Four Types of Parenting Style – What’s Yours?

We look a the four widely recognised styles of parenting and what they entail.

A ‘parenting style’ is the combination of strategies you use to raise your children – while there are many differences between us all, there are also many commonalities. These were broken down by Diane Baumrind in the 1960s when she created the four Baumrind parenting styles with distinct names and characteristics:

  • Authoritarian or Disciplinarian
  • Permissive or Indulgent
  • Uninvolved
  • Authoritative

    Each parenting style varies in at least four areas: discipline style, communication, nurturance, and expectations.

    Authoritarian Parenting

  • Authoritarian parents are often thought of as disciplinarians.
  • They use a strict discipline style with little negotiation possible. Punishment is common.
  • Communication is mostly one way: from parent to child. Rules usually are not explained.
  • Parents with this style are typically less nurturing.
  • Expectations are high with limited flexibility.

    Permissive Parenting

  • Permissive or Indulgent parents mostly let their children do what they want and offer limited guidance or direction. They are more like friends than parents.
  • Their discipline style is the opposite of strict. They have limited or no rules and mostly let children figure problems out on their own.
  • Communication is open but these parents let children decide for themselves rather than giving direction.
  • Parents in this category tend to be warm and nurturing.
  • Expectations are typically minimal or not set by these parents.

    Uninvolved Parenting

  • Uninvolved parents give children a lot of freedom and generally stay out of their way. Some parents may make a conscious decision to parent in this way, while others are less interested in parenting or unsure of what to do.
  • No particular discipline style is utilized. An uninvolved parent lets a child mostly do what he wants, probably out of a lack of information or caring.
  • Communication is limited.
  • This group of parents offers little nurturing.
  • There are few or no expectations of children.

    Authoritative Parenting

  • Authoritative parents are reasonable and nurturing, and set high, clear expectations. Children with parents who demonstrate this style tend to be self-disciplined and think for themselves. This style is thought to be most beneficial to children.
  • Disciplinary rules are clear and the reasons behind them are explained.
  • Communication is frequent and appropriate to the child’s level of understanding.
  • Authoritative parents are nurturing.
  • Expectations and goals are high but stated clearly. Children may have input into goals.

Discovering your style?

When it comes to parenting styles, we all know that one size doesn’t fit all and few of us fit neatly into one of these distinct parenting styles, but rather use a combination. In addition, new ‘parenting styles’ are constantly arising, such as helicopter parenting” and “Free range parenting” but these are mainly blends and adaptations of elements within the four key styles.

Instead of pigeon-holing yourself, it may be more helpful to think of the four styles as a continuum instead of four distinct ways to parent and to change styles as and when your children need a particular style of support or release.

And, of course, it’s important to remember there are more influences on who children become than just parenting style - ranging from their own temperament to teachers, schooling and their own peer groups.

But reflecting on where you fit on the spectrum of parenting styles and what type of parenting you would like to aim for can be helpful, as well as accepting that there will be days when you achieve those goals and days where simply getting through the day is the goal!