Let me raise a hypothetical situation: you are in a superstore and your 4-year-old throws a tantrum for a toy that he sees. Tantrums are obviously loud enough for all to see and soon your child is the center of attention. Now, how would you generally deal with this? Pick your answer
a. Your child would generally not engage in such behaviour because he knows the consequences would be terrible. But if he does, you would immediately tell him to keep quiet by warning him of the consequences like being locked in the bathroom or calling the police.
b. You would tell him that he is not going to get the toy. If he doesn't stop crying now, you may have to think again before taking him to any such place. You tell him that you will soon proceed with your shopping.
c. Your child would generally not do such a thing because he doesn't need to throw a tantrum, he asks and he gets it! But if he does, no two ways about it, you would surely buy the toy for him.
d. You would completely ignore him and walk away pretending that he is not your child. You generally do not take him with you for such outings anyway.
Diana Baumrind is a researcher who tried to classify parenting styles. She felt that 4 elements shaped a parent's style: responsiveness, unresponsiveness, demanding and undemanding (Baumrind,1967). On the basis of this, she proposed 3 styles: Authoritative parenting, Authoritarian parenting, and Permissive parenting. A 4th style was later added by other researchers, Maccoby, and Martin. This was Neglectful parenting.
I. Authoritarian Parenting
This style is punishment centric, dictatorial. Punishments are usually corporal. Explanations or feedback are not provided. It is often ‘because I say so'. The punishment may not be remotely related to the behavior. Communication is limited because it is mostly one-way traffic. The child is not encouraged to discuss or express himself. All control lies with the parent. The a parent in the above situation.
II. Authoritative Parenting
In this style too, control lies with the parent, however, parents encourage their children's independence. Authoritative parents set clear rules and boundaries. They expect mature and age appropriate behavior from their children. Punishment is not corporal and it is related to the consequences of their behavior. For e.g. if T.V. timings are not adhered to, an authoritative parent would not hit or scream but would disallow T.V. viewing for the next day or curtail another pleasurable activity. Children are encouraged to discuss issues with parents, parents are responsive. The b parent.
III. Permissive Parenting
This is an extremely lenient way of parenting. Parents are responsive but not controlling. They believe that children will be children and do not impose any limits on them. Children are free to behave in any manner as there is almost no discipline. There are no time schedules, so children are allowed to eat or nap at their will. Parents are more like friends and not role models. Children are given freedom and also anything else they desire. The c parent.
IV. Neglecting Parenting
This style of parenting is neither demanding nor controlling. This is an uninvolved and detached style of parenting. There is hardly any interaction or involvement in the child's life. Parents may provide basic needs but may not be emotionally involved. This could be due to substance abuse, mental illness or financial stress. The d parent.
What we are talking about is the usual style. It is important to distinguish between pattern and strategy. The usual pattern that we follow is our style of parenting. What we may use as a onetime policy is our strategy to deal with the situation for that particular incident. Each one of us may use these styles alternatively. For example, after an extremely tiring day at work, I might be an ignoring/neglecting parent and just let my child do whatever he wants so that I can rest. When our children are sick, most of us turn into permissive parents and allow our children all special privileges which would otherwise be strictly prohibited. We and our children just have to be aware of the fact that this is a strategy and should not turn into a pattern or style.
Needless to say that the authoritative parenting style should be the most used style. The effects that these styles have on children will be discussed in the next blog.