No two parents are exactly the same. While there are a nearly infinite number of variations on how to parent, there are enough overlaps that experts have largely been able to codify the types of parenting into a limited group of styles. Each of these styles represents not only a way to raise a child, but also the benefits and traumas that can be associated with those styles.
While most parents don’t go into the process of raising a child with a defined style of parenting in mind, most do have plans for how they will raise their children. As such, it makes sense to investigate how your own plans might match up with various styles. Though there is certainly no perfect way to parent, the benefits and drawbacks of the various parenting styles can give you an idea of how to create a better foundation for your child’s life.
The Basic Parenting Styles
Attachment parenting is a type of parenting that largely emphasizes the closeness between the parent and child. While there is certainly an emphasis between the metaphorical connection that a parent and child should feel emotionally, there’s also an emphasis on the physical connection between the parent and the child. Most non-parents can identify those who practice this style of parenting by their constant attachment to their children, both through ‘child-wearing’ and co-sleeping arrangements.
The driving idea behind this type of parenting is that it leads to a tighter bond between the parent and child, which in turn improves communication between the parent and child and leads to a more cohesive family unit. Many critics of attachment parenting note that the parent places an extreme amount of stress on the shoulders of mothers, while largely relegating fathers to a ‘support’ position in the household.
In the world of child-centered parenting, it’s the child who matters most. Technically speaking, this is a form of parenting that eschews the typical dynamic in which the parent sets the rules in favor of a dynamic in which the child’s desires and needs are always put first. As with many forms of parenting, this method can bring with it both significant positives and negatives.
When done well, the parent plays the role of a supportive and nurturing adult who helps guide his or her child even as the child grows in his or her own decision-making capacity. When done poorly, this type of parenting fails to give children the structure they need to grow. This is a type of parenting, then, that often requires a deft touch in order to pull off correctly.
Positive parenting is a type of parenting style the emphasizes communication and respect over all else, with the flow of both information and respect going in both directions between parents and children. Positive parenting shares a goal of relationship-building with attachment parenting, but largely differs in that has a larger goal of offering a child more control over his or her surroundings.
Positive parenting eschews punishments and scolding, but does not shy away from making rules. Instead, this style emphasizes rules that make sense to both the parent and child and consequences that flow naturally from a failure to follow those rules. At the same time, this style also places a great deal of value in offering children choices in their daily lives and validating how they feel, though the end goal is to create a space in which neither the parent nor the child should feel like they have lost control.
Narcissistic parenting is parenting that puts the needs and desires of the parent above the child, even in those cases in which the child’s needs should be put first. When this parenting style is used, the child is seen to exist more as an extension of the parent than as a person in his or her own right. As you might expect, any deviation from parental expectations can result in negative consequences for the child.
Though it’s often assumed that narcissistic parenting would lead to physical abuse, this is not always the case. Many narcissists make use of more subtle emotional controls to get their own way, leaving the child in a state where he or she is loathe to trust his or her own emotions. This type of parenting almost inevitably leads to unhealthy relationships and a great deal of resentment if and when the child manages to break away from the household.
Nurturant parenting is all about exploration. In this model, the assumption is that the child inherently has a grasp of his or her own needs and that he or she simply needs the aid and protection of his or her parents to be successful. While nurturant parenting may seem on its surface to be one in which the child takes all control over his or her upbringing, the truth is that parents have an incredibly important role in this process. A nurturant parent should protect children from threats, including his or her own misguided choices.
Nurturant parenting places a premium on the idea that children who are cared for and supported will be better able to explore their environments and succeed later in life. It requires a careful balance between giving a child freedom and stepping in to protect him or her, though for most outsiders it often looks like the process puts significantly more emphasis on the former.
While you may have never heard the term overparenting before, you’ve almost certainly heard the its more common name – helicopter parenting. This form of parenting does ultimately come from a good place, though. The goal of a helicopter parent is to prevent a child from having to experience pain on struggles by taking on challenges for his or her child. In all practical ways, though, this type of parenting really consists of parents who often involve themselves in those struggles which children should handle on their own.
The toughest part of dealing with helicopter parents is that these parents are often those who have started with a different parenting style. Their actions were highly appropriate when their children were younger, but they’ve failed to fall back as their children should learn to take the lead. Helicopter parents are often more responsible for leading their children to failure than they are to help them find success.
