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What’s the ‘best’ parenting style to raise a successful child?

Our children’s success comes from a variety of factors, including genetics, but parenting style does play a big part.

What’s the ‘best’ parenting style to raise a successful child?

Since kids don’t come with an instruction manual, we are all just forced to figure it out as we go along. So it’s likely that the way you parent is influenced by the way you were parented, and probably complicated by the way your partner (if you have one) chooses to parent.


There are several parenting styles that most experts agree on, and each one affects our children differently. While some reports favor specific parenting styles over others, Marsha Ferrick, Ph.D., BCC, licensed clinical psychologist says there really isn’t a best parenting style. “Success lies in the parent-child fit that looks at how the characteristics of the parents and the child are able to work together. It takes the blame out of the equation. It looks at what is successful for each child and how can we help the parent to develop the flexibility to meet the needs of that child.” Flexibility, she says, is key.

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Our children’s success comes from a variety of factors, including genetics, but parenting style does play a big part. Here is a breakdown of parenting styles and how each one may affect your child’s success.

Authoritarian

Authoritarian parents set very strict rules and inflict punishment when those rules are broken. Rather than explain the logic behind expectations, they frequently say things like “because I told you so.” They express love only when the child meets their expectations and are usually not nurturing or loving otherwise.

Children of authoritarian parents can be more well-behaved and obedient in school settings, but not always. “The benefits of an authoritarian style is that there are clear limits, boundaries, and expectations. The downside is lack of validation and appreciation for the child,” says Ferrick. “Children that are outgoing might feel boxed in by this style. Less confident children might appreciate the boundaries but really need the validation and appreciation to develop confidence.”

Because children of authoritarian parents are used to being told what to do and how to do it, they often lack independence and confidence. “These parents are very strict and controlling and are not responsive to their children's emotional needs. This parenting style is associated with more behavior problems, anxiety, depression, bullying (as perpetrator or victim), and alcohol abuse/use,” says Dr. Crystal I. Lee, psychologist, and owner of LA Concierge Psychologist.

Authoritative

Authoritative parents also set clear rules and boundaries, but unlike authoritarian parents, they explain the logic and reasoning behind rules and are willing to listen to the children’s feedback, questions and objections to the rules. Authoritative parents often include their children in creating rules, and try to focus on positive reinforcement when expectations are met.

Children of authoritative parents are more independent. Because they’ve been raised to help set their own rules and expectations, they self-regulate more effectively and are often independent thinkers and self-confident.

“Authoritative parenting is high on warmth and demandingness. So, though they [authoritative parents] may have high standards for their children and expect certain behavior, they are also warm, nurturing and empathetic,” says Lee.

Permissive

Permissive parents don’t really set rules for their children. They are loving and nurturing, but they provide no boundaries. Because they are lenient, children have no clear set of expectations to meet, and rarely experience consequences for poor behavior. These parents often consider themselves to be more like friends to their children than parents.

Permissive parenting creates children who are very independent, but who lack discipline. Rules and boundaries mean less to them and therefore they have a hard time following them. They are often demanding and used to getting what they want.

“In 2013, a large meta-analysis (meaning the researcher combined data from numerous studies to find overall trends across studies) found that permissive parents had children who struggled more with regulating their emotions. This further backs up other research studies that have come to the same conclusion,” says Lee.

Uninvolved

Uninvolved parents are detached from their children. Usually, this is a result of high stress, financial burdens, overworking for any reason, etc. They not only fail to set and enforce rules, but they are generally unresponsive in any way to their children. Children are essentially just raising themselves in this situation.

Most experts agree that uninvolved parenting is harmful to children. Also known as neglectful parenting, its effects can be very detrimental to children and hurt their chances for success.

Overprotective

We’ve all heard the term helicopter mom, and it is true—some of us are more protective than others. Whether you’re in a big city, or even a small town, gone are the days when we can just let our kids play outside with other children, although it is true that some cities are safer than others to raise a family.

When Amber alerts are ringing on our cell phones every year, it is easy to justify being overly cautious with our children. But safety is one thing, and allowing them to act independently in a safe environment is another.

Helicopter parenting is often associated with anxiety in children. When parents don’t trust the world, they teach their children that the world is dangerous. In the same way, when parents don’t trust their children to do something, they are teaching their children that they can’t do something themselves. Sometimes helicopter parenting is necessary for a child’s safety, but giving the child freedom and independence is essential for their development too.

Science says...

A study was released in 2016 that reported a direct connection between firm parenting styles and success when it came to measuring college performance. The study measured the parenting styles of 1600 students’ parents and compared it to the students’ academic success.

Los Angeles based psychologist, Dr. Kerby Alvy, author of Parenting Errors says the study should be read carefully. It looks like it favors the authoritarian style at first, but upon further reading, it is actually the authoritative style which creates more successful children.

The study says “mutual understanding and close relationship between parents and children are recommended” for career success. Because authoritative parents are both firm and loving and create a home with mutual respect, it stands to reason why students of these children are more successful.

Kids don’t come as a one-size-fits-all, and neither do parents. Most likely you find yourself a blend of some of these parenting styles, depending on the situation and child. And if you find that your parenting style doesn’t seem to be working for your child, it is never too late to change. Flexibility is the key to any good parenting strategy.

Now, go raise some successful, happy kids.

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