Sheena & Dan are just two years apart at 11 and 9; but completely different personalities. Sheena is talkative, engaging and likes to be around people. Dan on the other hand likes tinkering with his construction sets and robotics toys in the comfort of his own room. He sometimes likes having friends around but is fairly content on his own. Whereas Sheena prefers group classes and learning new skills like art and craft with friends.
On the face of it, they both seem like extremely different personalities, but if you look deeper, you realize they are both confident, curious and comfortable with their respective choice of games and friends. They are after all, brought up in the same environment.
There is an age-old debate on the influence of nature vs nurture – i.e., whether the living environment has a greater impact or the traits a person is inherently born with matters more. While child psychologists sort the exact ratios, we can easily estimate that both have a significant influence on how a child grows up and behaves.
This is where we, as parents, step in. Do we continuously monitor our kids, do we allow them flexibility and freedom or do we become their ‘best friend’ and let them be foot loose and fancy free? Well, parenting is extremely hard and there is no correct answer.
Read More: Am I a good role model for my child?
However, there is some research and insight on parenting styles that we can be aware of to make some conscious choices on how we bring up our kids!
Developmental Psychologist Diana Baumrind has broken parenting into 4 distinct styles that are derived from different degrees of ‘demandingness’ and ‘responsiveness’.
1. Authoritarian Parenting
We all need some rules, but an authoritarian parent demands a ‘no-questions-asked’ approach. Children follow set norms simply because they have to. Think back – if your child asks why do they need to go to bed at 8pm when friends now can stay up till 9pm – is your answer, ‘because that’s the way it is done in our house.’ Often, this means that parents are not responsive to children and their requests, needs or even their curiosity. While this method places a strong emphasis on discipline, children grow up to be obedient and orderly but may also be less confident or afraid of failure.
2. Authoritative Parenting
While it sounds a lot like the predecessor, authoritative parents are relatively democratic in their approach. While there are rules and systems for discipline, parents are more responsive to their children. Failure is reprimanded, but parents are warmer and work with children to succeed. For example, you may reprimand your child for low marks in a history test and reduce screen time, but then work with her to study better, understand concepts and score better the next time.
This approach is more assertive than punitive, leading to children who are independent, self-regulated and often successful.
3. Permissive Parenting
We may often give in to our child’s demands – be it delayed bedtimes or a new video game or even a princess-themed birthday party. While we indulge them, we may not demand a lot from our children – clean rooms, waking on time, finishing homework are all daily tasks which they ought to do but we may cut them slack.
In this approach, you may have a great rapport with your child and be their best friend. You end up raising a warm and affectionate individual; but who may not have good discipline and self-regulation.
Read More: How to Negotiate with Children
4. Uninvolved Parenting
Our lives are busy and demanding. We may end up providing for basic needs and even comforts for our children but may not have time to engage, listen and communicate with them. You just about know their best friend’s name but do not really listen that your son scored a goal during games today. A small thing for you but a big deal for him.
Your approach may lead to your child being self-sufficient and independent but also less comfortable in social environments or having low regulation over their emotions.
Parenting styles impact a child’s academic performance, self-esteem, social relationships and mental health. No style is right or wrong. Often, we may mix styles. However, being aware of our dominant style and working to enable children will definitely lead to them becoming confident, well-adjusted, well -regulated and happy individuals!