What’s inside this article: An overview of Baumrind’s 4 parenting styles, their common characteristics, and what research has shown us about their effects on child development. Plus, parenting tips and advice to help you if you wish to adjust your parenting style.
The way you chose to raise your children is called your parenting style (okay, duh).
Although everyone truly does parent differently, based on their own beliefs and values, their child’s personality, their personality, how they were raised, etc. how we parent is similar enough to fit into one of four distinct parenting styles.
These four parenting styles were created by developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind:
- Authoritarian (or Disciplinarians)
- Permissive (or Indulgent)
- Uninvolved (or Neglectful)
What Is Your Parenting Style?
How you raise your child has a significant impact on their health and development. (But remember, other things impact your child’s development too – such as their temperament, life experiences, neurotype, etc.)
Baumrind’s parenting styles are classified based on a two-dimensional framework:
Responsiveness: How in-tuned and responsive parents are to their children’s physical and emotional needs.
Demandingness: The level of expectations set and control expected and enforced by the parent.
1. Authoritative Parenting
Authoritative parents provide their children with clear and consistent boundaries. Their expectations are high, and are reinforced using positive parenting strategies.
Expectations and boundaries are developmentally appropriate, and communication is open. Parents are willing to negotiate and problem solve with their children.
Authoritative parents are supportive, affectionate, nurturing, and reasonable. In other words, they’re emotionally in tune with their children.
How Does Authoritative Parenting Affect Children?
Research shows that children of authoritative parents:
- Have higher emotional intelligence
- Are more independent
- Have stronger social & emotional skills
- Are less likely to experience anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues
- Are more independent
- Do better academically
- Are more empathetic
- Less likely to be influenced by their peers
Are You An Authoritative Parent?
You likely are an authoritative parent if you:
- Take your child’s thoughts and feelings into consideration before asking them to do something.
- Believe in using positive reinforcement
- Share your feelings and encourage your child to talk about their feelings, too.
- Value and respect their opinions, even if you don’t agree with them.
- Give valid, logical reasons for the expectations you have set for your child.
2. Authoritarian Parenting
Authoritarian Parenting and Authoritative Parenting might sound very similar, but they are not similar at all.
Authoritarian parents also set high expectations for their child, however, they do this while expecting “blind obedience”. In other words, they expect their children to obey their every command simply because they’re the adult.
When children don’t follow the rules or meet expectations, authoritarian parents set strict and often harsh punishments. Some use corporal punishments, like spanking.
Other’s may enforce punishments like yard work and chores, writing lines, standing in the corner, taking away privileges for extended periods of time, or withholding affection.
Authoritarian’s do love their children but show less affection and nurturing than authoritative parents do.
How Does Authoritarian Parenting Affect Children
Research shows that children with authoritarian parents:
- Tend to have more trouble making friends and are more likely to bully others
- More likely to experience mental illness like anxiety and depression
- Have lower self-esteem, feel insecure
- Struggle more often with self-control
- More likely to show aggression
- Are less independent as teens/adults
Are You An Authoritarian Parent?
Authoritatian’s are likely to:
- Feel that as the parent, they get to set the rules and make decisions, regardless of how their child feels or their opinion
- Believe they don’t need to provide an explanation for a rule or boundary. May say things like “because I said so…”
- When their child isn’t listening, may use phrases like “How many times do I have to tell you….”, “Why do you always do that?”, or other phrases that make their child feel ashamed.
- Feel it’s okay if sometimes their child feels afraid of them and/or the punishments they’ll receive for breaking a rule.
3. Permissive Parenting
Permissive parents are highly responsive to their children but don’t have many rules or expectations. The rules they do set, they don’t really enforce
or they may attempt to enforce expectations inconsistently.
They are caring and warm, and communication is open and they value their children’s opinions. This is great – but permissive parents also don’t like to upset or disappoint their children, so they will often avoid saying no or give in.
Permissive parents tend to behave more like a friend than a parent and provide little or inconsistent structure in the home.
How Does Permissive Parenting Affect Children
Research into the effects of permissive parenting shows that these children:
- Struggle with problem-solving and decision-making skills.
