Remember the good old days when the notion of parenting was the equivalent of a military regime? If you didn’t call your elders you’d get a knock on your head. If you couldn’t wake up in the morning you’d get water splashed in your face. If you got a ‘B’ for your grades you get the “you should have gotten an ‘A’ instead” conversation. And if you misbehaved, you had to fetch the very cane that was going to be used on you. A world where the concept of ‘time-out’ was as foreign as a fairy tale. Remembering those days would bring a happy but traumatic tear to your eye.

But don’t you also remember that one friend who got away with everything? Whether it’s bad grades or rude behaviour, he or she seemed to have diplomatic immunity from any form of reprimanding. That one friend that got whatever toy he or she wanted just because they asked for it? And you keep waiting for them to finally get a beating one of those days but it never happens. Like a time bomb that just doesn’t explode.

So the important question now is this. Which of the above is the right way to go?

Studies seem to suggest NEITHER ONE.

Before understanding how parenting styles affect children, we must first understand the different parenting styles that exist.

In a study conducted by Diana Baumrind in 1991 entitled “The Influence of Parenting Style on Adolescent Competence and Substance Use”, three distinct parenting styles were identified as follows:-

Authoritarian – Parents are highly demanding but not responsive. It is a strict and punishment driven parenting style. The parent dictates the child to obey their instructions without emphasising on explaining why. Corporal punishment such as caning is common in this style in order to make the child remember. The parent’s intention is to teach their child how to behave and survive in a harsh society. The parent depicts the world as being unforgiving and angry if the child misbehaves. The parent believes that it is better that the parent strictly disciplines the child now before someone else in the outside world punishes the child next time. If the child diverts from the parents’ instructions, then the child is considered ‘rebellious’.

Permissive – Parents are not demanding but highly responsive. Also known as indulgent parenting. The parent has very low expectations of a child’s behaviour. The parent is very highly involved with their children, exhibiting a very accepting and nurturing behaviour towards their child. They attend to the child’s wishes and needs. However, they do not expect the child to control their behaviour. The parent plays the role of the ‘friend’ with the child. They tend to give advice and allow the child to make their own decisions. They give the child whatever the child wants and hopes that the child will somehow appreciate them. 

Authoritative – (not to be confused with Authoritarian). The parent is highly demanding and highly responsive. It is a style focused on developing the maturity of the child. An authoritative parent tries to understand the feelings of the child and try to teach the child how to regulate such feelings. An authoritative parent will place strict boundaries and limits, but will allow the child to explore and make decisions based on their own reasons within those limits. They show forgiveness to a child’s misgivings. The parent is nurturing and encourages the child to be independent. However, the parent still expects the child to behave accordingly and will explain to the child what is the purpose and importance of behaving right. Even when punishing a child, they will explain the reasons for such punishment. Punishments are measured and consistent based on the misbehaviour and are not simply dished out based on emotions. Parents focus on the child’s maturity, independence, and age-appropriate behaviour.

Neglectful – (I know we said three styles but this ‘fourth’ style is not really a parenting style at all). The parent is not demanding and not responsive. The parent basically is not involved in the child’s life. This should not be regarded as an actual parenting style.

Children who are brought up under the Authoritarian style have lower sociability as they are accustomed to their parents telling them what to do and do not usually exercise their freedom of choice. Such children are very obedient and will conform to the instructions of others. They tend to be very quiet and unhappy. They are more prone to self-blame and are susceptible to depression. When faced with conflict, they will tend to revert to an ‘escapist’ behaviour whereby they resort to other methods to avoid displeasure such as substance abuse or develop a compulsive behaviour.

Children who are brought up under the Permissive style on the other hand tend to be more impulsive and do not regulate their feelings or behaviour. They tend to be low achievers as they are not benchmarked by their parents against goals and achievements. They become very demanding of others but do not reciprocate well. They are also poor at managing themselves (whether in terms of time management, decision making, controlling emotions, etc.) as they have not been expected to do so by their parents. Such kids typically display a higher rate of delinquency and are more prone to substance abuse.

As for children raised via the Authoritative style, such children show the most balanced of the two and tend to develop into high achievers. They do not make unreasonable demands and they also do not sell themselves short. They are able to reciprocate well with others. They understand the importance of behaving appropriately. Such children will place standards on themselves as their parents have explained the purpose of behaving a certain way. And because they set standards they become high achievers. They are also more independent and exhibit higher levels of self-confidence. They show high levels of good behaviour, mental fortitude, and social competence. They do not resort to aggression and are more capable of reasoning with others.

You may be interested to know that in a 2014 study conducted by Amanda Verzello entitled “Teens and alcohol study: Parenting style can prevent binge drinking”, that teens with Authoritative parents were the least prone to heavy drinking, teens with Authoritarian parents had more than double the risk of heavy drinking, whilst teens with Permissive parents had nearly triple the risk of heavy drinking.

Though there is no one single rule to parenting, it is clear that the way a parent interacts with their child will shape and mould the child accordingly. By balancing between being demanding and responsive, a parent can greatly nurture the growth and development of a child.

It is interesting to note that despite most parents visualising the image of a strict parent when thinking of the word ‘discipline’, the word ‘discipline’ actually comes from the Latin word ‘disciplina’, that is education and training, self-control and determination, knowledge in a field of study, and an orderly way of life. As multi-faceted as the meaning behind this word, so must the style of parenting be.


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