I remember growing up and learning the rules of the house. I was raised in an authoritarian household, which basically meant you did what you were told, no questions asked. And if I did ask, the response would be “because I said so.”
Psychologists now teach that parenting has a great impact on how a child will develop into an adult. We know that if a child is neglected, abused, or otherwise in a terrible home growing up then that child is more than likely going to have problems as an adult. We want to say ‘duh’, but this wasn’t always known; parents used to raise their children to be obedient at any cost, not knowing the damage they were doing. It became necessary to study the effects of different methods of childrearing so that we could better understand children’s behavior, development, and mental health.
Parenting can be broken down into four generally-accepted styles: Authoritarian, Neglectful Permissive, Indulgent Permissive, and Authoritative. Most psychologists can agree on these four, although some believe that these four can be broken down even further into 8 or 10 different styles, but I think these four hit the nail on the head.
As stated before, the authoritarian parenting style was how I was raised, as many children were. This is the expectation of blind obedience and strict rules. Now, I’m all for being strict and punitive, but this parenting style is rigid and low on warmth. Expectations are high and there is little to no input from the child. Parents are unresponsive; nothing is open to discussion. This is also the parenting style that uses corporal punishment as a means of consequences.
This is the household where children are to be seen not heard. Father comes home from work and the children should be quiet, well-behaved, and not bother dad who, “had a long day at work.” The authoritarian parenting style has little or no warmth so children wonder if their parents actually love them. There are no long talks or connection with an authoritarian parent.
With this parenting style, children become moody and/or aggressive, especially as they get older. They fail to learn good communication skills, thereby having difficulty maintaining relationships. In school, children may have lower academic performance and delinquency. They are more apt to get into drugs or alcohol and will use that as an escape from their rigid home.
Children of authoritarian parents tend to become independent early, satisfying their own need for warmth; however, they may have lower self-esteem and behavioral problems. They will also most likely have poor social skills. Obviously, this is not a parenting style that is recommended. Even if a child is harder to handle than others, closed communication does not teach a child to deal with their outbursts. And the use of corporal punishment teaches kids that violence is a valid way to solve a problem; it also teaches kids to become more manipulative, conniving, and a better liar in order to not get caught.
Luckily, for me (and many like me), I gained mentors throughout high school and college who helped me get through some of my aggressive personality traits and feelings of abandonment. I then became a professor and taught parenting skills to parents who needed guidance (and to steer them away from the authoritarian parenting style).
The authoritarian relationship has an avoidant attachment where the child is insecure, angry, and will suffer from anxiety, especially with parents who are inconsistent in their warmth (if they show any at all). I never felt affection or warmth from my father growing up. I was very insecure and full of anxiety. I joined every group and club that I could in order to fill the emptiness that my authoritarian parenting gave me. I was (and still am) an overachiever. Although many people would not find that to be a negative trait, being an overachiever makes daily living difficult. Being a perfectionist, a black-and-white thinker, is no way to enjoy the shades of gray that life blesses us with.
The neglectful permissive parenting style is when parents make few demands on a child, providing little to no structure and/or monitoring, which lends to the ‘permissive’ side of this parenting style. However, parents are ‘neglectful’ in that they have little interest in what their children are doing or what they have done. Parents would have little to no emotional support and may actually be actively rejecting.
If a parent is actively rejecting, they are almost going out-of-their-way to avoid being a parent. You see this in some teenage movies where the parents are always off on some cruise or trip, and they leave their teenager home alone without any supervision. Then the teenager inevitably throws a party if it’s a comedy, or gets hunted by some serial killer if it’s a horror movie. Permissive neglectful allows the parent to be free of their parental duties by letting their children do whatever they want, without the threat of consequences. This is learned early by the child who becomes bratty and demanding.
Parents are distant, insensitive and disengaged. Other results could be the child becomes impulsive and egocentric because they were raised getting whatever they wanted. This can create lifelong, problematic relationships with others. The child would suffer as an adult with drug or alcohol abuse, and suicidal tendencies. They will, in turn, become indifferent to their own children.
The neglectful relationship has an ambivalent attachment. The child is generally insecure, emotionally indifferent and not very inquisitive. They can be generally content or unhappy but would rarely say that they are secure and happy. This parenting style can create children who only see gray, with consequences always being able to be avoided and rewards to be self-induced.
Sometimes this parenting style is simply called Permissive, but this is completely different than the neglectful permissive. There are, of course, similar behaviors within both Permissive styles. Both have parents who set few limits or demands. Both also have little structure, and consequences are avoided or dismissed.
The biggest difference between neglectful and indulgent permissive is that indulgent parents are highly involved in their child’s life. They are emotionally connected with warmth and attention. The indulgent parent has low demands yet are very loving with high responsiveness. There is no expectation of responsible or mature behavior on the part of the child, so the child grows to be impulsive and have out-of-control and imprudent behavior.
