Parenting has got to be one of the toughest jobs out there. So many decisions to make, so many opinions to contend with, so many options for how to handle things—how are we supposed to know what’s “right”? And then dealing with the consequences our parenting choices can have on our kids—talk about pressure. For years, researchers have been tangling with this critical (and, let’s be honest, often confusing) topic. While there are definitely nuances to every approach, psychologists generally recognize four parenting styles that influence how you raise your child—and how well adjusted your child may become.
Baumrind’s Parenting Styles
Diana Baumrind, a developmental psychologist, first laid out these types of parenting styles in the 1960s through her research at the University of California, Berkeley. She conducted a series of studies that looked at people’s approach to parenting based on the demands they placed on their children and their responsiveness to their kids’ needs, and identified three primary parenting styles. A fourth parenting style was added later by two other researchers.
- Authoritarian Parenting Style: Authoritarian parenting is a strict style in which parents set rigid rules and high expectations for their children but don’t allow them to make decisions for themselves. When rules are broken, punishments are swift and severe.
- Authoritative Parenting Style: Authoritative parents provide their children with boundaries and guidance, but give their children more freedom to make decisions and learn from their mistakes.
- Permissive Parenting Style: Permissive parents give their kids very few limits and have more of a peer relationship than a traditional parent-child dynamic. They’re usually super-responsive to their kids’ needs (think helicopter parent) and give in to their children’s wants.
- Neglectful Parenting Style. A style added later by researchers Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin, neglectful parents don’t interact much with their kids, placing no limits on their behavior but also failing to meet their children’s needs.
These four parenting styles—which still form the foundation for much of today’s research into childhood development—make up a broad spectrum of behavior that explains how most parents care for their kids. Of course, every parent-child relationship is unique and every day is different, but chances are, your natural mode of parenting falls somewhere among Baumrind’s parenting styles.
Not sure which of the different parenting styles represents your own? Find out more about the parenting styles below to see which one fits you.
Authoritarian Parenting Style
“In authoritarian parenting, you’re saying ‘I don’t trust you to manage things, but rather than doing things for you, I’m going to force you to do what’s right,’” says Alyson Schafer, a Toronto-based therapist and author of Honey, I Wrecked the Kids. Parents are the rulers of the roost—and it’s their way or the highway. This is an old-school type of parenting, where rules are strict and don’t leave much room for interpretation, punishments are swiftly meted out, and kids rarely have a say in making decisions or choosing things for themselves.
What authoritarian parenting looks like
If you regularly find yourself saying, “Because I said so,” you might have an authoritarian bent to your approach to raising kids. Authoritarian parents have strict rules that should be followed no matter what, decide things for the child without their input, resort to punishment to ensure obedience, and may be less affectionate or “warm and fuzzy” than parents who subscribe to other parenting styles.
Effects of authoritarian parenting
“Kids [in authoritarian households] will behave as long as the autocratic leader is in the room,” Schafer says. “But the minute you leave—especially when they’re a little older and finally get a taste of freedom—they’ll either rebel or look for someone else to show them what to do.”
Schafer says children raised through authoritarian parenting tend to:
- Develop a “follower” mentality and readily conform without thinking for themselves
- Have a hard time discerning right from wrong on their own
- Struggle with self-esteem issues, relying on other authority figures to confirm they have worth
Authoritative Parenting Style
Of the parenting styles, this is often considered the gold standard—the happy medium between the strict authoritarian parenting style and the permissive approach. Authoritative parents do set limits for their children, but are also responsive to their needs. Consider it a firm but nurturing style. “Parents operate like CEOs, but in a friendly way that is respectful and allows the child to learn from consequences,” Schafer says.
What authoritative parenting looks like
Authoritative parents give their children room to make decisions and learn from mistakes—but still offer the guidance and rules kids need. When children break the rules, punishments usually stem…