What parenting style are you?

There are four broad styles of parent, COLM O’CONNOR assesses the values of each
What parenting style are you?

FORMING A BOND: There are authoritative, permissive, friendly and disengaged types of parents — and sometimes, parents have to juggle between them

YOUR parenting style will affect everything about your children — from what they eat to what they think of themselves.

It’s important to understand your style and the degree to which it supports your children’s development. The way you interact with them and how you influence them is critical to managing their behavior and developing their confidence.

Your parenting style is an extension of your personality. Your personality can be described in relation to two qualities. The first relates to how controlling you are. The second relates to how friendly you are.

Let me talk first about CONTROL. This aspect of parenting refers to the degree of influence you have over your children. That is, the way you can get your children to do what they need to do.

There are two types of controlling parent (1) The Authoritative Parent. (2) The Permissive Parent. Each style takes a different approach to discipline and control


These have rules and they use consequences, but they also take their children’s opinions into account. They understand their children’s feelings, while also making it clear that the adults are ultimately in charge.

Authoritative parents try to prevent behaviour problems before they start. They also praise and reward their children. At their worst they may be dictatorial, believe kids should follow the rules without exception and say: “Do it because I said so,” with the focus on obedience and compliance.

Authoritative parents are in charge, but they allow kids to get involved in problem-solving. They make the rules and enforce the consequences while also being attuned to their children’s feelings and opinions. They use discipline more than punishment. At their worst they are dictators. At their best they are leaders.


These are more lenient and often only step in when there’s a serious problem. They are forgiving and adopt an attitude of ‘kids will be kids’. When they do use consequences, they may not make them stick. They might be lenient if a child pleads with them or promises to be good.

They let their children off with stuff and don’t put much effort into discouraging poor choices or bad behaviour. At their worst they are lazy and without boundaries. Lazy parents have little knowledge of what their children are doing and few rules. They expect children to raise themselves. However, permissive parents let children figure things out for themselves and don’t get too worried or involved in trying to control them. At their worst they are lazy, at their best they are encouraging.

These two types are related to how you control children. The other dimension, however, relates to respect and the degree to which you are friendly and can relate to your children. There are two broad types: (1) The friendly accessible parent. (2) The disengaged detached parent.


While one aspect of parenting is to control and influence them, another is being able to relate to them. Stereotypical fathers are often good at controlling their children but may have a poor relationship with them. The friendly, accessible parent has a very good relationship with their children.

Aside from controlling or influencing their children, they work hard at relating to their children and have rapport with them. As a result, their children talk to them and confide in them. The accessible parent is there for their children and the children feel they are always available and accessible to them.


These do not relate well to their children and see their job as getting their childre to do what they are supposed to do.

The disengaged parent does not have good rapport with their children and is not especially friendly toward them. They are often preoccupied with their own work, stress, or goals in life. When their children have emotional problems, they seek others to try to sort things out. The disengaged parent is either immature or preoccupied.

If you combine these four types of parenting, you end up with four styles. In order of what is best for children they are (1) The authoritarian friendly parent who is strong; (2) The permissive friendly parent who is soft; (3) The disengaged authoritarian parent who is mean; and (4) The disengaged permissive parent who is neglectful.

The thing is, you must be both a parent and friend to your child. The good parent can do both. The bad parent can do neither.

In the old days, mother was the friend, dad the disciplinarian. Today, we need to be both. Each parent needs to be able to be either an authority or friend when needed. The older children get, the more they need the latter.

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