Parenting Style: Moving Beyond a Reactive Parenting Style

Do you know your parenting style?

It's important to think about because the way you raise your child can affect his entire life, including his ability to have relationships with others. Basically, there are three schools of thought when it comes to raising children. In this article, I will explore all three and propose a fourth.

Your parenting style is usually determined by the way your parents raised you. Although this is a hard truth for some parents to swallow, if you've ever found yourself acting just like your parents, then you know that this is true. Unless you've taken the time to think about how you want to raise your kids and what you plan to do differently, then the method you'll resort to is the one that was used on you.

Which parenting style best describes how you interact with your kids:

Are you a parent who demands obedience? Do you forbid your children to question you? If so, you are an authoritarian parent.

With an authoritarian parenting style, there is no question about who's in charge. The parent is the boss and demands respect from the child who is expected to obey without question. A child who disobeys is reprimanded, shamed or punished.

Drawbacks of authoritarian parenting:

  • The parent's relationship with the child is like master and slave. The child may be respectful of the parent, but primarily because he is afraid of him. Such a child usually perceives the parent as being cold and distant.

  • A child who is coerced into good behavior may only act appropriately when adults are watching. Punishment doesn't teach a child to be a moral human being—it teaches kids how to avoid getting caught.

  • Parents who demand respect often do not treat their children respectfully. Such a child may grow up feeling bad about himself. Because his parents were not responsive to his needs, he may not be able to form healthy relationships with others.

  • A child who is raised to be compliant may act robotically and be unable to think for himself.

Do you let your kids run wild? Do you let your child make his own decisions and choose not to correct him when he is disrespectful or insensitive? If so, you are a permissive parent. This type of parenting is often a reaction by those who were raised by authoritarian parents and want their children to have a better childhood than they did. Unfortunately, like most knee-jerk reactions, this type of parenting is extreme.

Permissive parenting is a parenting style in which parents let their children do what they want. A permissive parent acts more like a peer, than an authority figure. Little is done to teach appropriate behaviors.

Drawbacks of permissive parenting:

  • Since this child may have been over-indulged, he may grow up to be self-entitled.

  • The child may not be sensitive to others' feelings and may have difficulty forming relationships.

  • The child may have problems in school.

  • A child who has been encouraged to make decisions for himself that he has not developed the maturity to make, may feel confused, overwhelmed or paralyzed at the thought of taking action in the world.

  • Like the child raised by an authoritarian parent, this child has not had a parent who acts in his best interest. As a result, he may feel that there is no one he can trust.

The final is the authoritative parenting style. (Today's literature refers to this style as assertive-democratic.) This method recognizes that children need to learn to make their own decisions, but must be taught how to do so over time. Such a parent responds to the child's needs but also teaches the child to be sensitive to the needs of others.

Although authoritative parents have household rules which they expect their children to follow, they encourage questions and are willing to negotiate in some circumstances. This parenting style consistently produces children who are self-starters, perform well in school and get along with others.

Rather than being at either end of the spectrum, this parenting style is somewhere in the middle. Rather than being a reaction, it is a response to what children really need from us. As we practice being authoritative parents, our ideas about parenting evolve.

While children do need a guide to teach them integrity, how to get along with others and how the world works, they also need a loving, trustworthy guide. Parenting is about connection and engagement. When you understand this, you can create a beautiful relationship with your child. I call this fourth and distinctly different parent style connection-engagement and explore it more fully in my book, Keepers of the Children.

Although during times of stress, we may unconsciously resort to the parenting style used by our parents, it is possible to unlearn this programming and raise children in a way that is humane and respectful—a way that resonates with your heartfelt vision for your child.

If you found this article helpful, please leave a donation for Laura so that you can enjoy the spirit of giving too.

About the author: Laura Ramirez is the author of the award-winning book, Keepers of the Children: Native American Wisdom and Parenting . This is the only book that combines ancient native concepts (like stewardship) with cutting edge psychology to show parents how to raise children to develop their natural strengths and grow up to lead uniquely purposeful and fulfilling lives. This is a parenting style that is based on connection, engagement and becoming a loving guide. It is a way that opens up your heart and turns parenting into the journey of a lifetime.



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