Saturday, May 28, 2011

Parenting Styles: Comparing and Contrast

            Parenting styles can be categorized into four types, authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, and rejecting-neglecting. Each of these styles has it’s positive and negatives, but the style that has been shown to be most productive for raising healthy, well-attached children is the authoritative. The style least likely to produce well-adjusted and emotionally healthy children is the rejecting-neglecting.
            A home that is representative of the authoritative model would be one where there are regular rules, set chores for the children to do each day, appropriate guidelines that are easily understood and age-appropriate for every child, and regular bedtimes. Meals would be together as a family, and homework would be done at set times. Exceptions would be made for special events, such as a sports activity or special program on TV. An example of this would be if 9 year-old Kathy came home from school with a special request to spend the evening with her friend Anne. It is a school night, but it is also Anne’s birthday, and Anne’s family is going out to dinner at a restaurant to celebrate. Although this change in Kathy’s schedule might delay bedtime and make getting homework or chores done difficult, it is a special occasion, and it is permissible to make exceptions for these types of events.
            At the opposite end of the spectrum, the rejecting-neglecting parenting style is the worst in which to raise a child. It minimizes both the structure as well as the love, leaving the children to fend for themselves and unsure of whether they are ever accepted by their parents or others. In this type of home, there are no rules, no regular expectations of the children, and no supervision by the parents. Without regular bedtimes and parental attention, children feel lost and unloved. Often, we see that these children are the ones who resort to joining gangs and other groups, to fill their need to ‘belong’.
            One such scenario would be Anthony, who comes home to an empty apartment, because his mother is at work until eleven at night, and his sisters are expected to make sure he eats dinner. Anthony is only eight and his sisters are fourteen and sixteen, but as soon as they fix him a sandwich, he is left to watch television alone, do his homework if he feels like it, and then go to bed whenever he pleases. He is not allowed to go outside, because the city streets are dangerous. Sometimes he waits up for his mother, but she is angry if he waits up, so he doesn’t do that often.  His sisters don’t play with him, they come and go and make sure he stays inside. He can’t wait until he is older, and is big enough to go out and play with the other children on the stoop and go down on the corner.
            Children like Anthony who have no parental figures and get little or no care from adults in their lives are at high risk for antisocial behavior and emotional problems. While there are certainly resilient children who overcome the odds and become exceptional adults, it is certainly better to be safe than sorry and give every child the best foundation for proper emotional health and growth and teach parents how to nurture and give their children the best environment to grow and learn. 
          The most important job you will have as a parent is to raise your child in a healthy manner, giving them the best start in life possible. Take an honest look at you parenting style and see what type of style you are practicing with your offspring, and if it is not healthy and nurturing, figure out what you can do to make things better and change. Look back at your own upbringing and see what type of parenting style your home had, and if your childhood did not give you a healthy start in life and give you the social skills and love and security to grow as you needed to through your teens and into adulthood, you may be able to better understand issues that come into play now and see where your problems today originate. 
Good luck to all of you, and may each of you be the best parents and people you possibly can be!
Dr. Beth

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