Parenting approaches are changing. Children of parents who balance warmth and discipline well tend to be more emotionally stable as adults. I want to outline the 4 parenting styles that are predominant in popular psychology and offer some insight into how my wife and I modify this to meet our children’s needs.
4 generally accepted parenting styles:
- Authoritarian: Highly demanding and critical. “I am the boss, and what I say goes.” “You do what I say or else.” In my experience working with families, this type of parenting tends to lead to very rules-focused people that have little flexibility in thinking.
- Permissive: Highly supportive but little to no direction/teaching/structure from parents. Many well-meaning parents are permissive. They want to be warm and supportive in all things, but trusting kids with little to no experience to make great decisions in all situations may set them up for failure and actually foster dangerous outcomes. Also, these children may have difficultly setting reasonable goals for themselves.
- Uninvolved: Highly unsupportive and unengaged. The mindset of this parent is hands-off. “Kids will be kids.” “What doesn’t kill them will make them stronger.” These kids may become very innovative because they have to figure things out for themselves. However, they often struggle in social relationships because they have little experience with warm and secure attachment. They tend to feel less safe because they do not have the assurance that anyone has their back when things get rough.
- Authoritative: Highly involved and supportive. More open communication and modeling. “Autonomy can be earned, but I don’t trust you to make good decisions until you prove it.” For your safety, you do as I say.” Most people in the psychology world subscribe to this parenting style as the overall best approach.
You or you and your partner have the great responsibility of choosing your approach to parenting. My wife and I tend to parent from a modified authoritative approach that we call collaborative.
3 scriptural truths from Proverbs 22:
1. The experience we have as adults gives us insight into what our children need.
2. Children tend to keep developing in the direction that they are taught (regardless of how they learn.)
3. Wisdom comes from experience. As naivety gives way to experience, better choices become possible for our children.
Proverbs 22 gives us valuable insight into the need that our kids have for wise instruction and discipline. Children are always learning, but we have the opportunity to influence what and how they learn.
Effective parenting requires active engagement, but over-parenting stifles autonomy of our kids. The way we choose to achieve this balance is through teamwork between us (the parents) and them (the children.) We fall back on our previously established family mission statement as a guide for the discussion. You can see our family mission statement for reference here.
5 Key Points:
- Listening for understanding of thoughts and feelings: When we listen to our kids, they feel heard. They also view us as approachable. This is our opportunity to assess whether our child is in the right emotional place to problem solve. (For more information on heightened emotional state, see Lead by Example: Don’t Poke the Lizard). I don’t know about you, but I am much more likely to go to my superiors when I feel valued and understood by them. When we understand where our kids are coming from, our feedback becomes more relevant.
- Identify the problem: We can help our children put words to the problems they are facing. We can keep them engaged in the process by asking to make sure that we summarized correctly. We can offer insight that we have for consideration.
- Collaboratively problem solve: We can help our kids identify things they have already tried to solve the problem and how this worked out. We can collaboratively brainstorm other options they can try and talk about what might happen. If an executive decision is necessary, explain the reasons behind this. “Because I said so” does not work. If you get push back on the reason you offer, maybe say, “Let’s talk about this more after the issue is resolved.”
- Make a choice and follow up: After considering the options, ask the child which approach they are going to use to handle the situation. This encourages autonomy in decision making without trumping parental authority.
- Discuss the Outcomes: Have a brief check in with your child about how their chosen solution worked out and what was learned from the experience.
If you are a parent and you are feeling frustrated with how things are going in your home, you are not alone. Contact us and let Refuge Counseling of Arkansas set up a free 15 minute consult.
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