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Parenting Styles

Let’s face it, parenting is hard work!  It can feel rewarding at times, and stressful at others!  Most parents are overjoyed when their child is born, however, they often feel inadequate, and lack the confidence to know to what degree their parenting techniques are helpful.  Parenting approaches are not linear.  There are times when a firm approach is needed, whereas at other times, a softer and gentler approach is indicated.  Regardless, the overarching goal is to demonstrate unconditional love to your child—even if it doesn’t feel like that in every moment!

Most professionals agree that there are four main parenting styles (though the wording may change slightly depending upon the model).  A respected psychologist, Diana Baumrind, identified four distinct styles:  authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and neglectful.

  • Authoritarian:  typically identified by rules, demands, and punishments.  “You need to listen to me or else…”
  • Authoritative:  assertive and knowledgeable, sets expectations and demonstrates flexibility.    Encourages the child to express their feelings, while also experiencing natural consequences.
  • Permissive:  low demands and expectations.  Typically, low levels of accountability, and allows child lots of freedom.
  • Neglectful:  Low levels of validation and expectations.  Emotionally distant and invalidating, and often minimally able to meet their child’s needs.

While these parenting styles are guidelines, we know that most parents demonstrate an amalgam of all of these styles from time to time, depending on the context, and their child’s needs.  Parenting is hard, and when there’s ambiguity or conflict, it can not only lead to the child experiencing distress, but also the parent, such as anxiety, depression, and stress. 

Fortunately, there are resources to help parents and children, including:

  • Parenting support groups
  • Pediatrician
  • School-based services and supports
  • Mental health professional
  • Clergy
  • Community resources
  • Employer-sponsored EAP plans (brief counseling / therapy)
  • California Parent and Youth Helpline:  (call, text, chat):  1-855-427-2736
  • United Way / 2-1-1