Children with indulgent parents fail to learn respect. Their parents not only show their child love, attention, and warmth, but they also show their child that they have no consequences to their actions. An indulgent parent will get their children out of trouble in any way that they can. The parent not only wants to be friends with their child, they want to be their child’s best friend.
Indulgent permissive parenting relationship creates an anxious or preoccupied attachment. Child is confused and frustrated through this attachment. Parents are exceedingly rewarding and accessible as they look to their children to meet their needs instead of the parents meeting the needs of the child. Parents suffer from emotional hunger that sucks the life out of the child as the parent needs to be in every nook and cranny of their child’s life. This creates a person who develops clinginess and desperation of attention when they become an adult. This is not a pretty sight. Parents who want to live through their child cripple them as they become an adult.
Children who grow up under the permissive neglectful parenting style will have poor social skills, since they believe that the world revolves around them. They will also have little self-control which will make them overly demanding and disobedient. Without few or no rules, the parent becomes more and more indulgent and lenient. It becomes easier to be the child’s friend with warmth and leniency than to set firm ground rules and go through with parental consequences.
I have a friend who is an only child who was raised with this parenting style. He is thirty-five years old, still living with his parents, as well as living off of them. He proclaims he is disabled but in fact he just never learned to take care of himself. The scary part is that his parents are fine with it. Poor guy can’t find a lasting relationship and will never feel the rewards from success.
Permissive Parenting Styles
In both of the permissive styles, children will end up with similar problems growing up. First, because there are little to no expectations, the children will have no one to make proud – nothing to strive for. They will display low achievement in many areas of their lives because of this lack of motivation. There have been studies that link permissive parenting to low academic success. If there are no consequences for low or bad grades, then there’s no reason to do better.
Permissive parents do not set or enforce rules and consequences; therefore, their children will struggle with problem-solving skills and are more likely to make poor decisions. This is because of the lack of structure in the home; they don’t learn how to manage difficult situations because the parent will always get them out of trouble.
Being raised in a permissive household statistically raises children who are sexually negligent and promiscuous. They will also indulge in alcohol, smoking, and other drugs at an early age, creating addiction issues. But don’t worry, mommy and daddy will get you out of trouble.
The authoritative parenting style is the one that psychologists recommend and teach. Within this style, parents set and enforce rules. Parents are highly involved and are supportive. The main difference between authoritative and indulgent is that the authoritative parents are structured, consistent, and when they say they are going to turn the car around then they turn the car around.
Authoritative parents are warm and responsive with tender and emotional support. Rules are clear and expectations are high. These parents will serve up punishments and consequences as they had established. As a result, the child becomes self-reliant, high-achieving, and emotionally well-adjusted. As the child goes through adolescent into adulthood, they would establish self-control, achieve higher academic success, and lower delinquency.
Authoritative parents value independence. They also exhibit high self-esteem and are good role models, which reflects in the behaviors of their child. These parents establish household rules such as bedtimes and particular chores, with consequences that are dealt consistently when a rule is broken.
Children with authoritative parents have better social skills. This is because they clearly understand what is expected of them, knowing that punishments for any misbehavior will be implemented. They also know that they have an open and healthy communication with their parents; harsh judgment or fear of abandonment is never an issue. The parent-child relationship exists outside of the home.
The authoritative parenting style has a secure attachment. The child’s general state of being is secure, inquisitive, and happy. Parents are quick with their responses, sensitive, and consistent. Child knows (and trusts) that all of their needs will be met. Families within this parenting style enjoy each other’s company. This is the parenting style I use. We have family game nights, we do chores together, kids do great in school and are well-mannered. I found that if you turn the car around just once, you teach a child that what you say you will do. I love spending time with my two children; we get along like friends when we are on vacation or having a family night. However, I am not their best friend; I am the mom that does not need to ask twice.
All kids are different, thus sometimes parenting practices need to be different, even in the same household. However, this does not mean to use different parenting styles. Some children need a little more warmth than others, but all children need warmth. Some children need more disciple, but all children need discipline. Parenting practices is on a spectrum. For example, I am an authoritative parent; I talk with my two kids and each know what is expected of them. However, my youngest son needs more hugs and less hovering to be successful, whereas my older son needs less hugs and more hovering. Both are met with a level of warmth, direction, and support.
As I had said earlier, my general household growing up was within the authoritarian parenting style. This was basically directed by my father. My mother, unfortunately, had a lot of ailments (passing away at too-young an age). She was, however, very loving and warm. The few minutes a day that I was able to spend with her was a blessing and she made all of her children feel like we were her favorite (of course, I truly was, but don’t tell my siblings).
It is so important that both parents communicate with each other as well. Children learn early on which parent to ask for certain things. You can ask mom for extra computer time and ask dad for extra allowance. However, if parents are on the same page, then children learn that both parents are reliable and consistent.