• communicate with children and accept respectful feedback
• say no, but try to understand the child’s point of view
• calmly set boundaries
• have children who can speak to them without fear of getting in trouble
• Communicate expectations and give consequences
When a child does not want to go to a party, an authoritative parent might say, “I understand you’re not in the mood to go, but you committed to going. People are more likely to trust you when you keep promises. Hopefully, you will have fun!”
Authoritative parents, usually the most effective, have high expectations balanced with flexibility and communication that foster loving and trusting relationships. If you are authoritative, keep up the great work. Be kind to yourself if, occasionally, you do not communicate the way you had hoped to. Children will tend to remain emotionally connected to you because the bond of trust and respect was already built.
• may often leave the child alone
• may not have a sense of the child’s school or social life
• may not offer reciprocity to a child’s attempts to connect
• may respond to a child only on the basis of their own needs and desires
Uninvolved parents might respond to a child’s request to build Legos together by saying “I’m exhausted. I’ve had a busy day. Just do it on your own.”
While not sheltering children from challenging experiences is helpful for building determination, this style often leaves children feeling as if they cannot trust their caregivers. If uninvolved, consider seeking support to repair the relationship.
• avoid conflict with their children
• feel uncomfortable setting limits
• alter rules based on a child’s response/mood
• may prefer to be a child’s friend
• find it difficult to tolerate a child’s anger or disappointment
When a child asks for candy at the store after the parent has said “no,” a permissive parent might say “ok have it. You’re a good girl.”
Permissive parents are responsive to children, but have neither limits nor consequences. They are loving, yet indulgent. This may be a reaction to or a rejection of their authoritarian parents.
A lack of boundaries can make children feel unsafe or give them a sense of entitlement. They may have difficulty sharing and may feel like the leader of the house. Permissive parents should remain nurturing and loving, but begin to enforce rules and boundaries.
• strive to have children be obedient
• believe rules should be followed without exception/explanation
• want to appear in charge
• may not show much warmth and affection
Children are arguing, and the authoritarian parent grounds them for yelling. When one child explains what was happening, the parent grounds them further for talking back and challenging authority.
Authoritarian parents have high expectations but may not be emotionally responsive. They lead with a “because I said so” attitude, leaving little room for communication.
Rules set by authoritarian parents are appropriate; however the goal is to balance with warmth, open communication and flexibility. Children may have high anxiety, low self-esteem and believe they are only worthy of love when being obedient.
Parents bring culture, family history, and their own temperament into their parenting style. Reflecting on your style of parenting and adopting from other styles can help support optimal emotional development. If you feel overwhelmed and unable to make changes you want to, consider seeking support from a licensed professional.
Graziella Simonetti is a parent educator for EAC Network’s Long Island Parenting Institute and works as an early childhood social worker for the New York City Department of Education. She holds an advanced certificate in parent education from Adelphi University and is a NYSPEP credentialed parenting educator. Simonetti is a former kindergarten teacher.