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A Look at Parenting Styles - They DO Make a Difference!

As a returning student, I brought enough life experience to the educational process to have encountered more information than I would like to admit that has served to reprove and censure some of my past ...

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As a returning student, I brought enough life experience to the educational process to have encountered more information than I would like to admit that has served to reprove and censure some of my past performance.  This holds especially true in the area of parenting.  In his text, Life-Span Development, author John W. Santrock includes a description of four distinct styles of parenting--authoritarian, authoritative, neglectful, and indulgent.

Authoritarian parenting involves restriction, rigid rules, and punishment.  An authoritarian parent might say, “Do it because I told you to”, severely enforcing rules with little or no explanation.  They may even exhibit rage toward their child.  Studies have shown that children of authoritarian parents often grow up insecure, unhappy and have problems interacting and communicating with others.  Harsh demands and strict controls might illicit short-term forced compliance, but in the end it will fail to produce well-adjusted, productive, and respectful individuals.

Authoritative parents, on the other hand, while placing limits and controls on their children’s behaviors, encourage them to be independent and to think for themselves.  They foster lots of dialogue in a welcoming and nurturant atmosphere.  For example, an authoritative parent might affectionately draw their child close and say, “You know you were wrong; let’s talk about how you might have handled that situation better.”  The benefits of this style of parenting speak for themselves.  Children reared by authoritative parents grow up optimistic, self-reliant, and self-controlled.  They are goal oriented, easily maintain friendly relations with peers, readily cooperate with adults, and handle stress productively.

Neglectful parents remain largely uninvolved in their children’s lives.  These children grow up with the sense that other aspects of their parents’ lives are more important than they are.  They become socially incompetent with poor self-control and an inability to handle independence.  They frequently exhibit low self-esteem, immaturity, and tend to alienate themselves from family members.  Some may even develop truant and criminal behaviors.

Indulgent parents remain very involved in their children’s lives but fail to place proper controls over their behaviors.  They allow them to do what they want to do, believing that affable involvement and few restraints will produce an imaginative and well-adjusted child.  However, children reared in this manner grow up to become self-absorbed, indulgent individuals, expecting to get their way.  They learn little about controlling their behavior and respecting others.

Thankfully, my children have turned out to be loving, sensitive, well-mannered, and productive individuals even though I tackled my parenting years without the benefit of this vital information.  Armed with these facts, I would have much more wisely and deliberately attended to my responsibilities as a parent in training, supporting, and nurturing my children.  To a greater or lesser degree, I believe most of us who have struggled through the challenging process of parenting can relate to the musings of Diane Loomans:

If I had my child to raise all over again,

I'd build self-esteem first, and the house later.

I'd finger-paint more, and point the finger less.

I would do less correcting and more connecting.

I'd take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes.

I'd take more hikes and fly more kites.

I'd stop playing serious, and seriously play.

I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars.

I'd do more hugging and less tugging.


Diane Loomans, from "If I Had My Child To Raise Over Again"

The truth is that skillful parenting is not perfunctory, nor can it be abbreviated, it takes time and effort—lots of it.  Creating an atmosphere of acceptance and responsiveness balanced by reasonable, legitimate demands and control is borne of strong involvement, patience, and a great deal of costly experience. 


This Article was Written by Vickie Moller-Pepe


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