Imagine, you are the parent of a seven-year-old boy, and these days, you are getting complaints from his schools that he often steals other children’s stuff. You are worried, “Why is this happening? Me or my spouse always treats him very softly, never gives him any whims or rules very strictly. So where did he learn such behavior?”
Here in this above-given situation, the first thing to understand is whether the parenting style that has been pursued here is the right one and, secondly, how parenting may affect the social, emotional, and intellectual development of a child.
The best-known research on parenting styles considered until today is Diana Baumrind’s study, which includes three types of parenting and later updated by Eleanor Maccoby and colleagues that encompass a total of four parenting styles.
The principle of this style is “very strict and unquestioning obedience” towards parents. Authoritarian parents expect their child to obey their words as “law” without further explaining to the child the necessity of these regulations. They do not tolerate any different viewpoints from their child. Instead, they often use forceful tricks to attain their unreasonable expectations.
Children of authoritarian parents tend to be withdrawn, lack sociability, and achieve average academic performance. They hesitate to initiate any operations due to lack of self-confidence, mostly seen in girls, whereas boys become unusually hostile.
This is a “firm but flexible” style of parenting. Unlike the authoritarians, authoritative parents always provide explanations before telling their children why they should behave such a way and give rationale regarding punishment if they don’t obey the rule. They never exclusively compel their children to follow their thoughts; instead, they provide them with the ground to express their different stances. Such parenting indirectly encourages the child to be independent.
Children of authoritative parents tend to be more self-reliant, confident, friendly, co-operative, high academic achievers. Even in later life, they tend to adjust and overcome more adversities.
This is a “lax” pattern of parenting. Unlike the authoritative parenting, permissive parents rarely exert firm control over their children’s behavior. The above fictitious situation mentioned in this writing is an outcome of permissive parenting. These parents permit their children to express their feelings and impulses freely without placing little or no limits on their behavior. Thus children can hardly differentiate between fair and unfair. Such children become dependent and moody, lack of social competence, and often get involved in criminal activities in later life.
This is the “extremely lax and withdrawn” form of parenting. Uninvolved parents are those who see their role as no more than just feeding, clothing, and giving shelter to their child. This is because perhaps they are so stressed out regarding their issues or emotionally reject their children.
Children of uninvolved parents show the worst possible outcomes. They show aggression and temper tantrums as children and mostly become hostile, selfish, rebellious, antisocial, and delinquent in adolescence and later life.
So which type of parenting should you adopt?
Researches have shown that children of authoritative parents show the most favorable outcomes of all. Still, not one style of parenting can be consistent with a parent all through life. For instance, an authoritarian parent may act as a permissible one when his child who catches a cold very often wants to have ice cream because it’s his birthday. Even in a significant number of cases, it has been seen that children of authoritarian and permissive parents develop quite successfully.
Also, cultural contexts often influence parenting style. The Chinese concept of “Chiao shun” suggests that parents should be strict, firm, and in tight control of their children’s behavior. Even in Bangladesh, parents are highly directive with their children, pushing them to excel and controlling their behavior according to the social and religious values considerably higher degrees than that of western countries, and these things eventually work. Study shows that children of Asian parents tend to be more successful, particularly academically. In contrast, in the U.S., parents are advised to follow authoritative methods and explicitly to avoid authoritarian styles.
In sum, it appears that the authoritative parenting style is the most consistently associated with positive developmental outcomes, but yet, no single parenting can be marked as the “ideal” one. Instead, parents should pick the proper style of parenting according to that particular situation and context.