Psychologists have long recognized  that parenting styles have a profound effect on the formation of children’s character. Among the most influential findings is Diana Baumrind’s description of three major styles. See if you can identify which style is closest to yours. Remember there are very few “pure” parenting styles, so think more in terms of a tendency than an exact description.



  • Attempts to shape and control a child’s behaviour according to a set standard of conduct, usually an absolute standard. Excessive force and punishment used with little concern for the child’s needs.
  • Obedience valued and forceful measures favoured to curb self-will when child’s actions or beliefs conflict with parents idea of right conduct. Involves inconsistent demands that magnify parent’s authority.
  • No verbal give-and-take encouraged. The belief is that the child should accept the parent’s version of what is right. A harsh, dictatorial style. An unsympathetic, cold manner from an impatient, angry, uncontrolled adult who magnifies the child’s wrong-doing.


Consequences: Destruction of a child’s cheerfulness and ambition, broken will, indecision, nervousness, an “I don’t care” spirit and determined rebellion.


PERMISSIVE: “Do as you please”

  • A non-punitive, accepting, affirmative manner towards child’s impulses, desires and actions. Treats children as pets or ignores behaviour. Allows child to regulate his/her own activities and to rule. Avoids exercising control and does not encourage obedience of parental standards.
  • Parents presents self as a resource for child to use as he/she wishes, but not as a active agent responsible for altering child’s behaviour. Blindly indulges.
  • Makes few demands. Consults child about policy decision and gives explanations for family rules.
  • Coaxes and bribes. Submit to a child’s will.


Consequences: Open rebellion from child who defies authority. Creates stubborn self-will in child who follows own headstrong, ungoverned will and uses deceit/evasion to avoid punishment.


AUTHORATIVE: “With love and firmness”

  • Seeks to direct child’s activities but in a rational, manner with consistent limits. Considerate of child’s needs. Does not hem the child in with restrictions but exerts firm control at points of parent-child divergence.
  • Has warm relationship with child and shows acceptance, love and kindness. Uses great tact and gentleness and demonstrates empathy and understanding. Parent is self-controlled.
  • Set standards for conduct and uses reason as well as power to achieve objectives. Is firm, patient, loving and reasonable and does not see self as always right. Encourages verbal give-and-take and shares with the child the reasoning behind parent’s policy. Teaches child to reason and make choices. Values both autonomous self-will and disciplined conformity.

Results: Preserves self-respect of child and inspires with courage. Child obeys from principle not compulsion or desire to avoid punishment. Leads to strong self-esteem, self-discipline, self-control and strong moral character. Results not apparent at once but develop over a lifetime.


( Written by Arlene Amann-Maximay, M.Sc., first published in EAP/LINK March 2004)

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