That’s why picking a parenting style, one that can be agreed to by all caregivers, is critical. Often, the responsible adults come from a variety of backgrounds with different choices in how best to raise a child. Split decisions can create disharmony and lead to confusion, not only for the children, but for the parents, too. Before a couple decides to take on the awesome responsibility of having and raising another human being, it’s important to do research and discuss a style with the techniques to help the children be well cared for, show ways to build and maintain a healthy relationship and help the home function more efficiently.
How do we know which is best? Well over 60 years of research has resulted in defining observed practices and offering the ones that can produce the best results.
There are basically three or four styles popularly listed in the literature. In my opinion, there are two more that do exist, because they are too often used, but I’ll only mention them here, hoping that their use will decrease dramatically over time. They are abuse/neglect and rigid autocratic. I won’t elaborate but we all know pretty much what happens when these approaches are used. And I’m afraid there has been an increase in the past difficult year. There is hope that the new days ahead will restore more sensible and healthy approaches.
Dr. Diane Baumrind was one of the first to create and categorize parenting styles in the 1960s. She offered four styles that have distinct names and characteristics: Authoritarian or Disciplinarian (Also includes Autocratic); Permissive or Indulgent/Uninvolved, and determined by many authorities to be the most effective, Authoritative.
In recent years, many other experts have named styles, two of whom are the most respected and regarded, Dr. John Gottman, and Dr. Daniel Goleman. Both are advocates of the Emotional Intelligence aspect of human development, with Dr. Gottman’s book, How to Raise an Emotionally Intelligent Child popularly supporting it. He also offers four styles with similar meaning; The Dismissing Parent, The Disapproving Parent, The Laissez-Faire Parent and The Emotion Coach, the latter of which is all about the emotional make-up of the child.
Dr. Goleman lists his styles as Parental Responsiveness, Parental Positive Demandingness, Parental Negative Demandingness, and Parental Emotion-related Coaching. The positives relate to children’s higher emotional intelligence, while the negative relates to children’s lower emotional intelligence. A bit complex for me.
Most parenting educators know these different styles and at the core of them all is the benefit in learning how to connect with our children and build solid relationships. According to Daniel Goleman, emotional intelligence is the intelligence dealing with self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.
Dr. Gottman says the relationship between parent and child explains that good parenting involves emotions. Our emotional awareness and ability to handle feelings will determine our success and happiness in all walks of life. For parents, this means being aware of their child’s feelings, being able to empathize, soothe, and guide them.
Of course families are different with different beliefs and values, so we parenting educators have to find the best ways to offer the best ways without disrespecting existing practices. Even though they may need to change drastically.
This subject is so important and complex that we need more time with it. Next we will discuss the styles in detail, the behaviors used in each and what often results in the lives exposed to each of the practices.
Don’t lose heart!
Jim, M.Ed., CFLE, Parenting and Family Life Educator, still learning, inc., firstname.lastname@example.org