Find your style of parenting
There are many ideas about how to rear
children. Some parents adopt the ideas
their own parents used. Others get advice from friends. Some read books about
parenting. Others take classes offered in
the community. No one has all the
answers. However, psychologists and
other social scientists now know what
parenting practices are most effective and
are more likely to lead to positive
outcomes for children.
Ideas about child rearing can be grouped into three styles. These are
different ways of deciding who is responsible for what in a family.
Authoritarian parents always try to be in control and exert their control on
the children. These parents set strict rules to try to keep order, and they
usually do this without much expression of warmth and affection. They
attempt to set strict standards of conduct and are usually very critical of
children for not meeting those standards. They tell children what to do,
they try to make them obey and they usually do not provide children with
choices or options.
Authoritarian parents don’t explain why they want their children to do
things. If a child questions a rule or command, the parent might answer,“Because I said so.” Parents tend to focus on bad behavior, rather than
positive behavior, and children are scolded or punished, often harshly, for
not following the rules.Children with authoritarian parents usually do not learn to think for
themselves and understand why the parent is requiring certain behaviors.
Permissive parents give up most control to their children. Parents make
few, if any, rules, and the rules that they make are usually not consistently
enforced. They don’t want to be tied down to routines. They want their
children to feel free. They do not set clear boundaries or expectations for
their children’s behavior and tend to accept in a warm and loving way,
however the child behaves.
Permissive parents give children as many choices as possible, even when
the child is not capable of making good choices. They tend to accept a
child’s behavior, good or bad, and make no comment about whether it is
beneficial or not. They may feel unable to change misbehavior, or they
choose not to get involved.
Democratic or authoritative
Democratic parents help children learn to be responsible for themselves
and to think about the consequences of their behavior. Parents do this by
providing clear, reasonable expectations for their children and explanations
for why they expect their children to behave in a particular manner. They
monitor their children’s behavior to make sure that they follow through on
rules and expectations. They do this in a warm and loving manner. They
often, “try to catch their children being good” and reinforcing the good
behavior, rather than focusing on the bad.
For example, a child who leaves her toys on a staircase may be told not to
do this because, “Someone could trip on them and get hurt and the toy
might be damaged.” As children mature, parents involve children in making
rules and doing chores: “Who will mop the kitchen floor, and who will carry
out the trash?”
Parents who have a democratic style
give choices based on a child’s ability.
For a toddler, the choice may be “red
shirt or striped shirt?” For an older
child, the choice might be “apple,
orange or banana?” Parents guide
children’s behavior by teaching, not
punishing. “You threw your truck at
Mindy. That hurt her. We’re putting
your truck away until you can play
with it safely.”
Which is your style?
Maybe you are somewhere in between. Think about what you want your
children to learn. Research on children’s development shows that the most
positive outcomes for children occur when parents use democratic styles.
Children with permissive parents tend to be aggressive and act out, while
children with authoritarian parents tend to be compliant and submissive
and have low self-esteem.
No parenting style will work unless you build a loving bond with your child.
- Treat your child with respect. Talk to her and ask questions. Be polite.
Avoid nagging, yelling and hitting. If your child misbehaves in public,
take her home. Avoid humiliating her. Maybe she is tired or hungry.
Next time, plan the outing after she has had a nap and a snack.
- Be consistent. Don’t be permissive one moment and strict the next.
Make sure rules apply to everyone, even you. Make promises only
when you’re sure you can keep them.
- As parents, consult with each other and maintain a united front so
that your child will not try to “play off” one parent against the other.
- Encourage your child. Help build confidence. Say, “I know you can do
it.” Tell her, “You worked really hard on that.” Avoid criticism. Don’t
compare one child to another.
- Express love. Say the words: “I love you.” Give pats, hugs, and kisses.
- Take time for fun. Do things you both enjoy.
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