What Kind of Parent Are You?

Four Parenting Styles: Which One Works Best, and Why?

Posted Aug 11, 2019

Stephanie Riddell/Flickr
Source: Stephanie Riddell/Flickr

People’s personalities are as individual as fingerprints. Temperaments, backgrounds, and values are enormously variable, and affect how parents respond to their children, and how children respond to their parents. Each parent must find a style that suits their own personality, and their children's, but they can fine-tune that style if they know what approaches are most likely to lead to their children becoming happily productive adults.

Parenting Styles Quiz

For each question, choose the statement that best reflects your attitude.

1.      a. What a child needs most is to be loved, respected, and valued.  

b. What a child needs most is structure, rules, and discipline. 

c. A child needs both love and structure

2.      a. When a child disobeys, they need understanding.  

b. When a child disobeys, they need to be punished.   

c. When a child disobeys, parents should use it as a teaching moment.  

3.      a. Children behave better if parents ignore disrespectful behavior.  

b. Children must respect their parents at all times. It’s a parent’s job to enforce that.  

c. When children behave disrespectfully, parents should address it, listening to the child, and taking into account possible stress, hunger, or other situations.  

4.      a. Children don’t need punishment. They just need love and understanding.  

b. The old-fashioned ideas about spoiling children hold true today. There are times when it’s in children’s own good to be punished.

c. Sometimes kids need consequences but punishment doesn’t teach anything useful.

5.      a. I avoid setting rules for my kids. We figure things out as we go.  

b. I am the adult, so it is my job to set the rules in my home.

c. I work with my children to define and enforce our household rules.

6.      a. I don’t make many rules, and I usually make exceptions when they’re broken.

b. My children just need to know the rules. They don’t need to like them.

c. It’s important to me that my children understand our household rules.   

7.      a. We don’t have a lot of rules, so rule-breaking isn't really a  problem for me.

b. When my children break a rule, I enforce the punishment. That is my job.

c. When my children break a rule, I think about the context. Before setting consequences, I talk to them about what’s happening and try to understand their point of view.

8.      a. My children don’t always do their chores, but what can I expect? They’re children!

b. Each of my children has chores to do before they are allowed privileges or free time. No exceptions.

c. I expect my children to complete their chores, but am willing to listen if they want an exemption on a given day, or want to amend the expectations.

9.      a. I often have to bribe my kids to get them to do what I want them to do.

b. My kids trust me to give them consequences if they don’t do what I tell them to do.

c. My kids and I have worked out a system of expectations and consequences, and mostly it goes pretty well.

10.  a. There’s not much negotiation in our household. I listen to the kids and try to do it their way.

b. There’s no negotiating in our home. I am the parent and I make the rules.

c. We spend a lot of time negotiating the rules and consequences. It is important to me that my kids understand the rules and feel they help shape the consequences.

So, What Kind of Parent Are You?

In a system developed by Diana Baumrind in the 1960s, parents’ styles can be roughly categorized as permissive, authoritarian, authoritative, or neglectful.

Permissive: The Friend

If you chose (a) for most of these items, your approach to parenting falls into the “permissive” style. You love your children and want the best for them, and you trust them to do the right thing. You don’t like to set rules or enforce them and prefer to live in a spirit of harmony with them.  

Authoritarian: The Boss

If most of your answers were (b), you provide your children with the guidance and structure they need to grow into adults with your values. You see your job as being a parent to your children, not a friend, and you don’t feel a need to explain or discuss your rules and orders. When your children disobey, it is your job to make sure they are appropriately punished.

Authoritative: The Parent

If your answers were mostly (c), you fall into the “authoritative” parenting category. You want your children to feel loved, respected, and valued, and you know they need rules and limits until they are old enough to take care of themselves. You avoid threats and punishment, instead using positive reinforcements and reasoning to guide your kids. You expect maturity and cooperation, and offer your children the emotional support they need to meet your high standards for them. You pay attention to the context of your children’s misbehavior, and spend time listening to their concerns. You are both highly demanding, and warmly responsive to your children’s needs and concerns.

Neglectful: The Uninvolved Parent

Neglectful parents don’t generally read articles like this, or contemplate parenting quizzes, so I haven’t included any items describing their points of view. They are uninvolved with their children, providing not much warmth or structure. Sometimes the lack of involvement in their children’s lives results from mental or physical health problems, including addiction; sometimes it results from feeling overwhelmed by financial or other concerns.

Which Approach Works Best, and Why?

Authoritative parenting leads to the best adult outcomes. Even if just one parent is authoritative, children are more likely than others to become independent, self-reliant, socially accepted, and academically successful. They are less likely to experience depression and anxiety, and less likely to engage in antisocial behavior like delinquency and drug use.

According to hundreds of studies across cultures, and around the world, children of authoritative parents are more empathetic, helpful, kind, and conscientious. They’re better problem-solvers, more confident, and more popular with their peers and with adults. They grow into more happily productive and healthier adults.

Becoming a More Authoritative Parent

Most people don’t fit neatly into one of these parenting styles, but instead, combine styles, or change as the children grow older. By knowing that parenting style matters and that the authoritative style has so many advantages, you can choose to move closer to that approach.   

1.      As much as possible, be warm, loving, and calm with your child.

2.      Set age-appropriate rules and limits.

3.      Spend time actively listening to your child’s concerns, ideas, and observations.

4.      Behave toward your child with respect, listening carefully, refraining from criticism, mockery, or openly finding them “cute.”

5.      Gently but firmly insist that your child treat you with respect. Help them see why that is important.

6.      Rather than seeing their misbehavior as provocation or “bad,” treat it as a need for them to learn something, an opportunity to teach your child what you expect.

7.      Set high goals for your child’s behavior. Explain and discuss those goals in age-appropriate ways.

8.      Catch your child being good, not bad, except where absolutely necessary. Avoid threats and punishments. Instead, use discussion, instruction, and reasoning to shape their behavior.

9.      Expect your child to behave well, with maturity and responsibility, and offer them the support they need to get there.

10.  Be both warmly responsive and highly demanding. Love them, lead them, and support them as they grow into increasing levels of autonomy, responsibility, and maturity.

Resources

The authoritative parenting style: An evidence-based guide,” by Gwen Dewar

Do the associations of parenting styles with behavior problems and academic achievement vary by culture? Results from a meta-analysis,” by Martin Pinquart and Rubina Kauser

No, Don't Be a Helicopter Parent. But Be Involved,” by Mike Brooks