What kind of parent are you?
Are you a helicopter, tiger, natural or attachment parent?
It seems that you can’t go on a website or open a newspaper without seeing an article praising and criticising some new kind of parenting style. You would think that we don’t have enough to worry about as parents!
So, what’s the answer?
As with most things in life the answer is “Well.. it depends.” It depends a lot on the child and it depends a lot on the parent. Parents and children influence each other. This sounds like common sense but many people seem to see parenting as a one way process.
The style you adopt should depend on your child. Every parent knows that their child is somewhat unique. Your child’s temperament and personality will influence what styles is most helpful.
Development matters! Depending on what age or developmental stage your child is at, different styles will be more or less helpful. A good example is adolescence. As young people grow older they need to develop greater levels of autonomy and spend more time developing relationships with friends. Parents often need to, but also struggle to let loose those apron strings. We often struggle to give our children more freedom as they grow older. This brings me to the next point.
Special circumstances. If a child has severe behavioural difficulties it would probably be unwise to let loose those apron strings too much. If your child has a specific mental health or developmental problem this might affect the kind of style that’s most appropriate and helpful at the time.
The truth is that there is no specific style that fits all parents and all children. Research about parenting styles have often identified four different styles:
1. Authoritative parents: these parents adopt a warm, accepting, child centred style, coupled with a degree of control that allows children to take some age appropriate responsibility.
2. Authoritarian parents: these parents adopt a warm and caring style, but often emphasise control more. For them, staying in charge is often more important.
3. Permissive parents: these parents are also warm and accepting, but tend to be more lenient in setting boundaries and disciplining their children.
4. Neglecting parents: unfortunately there are parents who are neither caring nor warm, and who either control too much, or are too lenient at the same time. Children of parents who adopt this style often develop a range of difficulties later in life.
It’s no big surprise that research says children of parents who adopt the first of these four styles (authoritative) tend to have the best outcomes. It’s also no big surprise that the key to this first style is balance. Finding the right balance between being ‘accepting’ and ‘rejecting,’ and ‘controlling’ and ‘permissive’ is the key. This is likely to be different for each child, depending on their personality and needs. In family therapy with parents and young people finding this balance is often a key issue.
Most parents and children can and do find this balance on their own. If you and your family are struggling to find this balance, and it’s leading to significant disruption in your personal or family life it may be worth considering family therapy to help you explore these relationships issues together.
Gerhard Pretorius, B.A (Soc. Sc.), Msc (Reg. UKCP)
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