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Parenting styles

4-minute read

The way you parent your children can have a major and enduring impact on the type of adult they become. Parents work in different ways. Most parents use a mix of parenting styles, but most tend to lean towards one style than another. Each style of parenting may lead to different outcomes for children.

Factors influencing parenting styles

There are many influences on the way you interact with your child, including: how you were raised; how you see other parents act; your situation and how much support you have; how you and your child interact; and your culture and values.

Types of parenting styles

Child development experts have identified four main styles of parenting:

  • authoritarian
  • authoritative (or supportive)
  • permissive
  • uninvolved

Limitations and benefits of parenting styles

Authoritarian parents tend to lay down strict rules with little input from the child.

Their children may be obedient and successful at school, but they may develop low self-esteem and poor social skills.

Authoritative (or supportive) parents have firm expectations, but they also listen to their child and are more nurturing and forgiving. They want their children to be assertive, happy and socially responsible — and they usually are.

Permissive parents struggle to say ‘no’ and set boundaries. They are more likely treat a child as an equal. Their children often have good self-esteem and social skills, but are more likely to have poor self-regulation and may have problems with authority as adolescents and adults.

Uninvolved parents are disengaged and emotionally detached from their child’s life. This form of parenting has an overall negative impact on a child’s life, with poor outcomes in emotional wellbeing, social skills and academic achievement.

What parenting style is right for you and your child?

Your parenting style can affect your child’s self-esteem and confidence. The key to effective parenting is to develop respectful relationships with your children, so that problems can be resolved in a calm, fair and kindly way. Ultimately, as a parent, you must act with loving responsibility, explaining to a child: ‘You get a say and I’ll listen, but sometimes, I’ll need to take charge’.

The authoritative (or supportive style) of parenting allows you to act in this way. Supportive parenting works best for children. Parents are warm and loving and provide clear guidance and support.

Secure relationships

The authoritative (or supportive style) style of parenting also helps children to develop secure relationships, which they need to establish with the important people in their lives. They need a balance between being allowed to explore their world and take manageable risks, and the structure provided by adults who set limits and take charge when the need arises.

It’s your role as a parent to set limits — ‘It’s ok to play with the water in the bath, but it’s not ok to splash it all over the floor’ — and, to set rules for safety — ‘If you won’t hold my hand, you can’t come with me to the shops’.

When a child feels secure, they develop self-confidence and self-regulation. A child is more able to behave positively if they know that a reliable adult will give them directions and help them to manage big feelings and events.

How to be a supportive parent

Here are some practical tips to use the authoritative or supportive style of parenting:

Build your connection with your children: Spend individual time with them and try to see things from their point of view. Be interested in things that interest them. Know what’s happening for them, go to their activities or sports and get to know their friends.

Show your love: Tell them you love them and give hugs and cuddles.

Talk and listen: Children will benefit from your full attention.

Inspire achievement: Encourage children to have a go at different things that interest them and practice their skills.

Guide and support: Let children know what is OK and what is not OK.

Be a positive role model: Behave in ways you expect your children to behave and treat people the way you want your children to treat others. Live the values you want them to have.

For more information on how to be a supportive parent, see this guide from the SA Government.

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Last reviewed: March 2019


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The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

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