- Are three times more likely to engage in heavy drinking and drug use as teenagers.
- Struggle with self-discipline and are often overindulgent
- Have poor executive functioning skills like time-management, organization, self-restraint, and planning ahead.
Because children of permissive parents don’t have many limits or boundaries, and their homes aren’t very structured, or have many rules, they often have bad habits. For example, watching too much TV or playing too many video games, eating too much or unhealthy eating habits.
Are You Too Permissive?
You may be a permissive parent if you can relate to the following:
- We don’t really have a routine at home or screen-time limits – sometimes life is too hectic to follow through on these plans
- I dislike conflict, so when I see my child/teen is starting to get agitated, I will often back down or give in to avoid a fight.
- When I do set rules and my child breaks them, there are not usually any consequences, or they are inconsistent
- My child doesn’t have a lot of responsibilities at home – like chores
4. Uninvolved Parenting
To put it frankly, uninvolved parenting is neglectful. These parents are cold and unresponsive to their children’s emotions needs (and sometimes physical/basic needs) and they have little or no expectations.
They provide little to no guidance to their child and act indifferently towards their child’s choices and behavior. They don’t take interest in their child’s activities and provide minimal supervision.
Children with uninvolved parents basically raise themselves.
One thing that’s important to note is that this parenting style isn’t always intentional or a conscious choice.
For example, sometimes single parents with little support are too involved with working multiple jobs and dealing with the stress that comes along with it, that they unintentionally adopt an uninvolved parenting style.
Sometimes parents with mental health issues have difficulty forming emotional attachments with their children and/or are unable to meet their child’s needs.
If you feel you fit into this category of parenting it might help to seek counseling to manage your mental health and to establish an emotional bond with your child, along with better parenting strategies.
Effects of Uninvolved Parenting
Children with uninvolved parents:
- Struggle with high stress and anxiety due to lacking family support
- Are very independent – but may struggle with relationships because they fear becoming dependent on other people
- Are at an increased risk of drug and alcohol abuse
- Display deficits in all domains of development – academics, cognition, social and emotional skills, and attachments. This continues later in life as well.
Effects of Parenting Styles on Social-Emotional Development
Social-emotional learning begins in the home.
Social-emotional learning is how children to develop and maintain positive relationships, decision-making skills, develop perspective-taking skills, and build emotional intelligence.
This learning begins at birth. You immediately begin teaching your child social-emotional skills, starting with the way you respond to your child’s needs, helping them identify emotions, offering a vocabulary to name their feelings, and teaching calming strategies.
This is why your parenting style has such a significant impact on your child’s social-emotional development.
How responsive you are as a parent, in particular, influences your child’s ability to be responsive to other people. Children learn through experience and observation, and parents are the first, and biggest, role models.
This is why children with authoritative parents, who are responsive and nurturing, become more socially competent and emotionally stable.
Tips for Becoming More Authoritative as a Parent
Looking for ways to be more authoritative?
You might see aspects of yourself as a parent in all four of these parenting styles from time to time, but identify more strongly with one.
Regardless, research has proven that the authoritative parenting style has the best overall outcome on child development.
So, if you’re an authoritarian, you might want to work on being more nurturing and responsive. If you’re too permissive, you might want to work on setting more concrete boundaries.
Here are some things you can do to be more authoritative as a parent:
Be Your Child’s Emotion Coach
Emotion coaching is the process of guiding your child through intense emotions by validating, relating, naming the emotion, and holding boundaries.
Children need to learn that emotions are normal, they’re important, and they need to be followed through (not suppressed or avoided).
This method was developed by Dr. Adele Lafrance Robinson and Dr Joanne Dolhanty.
You can read how to practice emotion coaching more in detail here.
Build a Democratic Household
In a democracy, everyone has equal rights and the leaders involve the people in making important decisions that will affect them. In your household, the leaders are the parental figures and the people are the kids.
Children are more cooperative when they feel that they’ve been included in the decision making, that their voice matters, and when there’s been an open discussion and compromise when making decisions.
How to build a democratic household:
- Host a family meeting once a week. Go over upcoming events, meal plans, appointments, etc with the whole family.
