Each parent tends to have their own natural parenting style, which often is a direct result of how they themselves were parented. And even if you’re the type of parent who said, “I’m never going to parent my child the way I was raised,” you were still influenced by your upbringing and may have simply swung to the other extreme – from too strict perhaps to too permissive. The point is that all of us find our own style and often continue with that style believing that it’s the best, unless you learn otherwise.
However, it is important to learn various parenting styles in order to assess which one may best meet the needs of your teen. This article will present main types of parenting styles as well as more recent philosophies of parenting that are becoming more and more commonplace.
Traditional Types of Parenting
If you’re new to the idea of a parenting style, you might not know that there are three main ways that people tend to parent. In the early 1960’s, researcher Diana Baumrind’s studied the main styles of parenting found in modern America. She and her research team followed over 100 middle class children of preschool age and utilized observation and interviews to gather information. She categorized the parenting styles she witnessed into three categories:
Authoritarian – This style of parenting is firm and has a “Do as I say, not as I do” approach with children and teens. Parents are typically conservative and hang on tightly to the idea that they need to remain in control. There are often strict rules children and teens must follow without any room for a teen’s voice to be heard or acknowledged. Authoritarian parents may use threat or punishment to get their teen to do as they say. Parents may be rigid, critical, patronizing, and/or judgmental.
Permissive – This parent is on the opposite extreme of authoritarian parents. They tend to be overly liberal, lacking any limits, consistency, or predictability. Permissive parents want to avoid confrontation and provide little to no authority over a teen, contributing to a teen’s insecurity. In some cases, teens may become domineering with their parents as a result, likely in search for limits, which they need to feel secure and safe.
Authoritative – This style of parenting is somewhere in the middle. These parents know the importance of limits and boundaries but are not as restrictive as authoritarian parents. They give their teen a voice, invite a teen’s contribution to solving a problem, and involve a teen in decision making. Although they also have firm expectations and rules, they also provide their teen with the support they need to achieve and be successful. Of the three styles of parenting developed by Diana Baumrind, this is considered to be the most healthy.
It’s important to keep in mind that most parents don’t fall neatly within one of these three categories. Instead, they will have a mix of each of these, which come out at different times and in different situations. However, some parents may be able to identify which style of parenting they lean towards much of the time.
Newer Styles of Parenting
In the last decade or so, researchers have identified other styles of parenting that take into account the importance of a parent’s relationship. In fact, John Townsend, author of the book, Boundaries with Teens, wrote that having a connection to your teen is the most important. Obviously, parenting styles differ from being heavily involved to being entirely hands off and everything in between. However, some level of connection to your teen is important. Here are some additional parenting styles that are newer to the parenting scene:
Positive Parenting – This style of parenting is based upon the new field of psychology known as positive psychology. Essentially, this style of parenting focuses on empowering teens. It is about providing unconditional support so that they feel good about themselves, fulfilled, supported, and competent. Parents don’t focus on imposing strict rules, but instead guide and coach teens to do their best.
Attachment Parenting – This style of parenting makes the relationship with your teen central to the way you relate to your adolescent. It is based upon the theory of attachment, which states that the type of attachment relationship a child has with their caregiver will have a significant impact on that child’s psychological well being as they progress into adolescence and adulthood. When parenting teens, attachment parenting focuses on strengthening the relationship between parent and adolescent so that the teen feels secure, loved, and accepted.
Unconditional Parenting – This type parenting moves away from the old idea that parents only show love to their children and teens when they are behaving well. Instead, this style teaches parents that they must love their children unconditionally. Parents are taught not to withhold their affection under any circumstances. This in turn helps a teen feel loved regardless of behavior and sends the message that teens don’t have to behave in any particular way in order to be loved and accepted.
Spiritual Parenting – This style of parenting has a focus on raising a teen’s awareness and supporting them in appreciating all there is in life. There is a focus on connection between parent and teen, as well as connection with life itself.
Slow Parenting – This is a reaction to the hurried lifestyle that most American families tend to have. This style of parenting makes room for spending time together as a family, giving teens the space to follow their own interests, allowing for more time in nature and less time on the Iphone or tablet.
Unlike the list provided above, all of these parenting styles are positive and can be combined to support a teen’s psychological, emotional, and physical well being.
More about Parenting Teens
During adolescence, teens are pulling away from parents and attempting to find a sense of self. However, typically, this doesn’t mean that parents should pull away too. In fact, most teens can feel when parents are no longer providing a structure or foundation for their life. It’s essential that parents are involved with their teen’s life and have a pulse on what’s going on in their lives. For instance, knowing what your teen is doing, having an understanding of your teen’s overall well being, and having a sense of their day-to-day functioning is important. Doing this doesn’t necessarily mean being overly involved but having no idea what is going on in their life can lead to problems.
Lisa Boesky, a child and adolescent psychologist from San Diego and author of the book, When to Worry, says of parents: “Either they’re too strict, which brings about more rebellion, or they’re too hands-off, and the child gets into trouble because of lack of supervision.” She continues to say that ideally parents need to find the balance between the two in order to monitor and supervise their child’s life without being overly involved.
This allows the freedom that an adolescent needs in order to grow and do precisely what they are meant to do at this stage of life – find their own sense of autonomy. At the same time, being involved just enough facilitates the ability to guide an adolescent with problem solving when faced with solutions to life’s challenges.
Three Toxic Parenting Styles
You may not identify with being a toxic parent. However, it helps to identify if perhaps you were raised by a toxic parent yourself. As mentioned above, the way that we were parented will influence the way we parent. Understanding your blind spots (unconscious parts) helps to relate to your teen in new ways. The following are three styles of unhealthy parenting:
Narcissistic Parenting – This form of parenting is when a parent uses their teen to feed their own narcissistic needs. They might long for connection with their teen to feel connected themselves. Or they might demand success of their teen because that success in turn is used to meet their narcissistic needs.
Helicopter Parenting – This style of parenting is when a parent tends to constantly hover over their child as a means of protection. However, it is taken to an extreme and a parent controls every aspect of a teen’s life that it undermines the teen’s empowerment, self esteem, and competence.
Toxic Parenting – This term refers to any style of parenting that brings harm and toxicity to a teen’s growth. This form of parenting might include neglect, abuse, or other forms domestic violence.
Know Your Style
Learning about parenting styles can help an individual grow past these unhealthy styles of parenting into one that supports the health and wellbeing of teens. Also, if you want to strengthen your relationship with your teen, improve your parenting style, or learn how to better meet the needs of your teen, consider working with a mental health provider. Certain therapists and psychologists specifically work with adolescents and can provide support with parenting teens in a healthy way.