Three Most Common Styles of Parenting

According to Dr. Thomas Gordon in his famous book on parenting, Parent Effectiveness Training, most parents fall into two categories, authoritarian or permissive. His book teaches parents that the best way to increase respect, positive behavior, and good communication between parents and children is to become the third category of parenting – democratic.

What are the Three Types of Parenting Like?

Authoritarian parenting relies on power and tradition to enforce a set of rules or expected behaviors. Many parents rely on this method because it gets the job done quickly and with less initial effort. However, this method does not work in the long run because it can instill fear in children, make them dependent on their parents instead of promoting autonomy, and reduces their own ability to solve problems. Also, it requires a lot of maintenance afterward. Because children are expected to go along with the expected requests and demands or face penalties, parents have to continually nag, check up on their behavior, or tighten control in order to maintain the desired behavior.

Permissive parenting is what we might call helicopter parenting in modern terms. Parents want to give everything to their children, and protect them from as much suffering as possible. As a consequence, children expect and demand that their parents will do everything for them. This keeps them from learning to solve conflicts, face the result of their actions, and become independent of their family. It is a more affection-based parenting philosophy, but it comes at a heavy price as parents become more worn out as children lose their respect for their parents and do little to help either themselves or their parents. Children learn to use emotional manipulation and physical tantrums to get what they want out of their parents. This can take a toll on their life outside of the family – in the classroom, workplace, and out in the community where this self-aggrandizing behavior is not tolerated. This can lead to loneliness, social isolation, and physical or verbal aggression in other relationships.

Democratic parenting encourages parents and children alike to work together to solve problems and make sure needs are met. Democratic parenting blends well with the Boundaries book by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend as it relates to understanding what are the separate needs of parents and their children. Many parents, in their worry about children’s problems, tend to see their problems as their own, and view them as their own responsibility to solve. Children often see their parents’ problem as their own or at least caused by them, even though that is not often the case. In the case of democratic parenting, children get to take responsibility for their own actions and make sure that they don’t impede on the needs of their parents and vice versa. Democratic parenting also involves the use of active listening, not unlike the kind of listening that a good therapist tries to do with a client. It is often called the win-win method of parenting because both parents and children end up more satisfied with the results, with less frustration and resentment.

Where to Go From Here?

Keep in mind that as parents, we try the best that we can. Whether you are an authoritative, permissive, or democratic parent, you are trying your best with what you know. It’s easy to analyze other parents, including yourselves for perceived failures, but it takes more effort to forgive yourself and learn from your mistakes. Parenting is not an easy task, and we don’t often start off our lives as parents with the correct set of tools or instructions. That’s why it’s okay to ask for  help with parenting – because we care about our kids and we want to give them the best.

If you are looking for help to become the best parent you can be, please don’t hesitate to contact me for an appointment.