Q My sister and I were raised by an authoritarian father and a mother who supported our dad. In raising our kids, my husband and I tend to be authoritarian like my father. My sister hated Dad’s style of parenting, so she is permissive with her children. We tend to tell the kids “Do it because I said so.” My sister says, “What would you like to do?” Maybe neither of us is using the best parenting style. What are the major parenting styles and the advantages and disadvantages of each style?

A The four major styles of parenting are: authoritarian and permissive (which you mentioned) as well as two more: authoritative and neglectful. As a parent, you don’t have to consistently stick to one of these four styles. You can change your style depending on the situation. Let’s look at these styles.

Neglectful Style of Parenting – In this style, parents are not warm and loving. They have few, if any, limits and boundaries. Children raised in this parenting style tend to have problems in school and in relationships. They tend to have depression, experience anxiety, make poor choices, may end up using alcohol and drugs or outside the law. Kids raised by neglectful parents tend to have low self-esteem. These children basically raise themselves. If they find a good person to guide them, it’s possible they can succeed in life.

Permissive Style of Parenting – Unlike the neglectful style where parents are not warm and loving, in the permissive style parents are super warm and loving. They are short on limits and boundaries. They let their children get away with just about everything. Parents focus on being a child’s friend instead of the parent. Children raised in this style of parenting have a tendency to behave in entitled ways. These children may resist limits as they are not used to them. Advantages include a close parent and child relationship. Kids may also be more willing to try new things and be more independent.

Authoritarian Style of Parenting -Like the neglectful parent, these parents are usually lacking in some warmth. These parents expect children to not question their commands and will punish them if they do. Advantages of this style include instilling a sense of respect for authority, a strong work ethic, a sense of duty and discipline. Disadvantages of this style include not preparing kids with relationship skills or skills to deal with the unexpected.

Authoritative Style of Parenting – The parents warmly set limits while conveying to the kids they are the parents and are in charge. This parent solves problems collaboratively with their child and keeps an open communication style. There are natural consequences for behavior. Kids raised in this style tend to build strong emotional and social skills and to become responsible members of society. Authoritative parents tend to raise kids who are socially adept, independent, self-reliant, happy, successful and capable. If you want to move closer to an authoritative style, it is suggested that you need to listen to your child/children, establish rules and share why the rules exist. Try to enforce rules consistently by providing consequences that are fair.

Betty Richardson, PhD, RN, CS, LPC, LMFT, is an Austin-based psychotherapist.

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