Common Parenting Styles: What’s Yours?

Great co-parenting is built on communication and consistency. Keeping things like behavior expectations and discipline consistent from one house to the other makes it easier for kids to go back and forth. 

Conflict can arise when you and your co-parent have
different parenting styles. One parenting style isn’t better than the other, and sometimes parents will use a few different styles depending on their kids. If you can recognize both your own parenting style and your co-parent’s style, you’ll be able to work together more productively.

Common Parenting Styles

Here’s a look at a few of the most common parenting styles. Take a look and see which style matches up best with your approach to your kids. 

Authoritarian/Disciplinarian Parenting

This parenting style is just what it sounds like – strict enforcement of expectations using discipline to correct behaviors. Punishments by authoritarian parents tend to be harsher. Typically, these parents have high expectations but very little involvement actually guiding their children to reach these expectations. 

Authoritarian parenting looks like:

  • Very strict rules
  • Punishment over discipline
  • One-way communication from parents to kids

Permissive/Indulgent Parenting

On the other end of the spectrum is permissive or indulgent parenting. While this style of parenting tends to be very loving and involved, the lack of discipline can ultimately lead to problems with self-control. The lack of guidelines and rules can make it difficult to set clear expectations. Parents tend to act more as friends than caregivers. 

Permissive parenting looks like:

  • Low expectations for behavior
  • Discipline is rare
  • A “kids will be kids” attitude

Authoritative Parenting

Authoritative parenting falls somewhere between authoritarian and permissive parenting. Parents provide high expectations but are also very involved in helping their kids reach these goals. Authoritative parents tend to use positive discipline techniques like clearly communicating explanations and explaining both the rewards and consequences of certain behaviors. Children raised in this type of environment are typically socially and academically well adjusted.

Authoritative parenting looks like:

  • High demands with high involvement
  • Listening to kids and validating emotions 
  • Clear rules, warnings and progressive discipline

Identify Your Parenting Style

Wondering where you fall on the parenting spectrum? Take this quiz to see what type of parent you and your co-parent are. Answer the questions below:

1. Your child gets a less-than-stellar progress report at school. What is your response?

 a) Better luck next time!
 b) Let’s study this subject together.
 c) These grades are unacceptable so you’re losing privileges.

2. Your kids get into an argument. What do you do?

 a) Let them figure it out on their own.

 b) Step in and hear both sides of the story.
 c) Send them to their rooms.

3. You’re on a cross-country flight, and there’s a toddler next to you having a tantrum. Do you:

 a) Pop the earphones in and zen out.

 b) Offer up your last granola bar, and give mom the “I’ve been there” look.
 c) Ring the flight attendant and ask for a new seat.

4. Who is ultimately responsible for your child’s behavior?

 a) My kid is a free spirit, there’s no fencing her in. 

 b) It’s a joint effort between me and them.
 c) Kids are 100% responsible for their own actions.

5. It’s bedtime and your child is fighting it. How do you respond?

 a) Let them stay up till they’re tired, obviously, they’re not sleepy yet. 
 b) Explain that there’s a busy day tomorrow so it’s important to rest.
 c) Let them lay there till they fall asleep.

Now, tally up your answers and see what type of parent you are:

Mostly As: You’re a permissive parent. Your kids tend to call the shots and may regard you as a friend, not an authority figure. While building an open and trusting relationship with your child is important for their emotional development, letting them have too much control can lead to self-control issues. Work on setting firmer boundaries and enforcing them.

Mostly Bs: You’re an authoritative parent. You have a good balance between parenting and companionship. You’re likely to set clear expectations with your kids and choose positive discipline techniques. You’re building a positive relationship with your kids, keep it up.

Mostly Cs: You’re an authoritarian parent. You demand high performance from your kids and have high expectations. You may not provide your kids much guidance though on how to meet these expectations. You are raising kids who are very respectful of authority, but they may also be timid and fearful of being punished if they slip up. 

How to Resolve Differences in Parenting Styles

Divorced co-parents often have different parenting styles. In fact, you may notice more of a difference in parenting styles after the divorce, when you’re no longer in the same house than you did before. This is because one parent typically does more of the hands-on parenting in a relationship, so their style wins out.

Now that you and your ex are parenting in separate homes, it’s important to stay in sync on your overall approach to parenting. Focusing on authoritative parenting is a great compromise because it incorporates positive elements of both authoritarian parenting (high expectations) and permissive parenting (high involvement).

Focusing on what’s best for the kids can also help you resolve differences in parenting styles. Consider what type of expectations and discipline your children respond best to. It may vary by child based on their age, maturity, and personality. Identify what approach works best with each kid, and share your findings with your co-parenting. Encouraging them to parent “along with” you instead of parenting “like” you can help you both keep your focus on the kids. 

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