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How to determine your parenting style

Just by looking at your friends, family members and parents you pass in the grocery store, it's obvious that all parents have different styles. Ever wonder what yours is called?

There are three main types of parenting styles:

  • Authoritarian. Strict parents generally fall into this category. These parents try to exert their authority over their kids and rule with an iron fist; what they say goes! They do not explain their reasoning to their children, but set out rules and enforce them diligently.
  • Permissive. Permissive parents are the complete opposite of authoritarian parents. They give more control to their kids than they take themselves, which does not give kids enough direction. They make very few rules and don't define boundaries, which gives kids the freedom to get into trouble easily without facing consequences.
  • Authoritative. Also known as "democratic," this style is the happy medium between authoritarian and permissive. Authoritative parents help kids learn how to be responsible for themselves and make smart decisions. They set expectations and boundaries but allow the opportunity for negotiation and discussion.

What will work best for you? It can be hard to know your own style without stepping back for a moment and analyzing the way you do things. Studies show that kids who grow up with authoritative (democratic) parents have better self esteem and act out less often than kids raised in households with the other two styles. These children are also more comfortable dealing with life issues, such as reaching puberty and peer pressure.

These days, there is no one way to define a family. We have single parents, heterosexual parents, same-sex parents and all types of blended families. If your family is going through a divorce, new marriage or is blending with another family, it's important to find the right fit for you.

New stepparents should remember never to force relationships with their step children. This will only make them resent you – let the new situation grow on them. Once they have adjusted, your bond will grow faster. Kids have a hard time accepting new parental figures in their lives and it's important to give them (and their mother or father) space and time.

Information on the politics of parenting and the issues you might expect to face at different ages and stages is available in parenting magazines and online. From child health care issues to social and development, it pays to do your research. Don't forget that other parents – including your own! – are also fantastic resources for parenting advice and for tips on parenting style.

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