What’s your parenting style?

With no official rule book, there’s more than one way to be a parent.

When it comes to different ways of parenting, think Goldilocks and the Three Bears. There are parents who are too hard, those who are too soft and those who are just right. In the 1960s, child psychologist Diana Baumrind came up with three main styles of parenting, and other experts later added a fourth, subtly titled: “Uninvolved”.

1 Authoritarian

These are the “too hard parents”. They tend to:

• Be tough on their kids, who are expected to follow strict rules and are punished, often harshly, if they don’t obey.

• Refuse to explain the reasoning behind their rules – their stock reply is, “Because I said so.”

• Have high, sometimes unrealistic expectations of their kids and think obedience is one of the most highly desirable traits in a child.

• Try to control their children’s behaviour and attitudes, and ignore their personalities and preferences.

2 Permissive

These are the “too soft” parents. They tend to:

• Indulge their children, and make few demands of them. They avoid confrontation.

• Seldom discipline their children, often using the excuse, “They’re still kids, they’re not capable of behaving differently.”

• Be nurturing and communicative, and act more like their child’s friend than their parent.

• Allow their children to make a lot of decisions that they’re not yet fully capable of making.

3 Authoritative

These are the “just right”parents. They tend to:

• Set clear rules, but not have unrealistic expectations.

• Discipline their children appropriately when they do something wrong, not ignore the behaviour or punish indiscriminately.

• Explain the reasoning behind their rules.

• Be nurturing and responsive, and give their children clear standards to follow.

• Be assertive, but not restrictive.

• Respect that their kids are individuals with different interests and ideas.

4 Uninvolved

These are often the people that you look at and wonder why they ever had kids. They tend to:

• Place few demands on their children and show little interest in their lives.

• Fulfill their basic needs, but don’t give any more emotionally than just the bare minimum of attention.

• Have little or no communication with their child and also fail to establish rules and guidelines for them to follow.

• In extreme cases, uninvolved parents can neglect their children.


According to the initial research by Diana Baumrind and other studies since, the type of parent you are may impact on your child’s behaviour and personality.

• Authoritarian parenting generally leads to children who are obedient and proficient, but they tend to have lower self-esteem and social skills, and are less happy than their peers. They are also more likely to be anxious and withdrawn. They may do well in school because they’re so anxious to please their parents and are less likely to take drugs or drink alcohol, for the same reason.

• Permissive parenting often results in children who find it hard to practice self-discipline. They are more likely to rebel against authority and perform poorly in school. They don’t have much persistence when it comes to challenging tasks and can also let their emotions get out of hand.

• Authoritative parenting tends to lead to children who are happy and successful. They have good social skills, are less prone to being moody and are confident.

• Uninvolved parenting has the most negative impact. These children often lack self-control, have low self-esteem and are less competent than their peers.

It’s obvious what the best parenting style is, so why aren’t we all authoritative parents? Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. How we do our job as parents can come down to a variety of factors, ranging from the way we were brought up and what kind of parent our partner is, to our personality and those

of our children, plus outside influences such as being stressed. One way to change your style is to think about various scenarios and how authoritative parents would handle them. Say friends are visiting with their kids and your child is refusing to socialise. An authoritative parent might take the kids aside, acknowledge their feelings, explain how rude their behaviour is and ask how they would feel if the situation was reversed. They’d encourage their child to find an activity they enjoy so the visitors can participate, and point out that this is only for a short time.

NEXT WEEK: Good cop, bad cop – what to do when you and your partner have different parenting styles.

Related stories

Get The Australian Woman’s Weekly NZ home delivered!  

Subscribe and save up to 38% on a magazine subscription.