Parenting style: how does it influence the development and behavior of children?

By: Psychologist Ileana Torres Ruiz* / Guardianes

Being a mom or dad is not easy. Bringing up girls and boys, taking responsibility for them, even for a few hours, can be one of the most fun and tender experiences and challenging for an adult, whether you are a mother, father, caregiver, or teacher.

In general, we don’t ask ourselves how to deal with our kids; we simply resort to the strategies that other adults applied to us to get us to brush our teeth, stop jumping on benches, wake up on time, and eat broccoli, or do math homework.

Without a doubt, everyone has his particular style to solve the challenges that the education of our children presents us with; however, when we ask ourselves, what the best way to educate them will be, this is when the topic becomes interesting.

When we ask ourselves, “How does the way I teach him what he finds most difficult to understand in class influence his self-esteem? Will it be positive or negative for his development to allow him to do everything he wants? Focusing on my cell phone when we are at home will affect our communication?”

Regardless of the role we play for children, each of us frequently resorts to certain parenting styles; this generates a family climate and affects their emotional, intellectual, and social development.

Parenting styles are defined as adults’ general attitudes or beliefs about a proper upbringing for girls and boys.

We learn these parenting styles in our families of origin, so we commonly repeat with boys and girls what we experienced as children or, just from reflecting on our childhood and the experiences that we consider painful, we choose to apply different styles of upbringing, to avoid going through the same situations as us.

Developmental psychologists have been interested in studying these processes; Diana Baumrind (1991) is one of the first to catalog these styles, which she called: Authoritarian, Permissive and Assertive Styles. Later other authors included the Indifferent style and used it as a synonym for Assertive, Cooperative, or Democratic style.

Authoritarian parenting style

In general, in this style of upbringing, adults value the obedience of girls and boys; demanding treatment and rigid rules predominate. Mothers, fathers, and teachers tend to seek control; they focus on negative behaviors and failures and not on their daughters and sons’ positive behaviors and achievements.

When parenting practices with this style predominate, girls and boys grow up insecure and anxious, doubt their ability and their self-esteem is not so positive because they get used to focusing on their failures.

Permissive style

This style is characterized by limited, confusing, changing, and ambiguous rules. In the classroom or at home, girls and boys do what they please and are in control, adults do not have clear ideas of what they expect from these girls and boys, avoiding confronting their conflictive behaviors, but they enjoy rewarding and pampering them.

On the contrary, parenting practices with this style are highlighted. It is commonly found that children do not know how to regulate their impulses their emotions, and it is difficult for them to complete tasks or activities.

Indifferent parenting style

Here we find that a cold, distant attitude prevails with the boys and girls, communication is scarce, adults forget the needs of the little ones, and among their priorities, the upbringing of girls and boys is left out, so they try to solve their needs on their own with the resources they have. Still, they are often unable because they require support and guidance.

When an indifferent parenting style prevails, the development of girls and boys is stuck or hindered in general; they need adults who are there to guide them, the indifference on the part of adults who are significant to children favors a poor self-concept and low self-esteem; to feel and know that they are loved, valued, every girl and boy needs attention, listening and company.

Democratic or cooperative style

The axis that guides this parenting style is the will to educate girls and boys to become autonomous, combining affectionate treatment, good communication, and clear, well-defined rules and limits. Adults attend to the needs of girls and boys. Still, they teach them to fend for themselves, think about the consequences of their actions, accompany and support them in their development challenges, and offer them options considering their abilities and needs.

Undoubtedly, this style promotes the integral development of girls and boys, who know rules and order, feel loved and supported to grow with independence and positive self-esteem.

In everyday life, no adult uses a pure parenting style, that is, only cooperative, authoritarian, permissive, or indifferent, and much less educates all girls and boys with the same style.

This is because all parenting styles provide valuable tools. Can you imagine parents whose children are about to become independent from home? They will undoubtedly resort to an indifferent parenting style, or a teacher in charge of a group that needs firm rules will surely resort to a different parenting style, authoritarian.

Thus, the important thing is to begin identifying the positive tools that each style entails, taking the best of each one, and thinking about favoring the autonomy, development, and happiness of girls and boys.

Sometimes being authoritarian is necessary when they are in danger of accident or illness; at other times, acting with a permissive style is valid when enjoying a celebration, being exhausted, or very sick. A small dose of nonchalance when he has a tantrum or needs to learn to figure something out on his own will make him more independent. Each situation calls for a different reaction. Faced with this adventure of accompanying girls and boys in their development, it is worth taking a short break, giving ourselves a relaxing break, and asking ourselves,

“What parenting style do I use the most with girls, boys, and under what circumstances? How can I transmit my affection to them and promote their growth with the style I have used so far? In each style, what would I like to apply from now on?”

Guide us by expressing affection and support, responding to their needs, and exercising their regulation and discipline through limits and expectations to promote the growth of our girls and boys.

Ileana Torres Ruiz is a teacher in Child Psychotherapy and a university professor. Lecturer on issues of prevention of mistreatment and child sexual abuse in Guardianes.

Guardianes is an Affectivity and Sexuality AC program dedicated to seeking the best interests of children and adolescents, aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda. Our organization has, since 2017, with the Special Consultative Status granted by the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. Throughout its 19-year history, it has collaborated with civil society organizations to defend the rights of children and adolescents, focusing its efforts on the prevention of mistreatment and child sexual abuse.

Translated by: Ligia M. Oliver Manrique de Lara

Spanish version: Here

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