I recently completed a Uni unit on human development. I was impressed to find that there is evidence that the ‘old school’ authoritarian way of parenting does not work.
If only they knew this 20 years ago when I studied behaviour teaching. I would have liked some evidence to present to a couple of ‘old school’ teachers who told me, “I don’t want you in my class telling me how to manage kids. I have been doing it this way my entire teaching career. I am not interested in your ‘soft’ approach, it doesn’t work.”
My soft approach wasn’t actually soft, it was what I like to call, ‘new school’. This new school or authoritative style has since been proven to work!
Authoritative (new school) and authoritarian (old school) sound very similar but are nothing alike.
Let’s look at the definitions in relation to parenting styles.
There are actually four different ways to parent according to psychologists. Here are the definitions and effects on children taken straight from my lecture slides.
“Authoritarian parents set many rules and enforce demands punitively, if necessary, without discussion. Rules are often arbitrary. Results in children having lower self esteem and weakly internalised moral values.
Authoritative parents set firm but sensible rules and monitor these via open parent-child communication. Produces best results for children, including social competence, social responsibility, moral values and self-esteem.
Permissive/indulgent parents are warm and loving but lax in their rules and monitoring, rarely restricting their children’s freedom. Tends to produce impulsive children who are less popular with their peers.
Indifferent/uninvolved parents are inconsistent disciplinarians and are insensitive to their children’s needs, harsh at times, lax at others. Worst results for children, including immature dependency, antisocial behaviour and acting out.”
If you want to find out more about what type of parent you are here is an online quiz.
So, new school is best but what happens when children are managed one way by one parent and another way by the other parent?
A study in 2008 of 151 males and 324 female college students aged 18 – 22 in Orlando, US, found that mums are generally more new school and fathers more old school (my words not theirs). It also found that having two new school parents helped young adults to manage their thoughts, feelings and behaviours in stressful situations (they call this ‘high emotional adjustment’). Two old school parents or two permissive parents (free school) or one of each of these resulted in young adults with low emotional adjustment. (They didn’t have any indifferent parents volunteer to take part in the study – makes sense if you think about it!)
Interestingly, young adults with an old school father and a new school mother had moderate levels of emotional adjustment.
Let’s look at an Australian study from 2014 of 14 girls and 16 boys aged between 5 – 12. The study looked at the effect of new school and old school parenting from the mother. It found that children with an old school mother were not as considerate and empathetic as children raised by a new school mother. (They didn’t consider the father’s style at all.)
Seems like mum’s parenting style may be the make or break for children. Or more accurately, it would be the parent who is more involved in the day to day raising of the child.
Where am I going with this?
If you are a new school mother or father (which I’d be willing to bet you are*) then you have the BEST parenting style for your child or children. If you have a partner who has a different parenting style, your influence (assuming you are the dominant parent) may be enough to ensure your child or children grow into young adults with high self-esteem, high emotional adjustment and high consideration for others.
You could also talk to your partner about these parenting styles and let them know about the research. It’s all over the web, just google ‘What’s the best parenting style?’ Of course if they are old school they possibly won’t listen, so just keep doing your thing, it is making a difference!
* I have to admit that I have some permissive qualities in my parenting (especially when it comes to letting children learn their own physical boundaries like whether to wear shoes, or slide down a railing, or climb higher up a tree), at the same time however I make sure kids are respectful and responsible – which I’m sure you do too!