Every mom or dad has a parenting style. Your parenting style grows out of your personality type, childhood background, and life experience. The four basic styles¾ ”permissive,” “free-reigning,” “authoritarian” and “controlling”¾each have strengths and weaknesses that either help build a child’s self-esteem or tear it down. A fifth style, called “nurturing and limit-setting,” is the ideal style, combining the best elements of the other styles.
Every parent needs to discover their natural style of parenting and understand its strengths and weaknesses. The goal then becomes making adjustments that will move their parenting more and more toward the ideal style.
Which style below best describes your parenting?
Permissive: high-nurture, low-limit-setting
Ashley has a permissive parenting style. Not surprisingly, she has trouble setting boundaries with her son, Ethan:
“You have school tomorrow and it’s already past your bedtime, but all right, I’ll let you stay up. I know you like this TV show.”
“You didn’t hear me call you for dinner? Well, sit down and I’ll put your plate in the microwave, so you won’t have to eat cold food.”
Authoritarian: low-nurture, high-limit-setting
Tyler does not listen when his daughter, Olivia, speaks. Olivia is well aware that her father does not respect her ideas or opinions. Tyler’s parenting style is clearly authoritarian:
“It’s time for bed. No arguments, Olivia.”
“You are late for dinner. That means you don’t eat tonight.”
Free-Reigning: low-nurture, very low-limit-setting
Zoe is so intensely focused on her own interests that she has trouble adequately tending to the needs of her children, Micah and Lucas. Zoe’s communication with her kids reveals her free-reigning parenting style:
“Work it out yourself, Lucas.”
“If you think I am stupid, Micah, that’s your problem.”
Controlling: high-nurture, very high-limit-setting
Connor and Megan have the same controlling parenting style. They nurture their twins, Ava and Aiden, but they often go overboard in supervising and setting limits for them. Ava and Aiden often hear their parents say things like:
“Get off the floor or you’ll get your clothes dirty.”
“This is what I want you to wear to school today.”
Most parents will recognize themselves in the scenarios above. The goal is always to build on the strengths of one’s natural parenting style, while working to improving the weaknesses. Jenna’s parenting style is a good model. Her style is ideal because it strikes the right balance between encouragement and discipline:
Ideal: high-nurture, high-limit-setting
Jenna is firm in setting limits for her daughter, Emma, and her son, Noah. Her parenting style is ideal because she also allows her children to have freedom within those limits. She says things to her children like:
“Noah, I wish I could let you stay up, but it’s a school night and I don’t feel good about you missing out on the sleep you need.”
“You two are late for dinner again. How can we work this out?”
Moving Toward the Ideal
Like most parents on the planet, your parenting style probably needs some work. These three tips will help you move toward the ideal:
- Be honest with yourself.Circle the quotes above that sound the most like you. What is your present parenting style?
- Encourage yourself.Make a list of your parenting strengths and how they benefit your children.
- Encourage your kids.Choose one weakness in your parenting style. What message does it send to your children? Do one thing this week to make that message more encouraging.
Improving your parenting style is a lot like eating with chopsticks¾it looks easy until you try to do it. But like most everything else in life, parenting skills must be learned. With patience and perseverance, you can master them.
Adapted from “Boosting Your Child’s Self-Worth,” by William D. Morgan and Debbie Barr (Single Parent Family magazine, March 1995).