Affectionless control is, in many ways, a combination of the worst of all possible worlds when it comes to parenting. This type of parental style is characterized by a combination of a parent’s lack of interest in a child’s emotional well-being (affectionless) as well as an overly high level of criticism and intrusiveness (control). As you might expect, this type of parenting isn’t ideal by any standards and it can certainly play a role in harming a child’s development.
Several studies have shown affectionless control parenting to be linked to everything from obesity to higher suicide rates. The combination of a total lack of attention to the child’s emotional development combined with a lack of understanding as to a child’s growing independence simply cannot lead to positive outcomes no matter what else a parent might do.
Slow parenting is, in many ways, a response to the highly-organized activities and schedules that characterize modern Western childhood. Parents who choose this type of parenting style tend to prioritize a child’s ability to enjoy his or her own childhood, removing structured activities and allowing children to largely direct themselves throughout the day.
Parents who embrace this kind of parenting tend to limit electronic usage and maximize family time, allowing their children to explore and develop interests as they grow. Slow parenting can often cross over with nurturant parenting, though the latter type of parenting does tend to involve significantly more input on the part of the parents and fewer restrictions on the child’s ability to interact with modern technology.
When most people think of bad parenting, they think about toxic parenting. Toxic parenting is a type of parenting that results in a poor relationship between parents and children, one that is often epitomized by harm to the child’s physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. Toxic parenting almost always involves some kind of physical or emotional abuse, and it may often involve significant levels of neglect.
It’s important to note that toxic parenting is not parenting that involves basic mistakes, nor is it one that results from the actions of a child. Toxic parenting falls completely at the feet of the parent, an individual who doesn’t necessarily put his or her own well-being above that of the child but rather one who simply doesn’t care at all about the child’s overall development. Toxic parents can and do often provide for children physically, but their overall actions will almost always cause more harm than good for the child.
Authoritarian or Disciplinarian
Authoritarian parenting is a highly rules and success-based form of parenting. These are the parents who most typically think of as strict, parents who likely place a high premium on performance in academics, sports, or other areas of notable accomplishment. Parents who practice this style of parenting likely think of themselves as doing so for the benefit of the child, but in truth these parents rarely show much regard for the overall emotional well-being of a child.
It should be noted that many parents who engage in this style of parents rarely rise to the level of being truly toxic. These are parents who certainly care about a child’s development, but who take ironclad control over how that development will proceed. As you can imagine, authoritarian parenting doesn’t often lead to successful long-term parental relationships.
Permissive or Indulgent
Indulgent parents are often seen as the opposite of authoritarian parents. If authoritarian parents focus mostly on rules and discipline, permissive or indulgent parents focus more on a child’s happiness. In this case, though, that happiness is the kind of transient happiness that comes from the immediate fulfillment of desires rather than any long-term attempts to help a child to succeed to meet typical developmental milestones.
These are often the parents who strive to be seen as friends rather than authority figures. They give children few rules, and those that are broken rarely have consequences. Though this type of parenting might seem like it provides for a positive parent-child relationship, it typically fails to protect the child from many common dangers and can leave children ill-prepared to deal with a world that tends to require an ability to live within societal structures.
Uninvolved parenting isn’t so much a parenting style as it is the absence of parenting. Related to the style of slow parenting, it’s the assumption that a child is generally better off taking care of him or herself as much as possible and that the parent will be psychologically better off doing the same. This is simply a method of parenting that absolves a parent of all responsibility to his or her child.
Surprisingly, not all uninvolved parents completely check out of a child’s life. This type of parent might buy a child groceries and provide a place for the child to live, but he or she would rarely ensure that the child gets to school or that he or she is able to participate in typical childhood events. These parents often do the legal minimum to ensure that their children reach adulthood and typically don’t pursue much of a relationship with their children outside of those mandated by the law.
Authoritative parents typically find a middle ground between being authoritarian and indulgent. Like authoritarians, they have high expectations and rules for their children that must be followed; unlike authoritarians, though, they use these rule as a method of helping their children develop and are typically quite forgiving if their children do not succeed. Like indulgent parents, these parents also care deeply about the social and emotional development of their children but tend to provide frameworks in which their children can grow into the roles expected of them by society.
Finding Your Parenting Style
There are few parents who strictly follow a single parenting style. Most parents mix and match different elements to provide safe and effective ways to nurture their children. Don’t feel like you have to be a purist when it comes to choosing the way that you raise your child – the real world is complex and choosing to adopt elements of different strategies is often the best way to ensure that you are able to give your child the kind of upbringing that you believe he or she deserves.