- Gather everyone’s input at these meetings. Allow everyone the opportunity to discuss any concerns or things that bothered them in the past week and work together for solutions.
- Give your child decision making power over certain family events.
For example, when meal planning, allow your child to choose the Monday night dinner every week. When you go over the meal plan at the meeting they can fill in what Monday’s meal will be.
- When kids ask “why?” stop saying “because I said so” and start explaining why.
For example, your child asks why they can’t jump on the couch, explain “It’s loud and distracting for others and it damages the furniture”. Explain that if someone else was doing something that was loud and distracting for them, you would also ask them to stop.
- Decide on 4 or 5 “Family Rules”, hang them up and reference them regularly when addressing behavior expectations. Be consistent.
For example, “The rules of the family state that everyone must respect one another. When we can’t do that, we need to go have some alone time in our rooms until we feel ready to be respectful again”.
Note: Family rules should be applicable to the entire family, not to just the children.
Provide Routines, Structures, & Responsibilities at Home
Unlike adults, children’s brains are still developing, especially the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for executive functions. The prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until the mid-twenties.
This matters, a lot, because this is where the ability to plan ahead and make predictions about the future take place.
Children aren’t able to do this accurately simply because their brains haven’t developed that skill yet. So, they depend on structure and routine.
You can read four ways to add more structure at home here.
Be More Affectionate & Nurturing
I know this doesn’t come naturally to some parents, often because of how they were raised., but it is important.
Children who feel good – do good.
And one of the many ways you can make your child feel good, and build their self-esteem, is by showing love and affection.
Learn your child’s love language – take this quiz.
Then, make an effort to show your love for them based on their love language. There are small things you can do every day that will have a big impact on your child’s feelings.
Choose Positive Reinforcement Over Harsh Punishments
Research has proven, time and time again, that positive reinforcement works better than negative consequences when addressing challenging behavior.
When you are providing consequences they need to remain consistent. If you’re permissive at times, this means you need to stop allowing your child to cross boundaries, but the consequences don’t need to be harsh.
Natural and logical consequences are more effective than punishments like spanking, time outs, or taking away privileges.
It’s also important to make sure your expectations are reasonable, understood, and you child has the right skills to meet those expectations consistently.
Pick Your Battles – Authoritative Style
If you’re permissive, picking your battles might look like I really don’t want a fight right now, I’m going to let this slide to avoid the conflict.
If you’re an authoritarian, you might think What I say goes – I’ll fight every battle to the end, I won’t let my child ‘win’.
So how do you pick your battles authoritative style?
Choose your deal breakers. They are the boundaries you are not willing to negotiate or bend. You’ll hold these boundaries consistently and firmly (while still being kind and respectful).
Your deal breakers should be things that affect the health, safety, and wellbeing of your child and others. So things like physical aggression, destruction of property, verbal aggression, any unsafe behavior that could harm your child or someone else.
My child recently walked out on a barely frozen lake (and wouldn’t come off), so we aren’t permitting him to walk that way until spring. I will be inflexible with that boundary because it’s just too dangerous.
Be willing to negotiate the rest. Being willing to negotiate the rest doesn’t mean giving in after an argument or breaking your word.
But when communication is open, you can discuss things with your child, hear their reasoning and opinions, and then make decisions.
For example, if your teen’s curfew is 10 pm, and they ask if they can go out with their friend until 11 pm. An authoritarian would say no. An authoritative parent would ask why.
If you think the reason they want to be out past curfew is acceptable, then you can okay it. You might even allow them to stay out later but set a new boundary – like you need to check in with me via phone call at 10:30 and again on the drive home.
Your child will be more likely to be open and honest, and respect your boundaries, if they feel their wants, needs and opinions are considered, and important to you.
Research shows that authoritative parenting has the most positive impact on childhood development, while uninvolved parenting has the most negative impact.
Finding the right balance of connection, and expectations, positively influences your child’s social-emotional development.
How you parent might now always fall into a singular category – you may at times be more permissive or more authoritarian, but most people can define the overall trend of how they parent with one category.
If you identified as an uninvolved parent, it’s important to seek support for yourself and your child so you can improve your bond, and become more involved and responsive.