The way we raise our children is often similar to the way we were raised. For example, I was the child of an “overly worried/overprotective” wonderful mother and I find myself treating my kids exactly the same way!
Understanding, accepting and modifying your parenting style can be a challenging process, often guided by unfounded emotions. Sometimes we do and say things we often regret and do not understand where they come from. We all strive to be better parents but, inevitably, old habits, personality traits, certain life circumstances kick in and we might succumb into different approaches at some particular moments.
But if you are not completely happy with the relationship you have with your tween or teen, it’s always good to understand what we might be doing wrong and the possible consequences of our behavior, in order to adapt. The first step is to recognize our “parenting style” and move on from there – it’s never too late!
There is well-documented research on this topic, but after years of over-analyzing the people around me, and reading lots of parenting literature, I have come up with my own theory of the different parenting styles. They may overlap, we might find ourselves identifying with all these styles at one time or another, and there are obviously other variations… but I have found these six to be the most common.
1. The Controlling Parent
The name speaks for itself! Behind this parent mentality: “I control everything in the life of my children…what they eat, wear, their friends, what they watch on TV, everything!” Why do I do it? well, because I know best and they don’t” These parents can also be called “authoritarian.” They basically feel the need to control or make decisions on behalf of their children. They often do not pay much attention to their child’s needs and emotions and their communication with their kids is mainly uni-lateral.
Possible consequences: These children do not feel trusted, they will likely not learn to make their own decisions, consequently might develop low self esteem because ‘everything I do is wrong’ mentality indirectly created by their parents constant message “I know, and you don’t”. A child that is never allowed to make decisions on their own at some point will be encounter with a situation were he/she has to make a decision and will not have the skills nor the emotional strength to do it.These children might grow up and be emotionally detached,. unresponsive to the needs of others and disrespectful.
2. The Guilty Parent
One night after one of my numerous daughter’s volleyball games, I was sitting in the bleachers next to her teammates in a volleyball court. I saw one mother with a devastated face approaching the girl next to me. As she approached her daughter and excused herself for not being on time for the game, she immediately told her daughter, “Let’s go shopping I’ll buy whatever you want.” The girl went from having this sad almost crying face to a joyful happy face in reaction to the shopping invitation.
Inevitably, I started wondering about the consequences of this “guilt-driven parenting technique.” Some parents are sometimes filled with guilt and feelings of not being a “good parent” to their kids. This guilty feelings might drive them to try to become a “cool parent” or an “over-involved” parent (featured in this blog). Feelings of guilt might make you react to certain situations in an irrational way, for example by trying to “buy” your way out of a situation or to gain your kids approval. There are many reasons why parents might feel guilt, and they are usually related to feelings of inadequacy, excess work, divorce, depression or childhood trauma, amongst others.
Possible consequences: Kids might feel insecure, not protected, they will not learn to express their real emotions, they might manipulate situations because they perceive their parents’ weaknesses, they can develop unhealthy relationships with their friends and maybe miss the importance of building a relationship on love and trust.
3. The “Peace and Love”
These are the coolest parents (at least according to their kids). There are no boundaries, no rules, parents want to become friends with their kids because they want to be accepted by them, and they want to be a “cool parent.” There is nothing wrong with trying to be “cool,” but there are many ways you can be a cool mom while establishing clear rules and boundaries (future blog post). These parents are known as the “permissive” parents, they are non-demanding and non-controlling. They might feel fear of rejection from their kids and confuse discipline with permissiveness. Sometimes the children become confidantes, and these parents may bombard their children with information that is not age-appropriate and can even become a burden to their kids. These parents are also at risk of overlooking crucial “red flag behaviors” in their children that might be a sign of future negative consequences.
Possible consequences: This style can make children not vulnerable, creating a role reversal where kids end up being the caretakers. They are less likely to see their parents as authority figures and guidance is sometimes absent. This type of relationship can also create other problems; these parents tend to raise children who are the least self-reliant and most lacking in self-control.
4. The Over-Involved Parent
These parents are overly involved in their child’s life. How many of you have seen that mom that is ALWAYS in school? They are involved in everything from the school PTA, bake sales, school stores, to their kid’s sports team. Their kids are usually over-scheduled, from music, art classes, to sports SAT, PSAT, tutors etc. They fear their kids might be left behind and they are constantly competing with other parents. However, unlike the “the controlling parent,” these parents have a more bi-directional communication with their kids and are more aware of their needs and emotions.
Possible consequences: These kids miss being bored and lack self creation, they are less capable of making their own decisions, and are more overly dependent and compliant.
5. The “Not-So-Engaged” Parent
As bad as it is to be overly involved in your child’s life, it is just as bad to not be involved at all! Children/teens need to feel accepted, cared for and respected. Besides the basic physiological needs, they need emotional nourishment and attention from their parents. In fact, it has been documented that some gang members join these groups to fulfill the needs of being wanted and accepted.
Possible consequences: Beware of this style, if you do not pay enough attention to your kids, someone will. Low self esteem, need of belonging and love, feeling of abandonment and insecurity are only a few of the bad effects of an emotionally deprived teenager.
6. The Balanced Parent
These parents try to balance their lives between work, personal life and family. They understand that they are not always going to please everyone, and they work to prioritize their different roles and responsibilities. These parents could potentially have the best relationship with their children. They understand their children also have different roles – they have friends, they are students, they are brothers and sisters. Consequently, they need their privacy, they need to make their own decisions, to experiment, to mature and to learn from their experiences. These parents are like coaches, they stand on the sidelines guiding, but understand that they can’t do the work for their child.
Potential consequences: Children feel safe and trusted, they know they have freedom to explore but have boundaries to follow. They show self control, self reliant they tend to have better relationships and good judgments when parents are not around.
What’s my style?
All parents want the same thing for their kids…. we want them to be happy, well-adjusted, confident, respectful of others, and self-motivated. We often do not understand nor accept our parenting styles, consequently, we are not able to adjust and improve the way we interact with our kids. This can become a challenging process.
Sometimes, depending on the situation I find myself being a bit too much of a controlling parent, with feelings of guilt and trying to be a “cool parent” but when my kids make me aware of this (and they always do) I try to adjust.
I “control” myself instead of them, I talk my way out of guilty feelings and remind myself that trying to be “cool” does not mean not setting rules. When I feel more stressed and afraid that a situation might get out of control, I use the techniques of focusing on the ‘here and now’ and what I want to accomplish in a specific moment and not on the future outcome. When I change MY frame of mind, suddenly everything changes!
We always try to be the perfect parent, but I believe that concept does not exist. People constantly ask me how being a psychologist helps me manage parenting. My answer? I make the same mistakes all parents make, I lose my patience, I say things I regret later and many times I do not know what to do in a certain situation. I do not want to be perfect, I want to be real!
Our kids constantly copy us (even it they do not admit it) so when we ACCEPT that we are constantly learning and adjusting to life situations and listening to our inner self, they WILL follow through.
What is your main parenting style?
These “parenting styles” are based on my sole experiences and observations as a psychologist and a full time mom.. They are not by any means backed by any type of scientific research. Thank you for following along!