Focus on the Family

Mastering Today’s 4 Parenting Styles

Remember, no parenting style is inherently bad or good. Each carries its potential benefits and drawbacks. The key is to be mindful and adaptable, employing the methods that best fit your child’s individual needs and personality.

In this ever-changing world, understanding today’s four parenting styles has never been more crucial. As we adapt to the digital age and navigate its complexities, many of our traditional approaches to raising children may no longer apply.

Parenting has always posed a challenge. With the rise of the internet, smartphones, and the increased need for connectivity, it has become even more complex. Amid numerous competing voices, it’s hard to know the right balance between guidance, protection, privacy, and supervision. Most of all, knowing the appropriate moments for intervention.

Researchers over the past several decades have identified four broad parenting styles. Once you can identify your dominant pattern, you will have a clearer understanding of how to provide the guidance and direction your child needs.

Unveiling the Four Parenting Styles: Identifying Your Dominant Pattern

I was first introduced to parenting styles during a discussion with Dr. Kevin Leman about raising kids. He identifies three types—the permissive parent, the authoritarian parent, and the authoritative parent. Research in family studies reveals a fourth style as well. Each style carries its nuances, and understanding these can lead to more effective parenting.

Uninvolved Parenting: The Hands-off Approach

Uninvolved parenting is the style most recently added, but that does not mean it is new. It is a concerning style because it involves much less engagement than the other types.

Also known as neglectful parenting, this style carries negative implications. In this approach, parents respond to their child’s needs and desires only in regard to the basics of food, clothing, and shelter.

This neglect leaves these children with little guidance, hope, encouragement, or discipline from their parents. Often, the children are left to raise themselves and make decisions independently.

One of the reasons this style is controversial is that it is easy to pass judgment on these parents. Whether you are an uninvolved parent or know someone who is, it is essential to remember that this parenting style is not always intentional.

As parents, we have all had those moments when we have been distracted, overworked, and tired, and as a result, have brushed off our child for a few minutes.

While you may feel guilt over these moments, that does not necessarily mean you are an uninvolved parent. Instead, uninvolved parenting is an ongoing pattern of emotional distance between the parent and the child.

Here are some signs of an uninvolved parent:

  • A tendency to focus on your problems and desires.
  • A lack of emotional attachment.
  • Lack of interest in child’s activities.
  • No set rules or expectations for behavior.

Children of uninvolved parents are usually resilient and may be more self-sufficient than kids with other types of upbringing. However, these skills develop out of necessity. As a result, this group of children may have trouble managing their emotions, have fewer coping strategies, and face academic challenges as well as challenges establishing and maintaining social relationships.

Biblical Example

David’s lack of engagement with his children had terrible outcomes. He refused to discipline his son Adonijah, who attempted to overthrow the throne. “His father had never at any time displeased him by asking, ‘Why have you done thus and so?’ He was also a very handsome man, and he was born next after Absalom.” (1 Kings 1:6).

Additionally, David refused to deal with Adonijah’s brother, Absalom, for killing his brother Amnon, or with Amnon when he raped his sister Tamar.

The ‘Whatever’ Parent: The Perks and Pitfalls of Permissive Parenting

The “whatever” parents are those for whom anything goes. These parents tend to be warm and nurturing with minimal expectations. They have very few, if any, rules for their kids. 

This approach can lead to children who struggle with self-discipline and self-control, as they are used to getting their way. They may also have difficulty understanding the importance of rules and may struggle with maintaining healthy relationships and boundaries.

While the nurturing and communication can be beneficial, the lack of structure can inhibit a child’s development of necessary skills such as responsibility, discipline, and self-control. Despite these potential pitfalls, the permissive parenting style can lead to children who are self-confident and comfortable expressing their feelings.

The permissive parent:

  • Places the priority on the child, not their spouse.
  • Robs the child of self-respect and self-esteem by doing things for them that they can do for themselves.
  • Provides their children with “Disneyland” experiences by making things as easy as possible for the child.
  • Invites rebellion with inconsistent parenting.

Biblical Example

The priest Eli is probably the most poignant example of a permissive parent. When you read the Bible story, you discover that he did nothing to keep his sons from violating temple practices and sexually exploiting the young women at the temple (1 Samuel 2:12, 17, 23-24, 29-30).

The Authoritarian Parent: Order and Discipline

Authoritarian parents run a tight ship, it’s “my way or the highway” with firm rules and expecting their children to comply without question. While this style of parenting can result in well-behaved children, it can also lead to aggression, shyness, social ineptitude, poor self-esteem, and risk-taking.

These are parents who believe children should be quiet, compliant, and fear any infraction could lead to a life of nefarious activity. This type of parent usually has a one-way style of communication where the parent sets a firm tone and definite rules that the child must obey. 

