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Parenting Styles:
Relating to our child

January 12, 2012

Each of us has a certain way of relating to our child.  We call this a parenting style.  There are many different styles of parenting. The three most common are giving orders, giving in, and giving choices.  Few of us follow one style exclusively, although we tend towards one approach.  As you read this article, think about your own parenting style and whether it supports your child being happy, healthy, confident, cooperative and responsible. 

     Giving orders is an authoritarian parenting style in which the parents are strict and set a lot of rules.  The children in the family are expected to obey the rules exactly.  When they don’t, they are punished, and when they do, they are often rewarded. 

What do children learn from this style of parenting?  Children come to expect some form of payment for “being good.”  They may follow the rules simply to avoid conflict or punishment, learning only to be afraid of their parents or to please them.  As a result, the authoritarian style does not teach a child to think for his or her self. 

When children are punished for being bad, they can come to resent their parents, as well as find ways to get even with them.  Some children rebel against their parents, either at an early age, or as they get older. The authoritarian style doesn’t build trust, nor does it offer freedom or choices.  It also doesn’t teach children to use words to solve problems, as strict parents often yell at, blame or hit their children.

Giving in is also called permissive parenting.  Permissive parents set no limits or change those they do set.  This leaves the child growing up without consistent guidelines.  Because the parents give in to whatever the child may want, we often call their children spoiled. 

Children who are raised without consistent limits often cause problems for everyone.  They will have trouble behaving well in society because they will feel free to do as they please.  They may not learn to care about the feelings and rights of others.

Children need limits.  Limits allow them the opportunity to learn to make choices.  They also need to learn that other people are important, too.  If you don’t set limits, your child will not become a responsible adult.

Giving choices is a democratic style of parenting which will help you raise a responsible child.  It is not permissive.  Rather, it balances freedom, or rights, with limits, or responsibilities.  It helps a child become responsible by giving them choices within limits you have set for them. 

Democratic parents encourage their children to make some decisions alone.  In addition, they ask for their child’s opinion on family matters.  This shows the child their opinions are respected, and their choices count.  Does this mean that every decision is up to your child?  Not at all; it means you actually involve your child in decision making whenever possible.

We want our children to be cooperative and responsible.  A democratic style of parenting can help us do that.  If you find you lean towards being either authoritarian or permissive, ask yourself what you can change in order to meet the challenge of giving your child choices and treating them within a democratic framework.  You can also ask yourself what you think are reasonable limits and freedoms for your child.  You have many choices about how you want to raise your child.  Deciding which parenting style you want to use is one of them. 


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