Researchers have met numerous challenges in their quest to investigate the relationship between parenting styles and child development. The diversity of parenting styles and their effects on children pose serious research and methodological dilemmas. Parents choose various ways to bring up their children. The style used by parents to raise their children is usually determined by the way they balance their behavioral demands and the ability to respond to children’s needs and support them. Depending on these variables, parents are inclined to choose one of the following styles: authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, or uninvolved. However, it is through a reasonable combination of authority and permissiveness that parents can foster effective development of their children and eliminate the threat of risky behaviors later in life.
Childhood and adolescence represent the most dynamic and exciting periods in anyone’s life. Children and adolescents are faced with considerable physical, emotional, cognitive, and relationship changes. At these stages of life, children and adolescents naturally seek closer relations with their parents and want their parents to show support and understanding. It is not difficult to see how professional educators, friends, other parents, and even doctors support the role of quality parenting in children’s development and growth. It is possible to say that positive, supportive parents make it easier for children to pass through the most difficult stages of life, including cognitive development, relationship building, gender and sexual changes, school and graduation, etc. “The main question is what constitutes positive parenting and how parents should balance their behavioral demands and responsiveness to raise cognitively, physically, and emotionally mature children.
Parenting style is the way parents balance their demands (behavioral control) and the level of support provided to their children. Depending on the way parents balance these variables, they can view themselves as authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, or uninvolved. Each of these parenting styles has profound impacts on child development, and it is imperative for parents to understand and choose the most appropriate way to deal with their children. Authoritarian is, probably, the most demanding and the least responsive parenting style. Authoritarian parents seek to shape their children’s behaviors and constantly control them, without trying to understand what exactly their children want and what they seek in life. In authoritarian families, children must follow the rules set by their parents without trying to question them. Authoritarian parents demand obedience, order, and respect for authority. They do not seek communication or interactions with their children. They just want children to comply with their demands without any arguments or explanations. Any violation of such rules is likely to result in punishment. Needless to say, authoritarian parenting style has drastic impacts on children. Authoritarian parents are usually described as “poor”, since they are incapable of and unwilling to build productive reciprocal relationships with their children. Authoritarian parents are punitive and coercive, and their children are likely to grow into anti-social individuals. In my opinion, children of authoritarian parents are much more likely to face depression and solitude, because they fail to build quality communication relationships with their parents. Possibly, authoritarian parents can secure their children from troubles, but they also deny their right to have personal interests, hobbies, or express themselves freely. Authoritarian parents believe that they want the best for their children, and they justify their approaches by the strong desire to keep their children from making their own mistakes. However, authoritarianism is not the best way to raise children.
Authoritative parenting style presents an entirely different picture. Authoritative parents are open with their children and manage to balance their behavioral controls with communication and responsiveness. This parenting style bears resemblance to authoritarian parenting, but authoritative parents are much more sensitive to their children’s queries. I believe that authoritative parenting is one of the best in terms of its impacts on children, mostly due to the fact that such parents successfully enforce family rules and, at the same time, encourage open communication with their children. As a result, children of authoritative parents learn the value of authority early in life and develop a warm and affectionate relationship with their parents. These aspects foster successful cognitive and emotional development in children. Children growing up in authoritative families have better chances to succeed in school, because they can always rely on their parents and get the assistance they need to cope with various school problems. Also, authoritative parents can help their children avoid troubles, because they can easily explain and authoritatively persuade children to choose the best path in life. One of the best features of authoritative parenting is that discipline is enforced without punishment, thus contributing to the development of a stable personality with high levels of social responsibility.
Not all parents are authoritative; many parents exercise permissive behavioral style. Permissive parents are not very demanding. They are extremely responsive. Permissive parenting style means that parents give their children a lot of freedom (mostly, too much freedom) to do the things they enjoy. This parenting style is often described as “indulgent”. Permissive parents are warm, tolerant, and mostly accepting. They do not impose any demands on their children and do not try to exercise their authority. They believe that children are fully capable of regulating their behaviors and decisions, and they maintain considerable freedom in their children’s interactions with the rest of the world. The most positive side of this parenting style is that parents understand their children’s needs. The negative side of permissive parenting is in low discipline and the lack of authority.
Permissiveness is a milder form of uninvolved, or neglectful, parenting, when children are left totally alone in their growth and development. Uninvolved parents are preoccupied with their problems and are disinterested in the way their children grow and function. Uninvolved parents do not support their children and do not respond to their needs. Both permissive and uninvolved parents often leave their children in confusion, and such children lack guidance; they face difficulties finding the best direction in life. Permissive and uninvolved parents cannot teach their children to value authority, and they can do little to protect their children from serious problems.
None of the parenting styles described above is universal and perfect, and it is always better for parents to have the best features of these parenting styles combined for their children’s benefit. It is possible to assume that a reasonable combination of authoritative and permissive parenting styles will best fit the needs and expectations of most children. Permissiveness will make authoritative parents more open and responsive to their children’s needs, without disrupting their authority and behavior demands. Authority and permissiveness will help establish discipline in parent-child relations, while also encouraging children to express their wishes, needs, and desires. Every parent will have to find the best balance of permissiveness and authority to treat their children. While looking for such balance, parents should certainly avoid extreme forms of parenting, namely, authoritarian and neglectful approaches because they will never provide children with the support, understanding, openness, responsiveness, and affectionate belonging they long to have in the earliest years of life.
Parents use different models and styles to deal with their children. However, it is through a combination of authoritative and permissive styles that parents can help their children become mature personalities and eliminate the threat of risky behaviors later in life. Authoritative parenting will set the stage for effective discipline and socially responsible behaviors, while permissiveness will make parents more responsive to their children’s expectations and needs. In all cases, parents should avoid using extreme authoritarian and uninvolved parenting models, because they will never provide children with the support and understanding they need so much during their earliest years.