Barbara Johnson said, “to be in your children’s memories tomorrow, you have to be present in their lives today.” This is a tall order, especially given the environment we find ourselves in today. Families have been forced to balance remote learning with remote working, and many favorite family activities have been shut down.
Given the heightened stressors of this particular parenting season, KS Services would like to offer a few blog posts focused specifically on parenting. Although each family has its own set of norms, many of the fundamental truths of parenting are applicable to many families because they align with childhood development as opposed to specific parenting styles.
A helpful starting point is understanding the various types of parenting styles and the impact these styles can have on development. Research on parenting has shown that there are four different parenting styles: authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, and uninvolved. Remember these are guideposts, and we often find that parents can waiver between more than one parenting style or transition depending on particular circumstances in the home.
Authoritative parents create rules and implement consequences but take their child’s opinion into account. Children are validated but are taught to understand that the ultimate decision is up to the parent. Authoritative parenting is proactive.
Authoritarian parents create and enforce rigid rules. There is little conversation between the child and the parent regarding the rules, and the focus is on obedience.
Permissive parents are typically forgiving and tend to appear more like the child’s friend. Permissive parents are interested in open communication and will encourage their children to have dialogue about their problems and concerns. However, permissive parents do not offer much advice regarding consequences but serve more as a sounding board.
Uninvolved parents are typically unaware of what their children are doing. They do not get involved with daily activities and do not set many boundaries. Ultimately the child does not receive much guidance or emotional nurturing.
Studies continually show that authoritative parenting is the most beneficial parenting style with the best outcomes specifically for teens (Longmore et al., 2012). Again, it is typical to find that parents vacillate between styles depending on the particular context, but it is useful to evaluate and adjust as needed.
Here are a few tips and practices that can help anchor your parenting style in authoritative tendencies.
Be present with your child. When your child is sharing with you (be it a joke, a story, a dream), be present. This means giving your child consistent eye contact, appropriate non-verbal cues (nodding your head), and putting aside distractions (phones, tablets, computers). This can be especially hard in the age of remote learning and working, so boundaries are helpful. Set up times for working and time for family and guard those times. This helps your child know when you are at work, and when they can have your presence and attention. Adhere to the boundaries you put in place in order to create consistency.
Validate and consider your children’s feelings. Authoritative parents understand that little people still have big feelings. It is important in those times of “being attentive” that you listen to and validate the feelings your child expresses. It is helpful to let them know that you care about and are invested in supporting their wellbeing. In these situations, you are asking how the child feels about something but also explaining that the ultimate decision is made by the parent (as they are not developmentally ready to make all decisions independently). Validate the child’s experience with the decisions being made, listen attentively, and when the child is ready - be ready to provide coping skills and resources to help navigate those big feelings.
Set clear boundaries and expectations. Children need to understand what is expected of them. Set clear guidelines. Authoritative parents may consider working on these guidelines as a family, but ultimately, the parents make the final decision (and can offer to explain the reasons behind those final decisions).
Provide space for decision making. When possible, authoritative parents let their children make decisions. This opportunity grows their confidence when it comes to decision making as a teen and young adult. For younger children, this may mean placing out two outfits and letting the child choose or for older children, discussing various recreational sports and allowing the child to choose the one that interests them the most. In these situations, choices are given with acceptable boundaries.
Commit to spending quality time with your child. Authoritative parents understand the importance of nurturing their children with affection. Give yourself permission to evaluate the differences between quality and quantity of time spent together. Intentionally set aside time to be present with your child and build that into your day. Spending quality time in small increments can be much more productive than large quantities of time that are spent multitasking.
Remember these are just a few tips that help us gauge our own parenting style, and begin to reflect on various ways to increase our effectiveness in the home. Parenting has many gray areas and part of growing as a parent is avoiding all or nothing thinking.
If you would like to have more information on these tips or touch base with a clinician regarding parenting - please reach out to KS Services.
Longmore MA, Manning WD, Giordano PC. Parent-child relationships in adolescence. In: Fine MA, Fincham, FD, eds. Handbook of Family Theories: A Content-Based Approach. Routledge, 2012.
Laura Waller, MS