How Do You Approach Parenting?
Parenting is a complex and challenging job. Whether it’s your first child or your third, fourth or fifth there are challenges along the way. These challenges arise in part due to the complex nature of raising a small person who in many ways is completely different to you.
Children are born with little personalities all of their own, and wills that are often quite strong and a set of unique routine and behavioural needs. Children are not standardised, they are not cookies that are developed using cookie cutter techniques. Each child is completely unique and therefore requires flexibility in how they are raised and taught and how they are loved and nurtured.
These individual differences are often compounded by your own personalities as their parents, and also you own parenting style.
What is a parenting style?
Parenting styles have been talked about in psychological literature and research for at least the last 50 years. Researchers have discovered 4 primary parenting styles which shape the way that you approach parenting and behaviour management in your children.
These styles of parenting have been influenced by your own upbringing, you personality and other influences such as your beliefs, your partner’s beliefs and your capacity due to other demands, time constraints, or restrictions due to mental health issues.
Although day to day things change and your responses to your child may differ, research has indicted that these parenting styles are generally stable over time. So what are they?
Permissive Parents are parents who love their children immensely. They’re usually highly involved emotionally and physically. They serve their children beautifully, and they have low demands of their children behaviourally. Their children grow to have a high self-esteem, and often have confidence to speak their mind and ask for their needs to be met. However, they sometimes disregard rules, and do not invest time in things that they deem as unnecessary or too hard. They may exhibit low self-control, and poor emotional regulation around delayed gratification.
Uninvolved parents are sometimes known as Laissez Faire parents. They are often referred to as absent parents. They may work long hours, or have other competing demands on their attention. They may have limits in their attention to their children’s needs due to mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. Or they may have a strong belief about letting children explore their lives independently, learning from mistakes. However, a common feature for uninvolved parents is an apparent lack of emotional engagement as well. Children who are raised by uninvolved or laissez faire parents often display some attachment ambiguity, or ambivalent behaviour.
Authoritarian parents usually have high expectations of their children, and they communicate these expectations clearly. They are parents who are more prone to yelling and displaying anger to regulate behaviour in children. They may have difficulty expressing emotional warmth to their children. Their children can sometimes develop emotional regulation difficulties themselves and they may have difficulty participating in activities due to this. They also sometimes have difficulty identifying strengths and developing healthy self-esteem.
Authoritative parents are often referred to as stable parents. The appear to have the balanced mix of demonstrating love and building strong attachment bonds with their children, and having appropriate expectation of their children’s abilities and behavioural control. Their expectations of their children are realistic, and they have predictable routines and expectation most of the time. Children with authoritative parents grow up with three core beliefs:
- I am loved and supported
- The world is predictable and I can navigate it
- I have something meaningful to contribute
What can I do for my children?
It’s important to realise that the categories are not so clear cut all the time, you may have a preferred style, you may even have an idealised style. In reality, we can shift from one parenting style to another depending on circumstances. However, you will have a style that when averaged out is a dominant style for you. It’s important to know there is always choice in how you parent, and with the right support and training you can develop a style that is predictable, nurturing and support your child’s development.
Think about your parenting style in terms of how you were parented. What worked, what didn’t in your experiences? What did you like about the way you were parented. What didn’t you like? Also think about your parenting style in terms of your current goals and values towards parenting. If you parent your children in a way that is congruent to your values and who you want to be then you are more likely to gain satisfaction, and success in your parenting.
How can I change?
If you feel that the way you are raising your children is not working, or not in line with your values, then you may want to access support to make changes. Counselling can offer support around exploring your own upbringing and your own emotional responses to further enhance your parenting styles.
Goals for permissive parents are to:
- explore the issues which hinder their ability to apply consequences for their children’s behaviour
- explore the factors that influence their need to overly provide for their children, or shower on love and affection
- develop skills to apply appropriate consequences and confidence to follow through
- develop self awareness of their parenting
Goals for Authoritarian Parents are:
- explore their experiences of being parented and objectively look at their parenting style through their children’s eyes.
- explore the elements surround their control over their children’s behaviour
- learn age appropriate expectation of their children’s abilities and skills to nurture their abilities in positive ways
Goals for uninvolved Parents:
- similar to both permissive and authoritarian parents
- explore time management factors contributing to absenteeism
All parents need to look at their behaviour and how it’s affecting their children’s emotional and behavioural development. Being a parent is being a safe, secure and predictable platform for your child to launch from, to explore their environment, to learn from and to rest in when needed.