addition to learning to be structured and well-behaved. Authoritative parents value combining discipline and boundaries with love and warmth. They value their children’s feelings and input but are the ultimate decision makers. They are not their children’s friends but they are not their children’s masters either.
Permissive parents: Permissive parents let their kids sit in the driver’s seat. They feel as though all members of the family are equal and do not like to create a hierarchy of authority. Permissive parents feel that kids can make their own choice and they try not to interfere by setting up structures of discipline or boundaries. They want their children to grow up with a high-sense of self-esteem and self-worth, and they feel that harsh punishment interferes with this process.
Authoritarian parents: Authoritarian parents use discipline and structure to create an efficient household, and an authoritarian household is not a democracy: children simply do as they are told. A very strict, clear system of rules and regulations rule the authoritarian home and these types of parents believe that children can only mature properly when tightly controlled.
So which of the parenting styles above is the right one? That all depends on how you look at life, but many child psychologists agree that authoritative parenting produces the healthiest children because it is all about creating balance. Children need to be loved, heard, and mirrored in order to grow up with an intact self-worth and overall sense of self, but they also need boundaries and discipline in order to learn empathy and that the world doesn’t revolve around them. Permissive parenting concentrates too much on developing self-worth and individuality, and authoritarian parenting concentrates too much on discipline, and both of these methods can actually lead to low self-esteem. It is ultimately up to you to decide how to parent, but choosing the authoritative style is likely your best bet.