Adopting a healthy parenting style
Everyone has their own unique qualities that makes them different from others. An approach taken by one to solve a problem at hand may be different than that taken by another. Similarly, parents around the world have their own unique styles to raise children in a manner they see best.
However, while trying hard to achieve the intended outcomes of our approaches, we tend to forget about the unintended consequences we create along the way.
Parenting is a challenging task in itself, and the approach parents adopt determines the relationship they have with their children. It can affect the child’s physical health, mental health, their thinking processes, and their perception of themselves.
Hence, it is vital that parents adopt a healthy parenting style that allows the child to grow in a safe space, as well as discipline them so that they can function efficiently according to the standards acceptable by the society they live in.
What are the different styles of parenting?
Parents everywhere have their own ways and techniques of raising their children. However, according to a research conducted by Diana Baumrind in the 1960s, these techniques can be broadly categorized into four parenting styles:
- Authoritarian or Disciplinarian – This parenting style demands unquestioning obedience and extreme control over the child’s actions. Violation of the smallest rule results in arbitrary and extreme punishment, and discipline is attained on grounds of fear.
- Permissive – Parents adopting this style emphasize on self-regulation, and consult with the children while making rules and policies that need to be followed. They leave their kids to monitor themselves, and rarely punish or guide them. They are extremely non-controlling and undemanding.
- Authoritative – Along with emphasizing the child’s individuality, this parenting style also expects certain behavioural standards set by the parents. They are confident in their abilities to efficiently guide their children and demand good behaviour, but also allow them to make their own independent decisions. They give judicious punishments when necessary, which are within limits, and clearly tied to the offence committed. The emphasis is on reinforcing good behaviour, and not merely hurting the child (emotionally or physically).
- Neglectful or Uninvolved – A fourth parenting style was added by Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin (1983) to describe parents who prioritize their own needs rather than their children’s, whether it be due to stress or some other personal reasons. As a result they majorly withdraw themselves from their children’s lives, and children experience lack of attention, love and guidance.
How do these parenting styles affect children’s mental health?
A child’s relationship with their parents depends on how the parents raise them. It’s one of the most important relationships in one’s life, as it affects our personality development, and the environment we grow up in severely affects our mental health.
If parents adopt an authoritarian style, the child’s temperament turns out to be withdrawn, distrustful, and fearful. Constant fear of extreme punishment makes them anxious, and can also eventually lead to depression. They feel repressed and the constant stress often leads them to act out in a rebellious way, especially in their teen years, which can make them feel extremely lonely.
Permissive parenting style results in children being immature and lacking self-control. They are incapable of practicing self-regulation, and are used to things always going their way. Therefore, they are unable to adapt to changing environments, which ultimately disrupts their daily functioning.
Similarly, neglectful or uninvolved parents raise children that are accustomed to lack of guidance and hence become extremely independent, so much so that they are unable to rely on other people. Lack of attention and love leads to several behavioural disorders, especially in childhood and adolescence.
These parenting styles often lead to mental health issues, as children are unable to share their feelings with their primary caregivers, making them hesitant to seek help.
Authoritative parenting is one which raises children that are self-assertive and confident. They are secure in their understanding of what is expected of them, and in knowing that they are loved. Due to sensible expectations set by the parents that are consistent and clear, the children feel a sense of achievement in meeting those realistic standards.
They are well educated in what is considered wrong or right, and are independent to make their own choices. These balanced experiences go a long way in creating a strong sense of self, which allows an individual to become self-reliant self-controlled, exploratory and content in one’s life.
They are extremely less likely to develop mental health issues as they are always encouraged to ask for help when they need it.
How applicable are these categorizations in the real world?
Although Baumrind’s research provides informative insight into factors of parenting that affect a child’s mental health and temperament, it is extremely generalized. With so many cultures prevailing in all parts of the world, it is absurd to think that all those approaches can be categorized into four broad styles, and that they all share the same qualities.
There is no evidence to suggest that parents continue to adopt the same approach throughout their lives. It is more likely that parents adopt various techniques depending on the need of the situation. Hence, these categories should be treated as a means to understand the effects of various factors on the child’ mental health, and not as the only four ways to raise a child.
Know what’s best for your children, and help them grow.
In the end, it doesn’t matter how parenting styles are categorized. What matters is that your children receive the love and guidance they need, which helps them become efficient and happy members of society.
Although authoritative parenting is consistently supported in Baumrind’s research, there is no “right” way to raise children. Getting to know your children and trying to understand their feelings builds the foundation of a healthy parent-child relationship.
No matter how good a parent you are, your children are bound to face problems in life which affects their mental health. Hence, it becomes the parents’ duty to encourage them to seek help when they need it, and be there for them no matter what.
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