Did you ever hear the phrase, “You’re raising your child’s Grandmother?” It’s based on the premise that parenting styles are derived from one’s own childhood experiences, and as a result, parenting behavior tends to be cyclical.
For instance, if you believed your mother was too strict and didn’t allow you enough freedom or stifled your creativity, you may be much more lenient with your own children, even overcompensating for your strict upbringing by not enforcing your own household rules. In turn, your children may critique your parenting style, believing you didn’t set firm boundaries or provide enough guidance, leaving them to make unnecessary or costly mistakes. As a result, their parenting style may go in the opposite direction of yours and align itself more closely with the authoritarian methods of their grandmother (your mother). So in effect, the child you're raising may potentially adopt the core parenting behaviors and attitude of their grandmother.
So just how widely proven is this assertion? It’s difficult to know precisely. However, in an unscientific survey, it probably wouldn’t be too difficult to find people who, for all that their parents may have done right, can still identify aspects of child rearing in which they vow not to follow in their parent’s footsteps.
As parents who do the best we can, we may not be aware that parenting behavior has been examined, classified psychologically and used to determine the consequences parenting styles have on children. *Experts have sited four main parenting styles and the resulting character traits in their children:
Permissive/Indulgent - These parents offer low levels of control and restrictions for the child. While they are considered nurturing, loving and accepting, they tend to make few demands. They do establish clear communication with the child but prefer to avoid confrontation, therefore rule enforcement and discipline is nearly non-existent. They are responsive but not demanding which promotes the idea of self-indulgence without consequences. Leniency is the cornerstone of their parenting behavior. Leniency is the cornerstone of their parenting behavior.
CHARACTER TRAITS: Children raised with this parenting style often lack self control, responsibility and engage in problem behavior. They are generally immature and more dependent on their parents.
Authoritarian - Parents with the authoritarian parenting style expect obedience without question or discussion. Although clear guidelines are established, they are very structured and rigid. Communication is not important, while parental control is very high. These parents tend to be less nurturing and heavy-handed in discipline and expectations in general. They are demanding but not responsive, which means the child will work hard for approval rather than self gratification and personal growth.
CHARACTER TRAITS: Children raised with this parenting style can be withdrawn, lacking motivation and have lower self-esteem and poor social skills. However, the child could also act out aggressively (such as bullying) as a way to take control from the parents.
Authoritative/Democratic - These parents use authority to set guidelines, offering progressive challenges and encouragement which allows each child to develop at their own pace. Authoritative parents are assertive as opposed to intrusive and maintain clear communication. They maintain a high level of discipline and control but are not rigid. These parents are “demanding and responsive” which allows the child to maintain a healthy balance of “give and take” within relationships. Encouragement is the cornerstone of their parenting behavior.
CHARACTER TRAITS: Children raised with this parenting style tend to be highly motivated, self-assured and independent.
Neglect/Uninvolved – These parents are not responsive or demanding. They are frequently absent or uninvolved. While they may provide the basic physical essentials, they are often pre-occupied with other distractions such as career, personal life or substance abuse.
CHARACTER TRAITS: Children raised with this parenting style tend to perform poorly in general. Close personal relationships may be difficult due to the unhealthy emotional history.
There are also parenting styles which may be a subset of those listed above such as the overprotective parent who can also be an authoritarian or permissive parent. In addition, a parent can have one parenting style with one child and have quite a different behavior with their sibling.
As always, a mixture of knowledge and common sense is required, as there are gray areas. The best way to determine if you are on the right track is to honestly assess your child’s behavior, social skills and overall attitude. If there are issues that need to be addressed, it doesn’t automatically mean your parenting skills are to blame. There are many issues that effect a child’s well being, including normal "growing pains". However, if you can identify real problems, that means you as a parent need to make changes for the sake of the child. This includes getting counseling, improving communications and becoming more involved in your child’s life.
Social Psychology vol 5 pub 2002 cites *Diana Baumrind
What Kind of Parent are You? –content4reprint