Parenting Styles

In this anything-goes world, raising kids is more challenging than ever. One way that parents can help themselves get through the difficult times is to pay attention to their parenting style. Parenting Styles are usually taught by example (how we were parented) and we can be unconsciously repeating behaviors that aren't in the best interest of our children. There are 3 basic types of parenting styles.

The Autocratic Parent

There are 3 questions to ask to determine your style of parenting. These questions are Who makes the rules? Who enforces the rules? and Why are there rules? If the answers are The Parent, The Parent, and Because I Said So, you could be practicing the Autocratic Style of Parenting.

This parent has the idea that kids should always listen and not argue. There was a time in our society where this hierarchal type of leadership had its place, but times have changed. There are just too many decisions that our kids are going to have to make when we aren't there, and they have to know how to think, not just what to think. Active problem solving and consequence consideration is a skill that needs to be taught and part of that teaching means letting kids make non-life threatening and non-morally threatening mistakes and then with our love and support, learn from those mistakes.

The Permissive Parent

The same 3 questions are asked to determine if this is the kind of parenting you are practicing. Who makes the rules? Who enforces the rules? and Why are there rules? If the answers are The Child, No One, and Because It Seems Like There Should Be Some, you may be a Permissive kind of parent.

This parent tends to think that kids are pretty smart (which they are) and can make good decisions if we just leave them alone (which might not be the case). The problem with this kind of parenting is that developmentally, kids crave limits and the society that they will be living in has rules and consequences for breaking those rules. Furthermore, some consequences are life-threatening. Kids require caring adults to enforce limits by instituting fair and consistent consequences so that they can learn from their mistakes and become productive and successful members of the community. Parenting isn't easy, but it is the most difficult and worthwhile job you'll ever have. If you recognize yourself as being too much of a Permissive parent, and your kids are "walking all over you", you may want to consider taking some parenting classes to help you understand how you can improve your parenting techniques.

The Authoritative Parent

The third kind of parenting style is generally recognized by child development experts as the preferred style of parenting. It's not that the Autocratic or the Permissive parents are bad, they both have important qualities. The Autocratic parent knows how to set and enforce limits. The Permissive parent knows how to be flexible. The Authoritative parent recognizes that both these qualities are good and have their place in effective parenting because our society in rooted in law and order, choices and consequences, and responsibilities and rights.


Authoritative parents know that in order to prepare their children for a life outside of the home, they must be the authority, but not without input when appropriate (teaching children how to think). Emotional health is as important at physical health, and this parent understands the importance of responding to the developmental needs of their children by:

  • Actively participating in all aspects of parenting
  • Learning about developmental norms
  • Adjusting to individual situations
  • Recognizing the individual needs of each child
  • Having a core philosophy of what children need to know and how they learn best
  • Believing that parents are the most influential teacher in a child's life
  • Communicating effectively
  • Encouraging positive efforts
  • Disciplining purposely
  • Working with teachers and other important people in their child's life

Are you an Authoritative Parent?

The answers to the 3 questions for the Authoritative Parent are: Who Makes the Rules? The parent, with input from the child. Who enforces the Rules? The parent, with the intention that the consequence is related to the behavior and will teach the child what to do instead. And finally, Why are their rules? Because society has rules and children need to learn that there are limits to behavior and expectations of others that will make their lives happier, productive and successful. Is Authoritative Parenting easy? No. If you're prone to other styles, it requires much learning and patience on the part of the parent, but the results can be happy, healthy, well-adjusted adults that know how to take care of themselves, their families and their communities.