Mental Monday: What Kind Of Parent Are You?

Authoritative Parent, Permissive Parent, Authoritarian Parent, Uninvolved Parent, Over-Parent/Helicopter Parent, Attachment Parent, etc…

If you’re a parent, chances are good that you’ve heard about some or all of these parenting approaches. Parents may find themselves questioning which one works best or which one identifies how they parent.¬† It can be easy for some parents to try and pigeonhole themselves into one of these categories or even attempt to extricate themselves from a certain style. As most parents know, the way you parent significantly influences the development and pathology of a child. Even a child’s personality is influenced by parenting style. Although parenting style has little effect on the basic disposition of a child’s personality, it can easily impact or transform behavioral characteristics. And, all too often, those changes are not in a positive form.

So maybe we know all the different styles out there and perhaps we even identify with one or two of them. But what really matters most when it comes to how you parent? Forget labels. Forget trying to pigeonhole yourself into one category or another. What matters most are three very simple and basic parenting characteristics. Evidence from longitudinal research studies have shown that these three parenting factors produce the most well-adjusted adults and create the most harmonious parent-child relationship (L’Abate & Baggett, 1997):

  • Warmth Factor

Emotional warmth is consistently found in research studies to be the most important parenting style factor. This applies to both parents. Having emotional warmth towards your child includes praise, support, approval, encouragement, expressing terms of endearment, and physical affection. Warm, loving and affectionate parents are much more likely to raise well-adjusted¬† adults who are mentally healthy, are psychologically mature, and have adequate coping skills. However, emotional warmth comes with its own balancing act. It is easy for parents to over-praise and/or not punish inappropriate or negative behavior. While it’s important to validate good behavior or accomplishments, it’s equally important to follow through with rules and (non-abusive) discipline.

  • Control Factor

Parents who have a high control frequency raise their children with many rules and will often intervene in their children’s activities. On the flip side, parents with low control frequency are too permissive and, to the extreme, negligent. Parents with a balanced sense of control will intervene when their child needs help, guidance, and support and step back when their interference is not only not warranted but also counterproductive. These parents will also maintain reasonable and age-appropriate rules, boundaries, and disciplinary actions.

  • Consistency Factor

Consistency is crucial when it comes to parenting and this goes for all communication exchanged between parents and children. Consistently displaying love and warmth and consistently maintaining control and following through with discipline are all imperative to the child-parent dynamic.

Some of this information may seem like common sense to you, but it’s not always easy to apply these three essential factors into everyday parenting practices. To be able to balance a healthy dose of warmth, control, and consistency doesn’t always come naturally and we will all fail at this balancing act at some point.

Many variables influence our own parenting style, such as the way we were parented and our sociocultural¬† and socioeconomic influences. It’s not surprising that those of us with warm and affectionate parents are more likely to become warm and affectionate parents. And, of course, the opposite is true as well. That doesn’t mean that those who did not have warm and affectionate parents are not capable of growing up to become warm and affectionate parents. It just means that applying these parenting factors may prove to be more challenging.

None of us are perfect parents and we will come up short at times. Just remember that although it’s important to recognize and own up to our parenting errors, it’s equally important to recognize that it’s not the minor parenting errors that have the greatest impact on our children. It’s the overall dynamic between parent and child, one that is filled with love, kindness, respect, support, rules, boundaries, and affection. There is little doubt that a childhood and adolescence filled with those essential components will likely transition into a well-adjusted adulthood.

Questions? Comments? Please share.