They expect their children to uphold their standard while making no mistakes. Mistakes can lead to condemnation and punishment. A parent who uses this authoritarian style is less nurturing, has extreme expectations, and needs more flexibility.

Children who grow up in an authoritarian home will generally be well-behaved because of the impending consequence of misbehaving. They can adhere to precise instructions to accomplish a goal. On the downside, children can have higher levels of aggression.  

This type of aggression may lead to long-term challenges with anger management. Still, they could also be shy, socially inept, struggle with risk-taking, or have poor self-esteem, leading to further frustration because of a lack of decision-making ability.  One of the sad byproducts of this type of parenting is that the rules and punishments may lead the child to rebel against all kinds of authority when they get older.

An authoritarian parent:

  • Makes all the decisions for the child.
  • Uses reward and punishment to control their child’s behavior.
  • Sees themselves as better than the child.
  • Runs the home with an iron hand and grants little freedom to the child.

Biblical Example

King Saul was an angry, vindictive, imposing man.  He was so harsh in his treatment of David that he ended up losing the respect of his son Jonathan (1 Samuel 20:30).  When a parent uses this style, it can crush a child’s heart.  The Apostle Paul warned against this in Colossians 3:21 (ESV), “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”

The Responsible, Authoritative Parent: Balancing Love and Discipline

This parent typically develops a close, nurturing relationship with their children.  They have clear guidelines for their expectations and attempt to explain both their expectations and their reasons for disciplinary actions.  When they use discipline, it is primarily as a means of support rather than punitive.  Children are given input.  This parenting style is generally the most balanced regarding goals and expectations.  It has the best outcomes for the kids, but it requires patience, goal setting, and a lot of effort by both parties.

Leading psychologist Dr. Baumrind, who developed the theories of parenting styles in the late 1960s, believes this parenting style is the most “proper” because it balances respecting a child’s personality while allowing the parent to remain intimate and close to the child.

This parenting style often results in children who are confident, responsible, and able to self-regulate.  They can manage negative emotions more effectively, resulting in better social outcomes and emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual health.  These parents encourage their children to set and accomplish goals.  This type of parenting typically produces children with a higher sense of self-esteem, which can also result in a higher level of academic and school performance.

A responsible parent:

  • Gives the child choices and formulates guidelines with them.
  • Provides the child with decision-making opportunities.
  • Develops consistent, loving discipline.
  • Holds the child accountable.
  • Allows reality to be the teacher.

A Biblical Example

Some great examples of Authoritative parents are Elkanah and Hannah, the parents of Samuel the Prophet (1 Samuel 1-2), and Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist (Luke 1).  For an exciting view of God the Father’s parenting style, check out the insights from Covenant Keepers.

The Impact of Parenting Styles

Over the past several decades, family research indicates that parenting styles can have a broad range of impacts on children. Here is a quick overview.

Academics: Parenting styles can influence academic achievement and motivation.Mental Health: Parenting styles can also impact children’s mental health. Kids raised by authoritarian, permissive, or neglectful parents tend to experience more anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns.

Self-esteem: Children raised by authoritative parents tend to have stronger self-esteem than those raised by parents with other styles.

Social relationships: Parenting styles can affect how kids relate to others. For instance, children raised by permissive parents are more likely to be bullied, while those raised by authoritarian parents are more likely to bully others.

Adult relationships: Research has found that kids raised by strict, authoritarian parents may be more likely to experience emotional abuse in their adult romantic relationships.

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As author Erin Hawley studied how her toddlers related to her, she learned to see her relationship with God the Father in a whole new way.

There is Hope

Parenting styles are not fixed, either for individuals or families. The parenting approaches of each parent combine to create a unique blend in each family. Additionally, blending step or extended families into the mix can create a new dynamic. For instance, the mother may exhibit a more traditional approach, while the father leans toward a more permissive direction.

Sometimes, this can result in mixed signals. To make parenting work, parents need to collaborate as they merge their unique parenting styles.

Tips for Adjusting Your Parenting Style

While it’s crucial to understand your unique style and strive towards a more authoritative approach, here are some proven ways you can adjust your style if necessary:

Communicate: If you are married, frequently discuss the goals and objectives you have for your children as a couple.

Listen: Invest time in understanding your kids by listening to them and asking about their opinions, ideas, and worries. Keep your ears open.

Determine the rules: Cooperatively establish a clear set of rules for your household and communicate these to your kids in a way they understand. In addition to informing them of the rules, explain why each rule is in place.

Seek your child’s input: Authoritative parents set the rules but are open to considering their children’s viewpoints when making decisions.

Be consistent: Enforce the rules consistently, ensuring that the consequences are fair, age-appropriate, and educational.

If you are looking for a flexible way to improve how you discipline and manage your children, check out this insightful article by Dr. Kevin Leman, titled The Wonders of Reality Discipline.

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