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Parenting Styles - Where Can You Improve?

Recommended parenting approaches offer a balance between the level of parents’ control of their children’s conduct, the extent parents embrace and satisfy their children’s emotional needs as they grow, and the parent’s beliefs that influence their parenting approach.

Research Findings

Psychological research shows that there are a number of parenting styles. However, the 4 main ones are Authoritative, Authoritarian, Permissive, and Neglectful – with Authoritative being the recognised ideal.

1. Authoritative Parenting:

These parents have high expectations for children’s achievement and development, and ensure that they maximise their potential, but they are also compassionately sensitive to their children’s needs. They implement a balance between their control of their children and satisfaction of their emotional needs.

Such parents have clearly defined rules with relative consequences for poor behaviour, and also

maintain carefully considered boundaries. They allow transparent discussions, offer grounded

guidance, and apply thoughtful reasoning. Their discipline is direct though also flexible and is also outcome focussed. There is balance between rewards for esteemed behaviour and consequences for poor behaviour – both are valuable and assist children to regulate their emotions and behaviour.

Children reared through authoritative parenting approaches usually have a positive mood and contentment, achieve sound independence and success, and have social skill competency.

2. Authoritarian Parenting:

Parents have high levels of control over their children but do not consistently embrace or satisfy their children’s emotional needs as they grow. They expect unchallenged obedience and compliance with their rules, orders, and boundaries. They do not permit their children to freely express themselves, but tend to express themselves with no room for negotiation.

Their discipline is stringent and can be harsh punishment, to enforce their high levels of control.

They can also be coercive and domineering, at times bordering on abuse, as the parents are keen to emphasise the traits of their authority. They highly value their child’s obedience to them and are generally not nurturing.

The children are usually despondent, have poor self-esteem, lack independent development, show high levels of insecurity, have poor achievement and behavioural problems, and are also at greater risk of experiencing mental health difficulties and using negative coping mechanisms.

3. Permissive Parenting:

The parents do not outline much rules, order, or boundaries and are often led by their children’s

demands instead of implementing foundational standards and structure. Therefore, they

struggle to control their children, but embrace and satisfy their children’s emotional

needs as they grow, to an extreme level. Such parents are reluctant to prohibit their children from misbehaving as they are keener to please their children instead of guiding them.

Parents are more of a friend than a parent, and do not discipline their children or enforce

consequences, but children become ‘spoilt’ due to lack of boundaries and excessive rewarding. They tend to support their children even if they are at fault and make major life decisions being led by their child’s opinions. Parents also have low expectations based on low goals for their children and protect their children from being challenged to develop their potential.

The children usually have the worst outcomes, as the lack of structure and discipline makes them unable to adhere to social norms or generally accepted cultural expectations. They develop poor attachment which tends to result in significant relationship problems. Then can struggle to obey figures of authority as they are not familiar with being guided but being the influencer. They can become aggressive in managing emotionally difficult experiences as they have untrained social skills.

4. Neglectful Parenting

Parents do not have control or influence over their children. They are unresponsive to the children’s emotional needs as they grow and can present as ‘invisible’ in their parenting role with lack of sensitivity their children’s needs.

They tend to lack affection and are emotionally distant from their children. They do not give any rules, order, or boundaries, neither do they implement any strong foundational standards and structure. They are uninvolved in their children’s lives, and at times, they delegate their responsibilities to other people or to the children.

Children learn to quickly adapt to relying on themselves, even in childhood. They have poor

attachment due to the unresponsiveness of the parents, which causes lifelong relationship

difficulties unless they get therapeutic support. They are usually more impulsive, have poor self-

esteem, experience emotion dysregulation, and are more likely than their peers to develop criminal behaviour and substance misuse issues. They are also at greater risk of experiencing mental health problems.

Initiating and sustaining Authoritative Parenting:

The starting point is redefining your beliefs around parenting and your new parenting objectives.

This will guide all the changes you would need to implement. The next stage would be to consider what you will prioritise to focus on and prepare the order you consider appropriate for the changes.

You would then need to consider gradually setting time defined goals – instead of making too many goals at the same time as this can overwhelm both the parent and the child.

It would be helpful to clearly communicate to the child, the intended changes and their benefits, to develop their understanding and encourage their cooperation. The process can take time, but you will need to be consistent and persistent. Resistance does not always indicate that there is no change, but can show how complex the difficulty had become, especially if it had existed for a

prolonged time.

Your parenting style is usually influenced by the kind of parenting you experienced yourself. Sometimes, the traits are so habitually familiar that it is hard to notice or be aware of what you may be doing, let alone how to change. Seeing an expert in parenting and childhood behaviour/emotional needs can be a helpful way to address any areas of need.

For more in this series, see Childhood Attachment and it's Impact in Adulthood.

References/Further Reading:

Benson, ‎J. B. and Haith, M. M. (2010). Social And Emotional Development In Infancy And Early

Childhood. New York: Elsevier.

Carr, A. (2015). The Handbook of Child and Adolescent Clinical Psychology: A Contextual Approach. 3rd Ed. London: Routledge.

Frick, P. J., Barry, C. T., and Kamphaus, R. W. (2016). Clinical Assessment Of Child And Adolescent

Personality And Behaviour. 2nd Ed. New York: Springer.

Hogg, M. A. and Vaughan, G. M. (2021). Social Psychology. 9th Ed. Sydney: Pearson.

Smith, P. K. and Hart, C. H. (2013). The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Childhood Social Development 2nd Ed. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell .

Kudakwashe Nyakudya Nurse, Nutritionist & Psychological Practitioner

Kudakwashe is a diversely qualified clinical practitioner who specialises in individualised psychological and nutritional interventions for children and adolescents with mental health and neurodevelopmental disorders. She also provides therapeutic approaches for adults - especially women who have experienced mental health problems as a consequence of interpersonal abuse.

She also offer personalised nutritional management for areas like disordered eating, weight management, ARFID, eating disorders, and ASD related eating problems. I have a special interest in neurodevelopmental difficulties, and am certified to diagnose ASD and ADHD and their associated conditions using gold standard assessment frameworks

Kudakwashe provides support through Solihull Well Being Clinic


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