What are the different parenting styles?

# What are parenting styles?

Your kids’ genes don’t determine everything about their development and neither do their environments (including your parenting). Instead, their genes, your parenting, their friend groups, and many other factors all combine to play important roles in their development. Parenting style is one important factor that influences how kids develop.

Parenting style refers to the strategies that you use to raise, interact with, support, and discipline your child. There are three common parenting styles: authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive. We're going to start with the authoritarian parenting style. But first...

If you would like to find out what your parenting style is, you can take our Parenting Style Quiz right here (opens new window). Just make sure to come back and read this article afterwards!

# What is Authoritative Parenting?

Authoritative parenting style is defined by a balance of high emotional responsiveness and high expectations. The balance between warmth and structure is key to this style. These parents provide emotional support to their children through warmth and nurturance, but they also set clear boundaries and limits. They spend time learning about their children, their interests, and their needs so they can best support their kids.

# What does this balance look like?

Let's consider the example of setting screen time limits for kids. Instead of setting a specific limit for screen time for all of the kids, authoritative parents might set a time limit and adjust this limit based on the individual kids’ needs. These parents are also willing to negotiate and discuss this time with the kids.

They don’t just want their kids to do what they're told, but rather, to feel heard and valued and to understand why there are these rules in the first place!

Warmth is central for authoritative parenting, so how do these parents discipline and maintain warmth?

When authoritative parents need to use discipline with their children, they focus on a positive discipline style and do not expect children to follow rules without questioning them. You may be asking, “what’s a positive discipline style? Those seem incompatible.” Let’s take a look….

Imagine your kid broke a rule that’s been in place and well understood for a long time. If you're an authoritative parent, you start by calmly and clearly explaining the rule that was broken and the consequences for breaking the rule. You remain firm with the consequences, but you are open to discussing the reasons for the rule and consequences.

Your goal is to make sure your kid understands the situation and learns from it while feeling supported. You aim for your child to understand the rules, as compared to using a “because I said so” mindset.

Through these discussions, you teach your child about the reasons for your rules and let them practice setting similar rules and boundaries for themselves. You don’t expect your child to comply with rules without discussion and you also do not expect your child to respect you without earning their respect.

If you’re getting the sense that the authoritative parenting style is a good one, you’re right!

Authoritative parenting style is associated with highly positive outcomes for kids. Of the three parenting styles, authoritative parenting tends to have the most positive and protective effects and the fewest negative effects for kids.

Children with authoritative parents tend to have positive physical and mental outcomes.

Kids raised by authoritative parents are less likely to develop mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, or substance use problems and they may be less likely to attempt suicide as compared to children raised by parents with other parenting styles. While these mental health related issues can and do still happen with authoritative parents, the rates are lower.

Authoritative parenting is also great for social and academic outcomes!

Kids raised by authoritative parents practice setting rules and boundaries through discussions with their parents. These kids often have well-developed independence, self-reliance, and emotion regulation skills. They are generally comfortable in new social settings and have well developed social skills.

Additionally, academic success and school engagement may also be supported by authoritative parenting styles.

If you have an authoritative parenting style (and you'll know if you take this quiz (opens new window)), you can click here to learn more about how to build on the benefits, strengthen your relationship with your kids, and more (opens new window).


# What is Authoritarian Parenting?

Authoritarian parenting style is defined by high demandingness and low responsiveness. These parents are more focused on setting high expectations for their kids and less focused on providing warmth and nurturance. Obedience is really important to these parents. In fact, enforcing obedience may be how they show love to their kids!

# What does this look like?

Authoritarian parents may expect their kids to accept and follow their rules, limits, and boundaries without asking any questions. These parents probably have many firm rules for their kids, and are likely involved in all aspects of their kids' lives.

These parents like to control what the kids are doing, and do this without much discussion. They might create some emotional distance between themselves and their kids. They probably don’t negotiate with their kids about decisions, including consequences to breaking whatever rules are set.

# How does this play out when disciplining kids?

For example, let’s say you're an authoritarian parent who has set specific amounts of time kids are allowed use their screens each day. If your kids want more time on their screens, you likely stick to your rules and do not allow them to spend more time on screens. If they break the rule, you may use punishments like revoking privileges or warmth. You may become angry or yell if your rules are not followed or respected.

Let’s consider family chores as another example. As an authoritarian parent you may have set expectations that your kids do their dishes every night after dinner. Imagine that one of your kids tells you that they had a rough day at school, and they do not want to do the dishes that night. You will not change the rules to accommodate their desires and you will likely not explain this to them. Instead, you enforce your rule, and you expect them to do the dishes after dinner. If they do not do the dishes as expected, you punish them.

You don’t talk with your child about these boundaries, rules, or punishments, because you feel that as the parent, they should follow your rules. The “because I said so” mindset may be central to how you set and enforce your rules.

Children with authoritarian parents tend to have mixed outcomes.

On the plus side, kids with authoritarian parents learn the importance of goal directed behavior and following rules.

However, kids with authoritarian parents may struggle with internalizing problems, like anxiety, depression, and poor social skills. These kids might also struggle with low self-esteem if they do not feel that their feelings or opinions are valuable.

Emotion regulation is a skill that kids learn through practice. If kids have authoritarian parents, they may have fewer opportunities to practice emotion regulation with their parent’s guidance, because they are expected to follow the rules without focusing on their emotions. These kids may struggle with emotion regulation.

For similar reasons, kids with authoritarian parents may also struggle with aggression and hostility towards others. Of all the parenting styles, authoritarian parenting is most associated with externalizing problems like hostility towards others and physical aggression.

If you have an authoritarian parenting style (and you'll know if you take this quiz (opens new window)), you can click here to learn more about how to build on the benefits, strengthen your relationship with your kids, and more (opens new window).

# What is Permissive Parenting?

Permissive parenting style is defined by high responsiveness towards your kid and low demandingness. This parenting style is categorized as being warm and attentive to kids’ emotions and not setting firm rules or boundaries. This style is relaxed and focused on kids’ freedom as opposed to obedience.

# What does this look like?

Those with permissive parenting style have relationship with their kids that may look more like a friendship than some traditional parent-child relationships. These parents want their kids to come to them with any problems they are facing, and to support the kids emotionally.

Overall, permissive parents are pretty lenient and take a hands-off approach to parenting. They may put their kids’ desires and freedom above rules (if you have rules). They also might give kids the opportunity to make big decisions for themselves or the family.

Permissive parents are great at showing their kids warmth but setting boundaries and disciplining children may not come as naturally or may not be something they value.

These parents may not have firm rules or boundaries in the family, or might have rules that don’t get enforce (or don't get enforced consistently). They also might try to get their kids to follow rules by bribing them, instead of disciplining them.

Let’s look at how boundaries and rules play out for permissive parents. Imagine you're a parent with a Permissive Parenting Style…

Using the same example as the previous parenting styles - you might have an idea of a set amount of time that you want your kids to use screens. If you have this rule, you are lenient with it. So, if your kids complain about the rule or begs to change the rule on a given day, you might give in and allow them to use screens longer that day.

You validate their emotions but also give in to their desire to change the limits because you don’t want to upset your kids. In the end, you let them do what they want.

Let’s consider family chores as another example. You may have set expectations that your kids do their dishes every night after dinner. Imagine that one of your kids tells you that they had a rough day at school, and they do not want to do the dishes that night.

Instead of enforcing this and expecting that your kids do their dishes immediately after dinner, you might not provide any discipline and you might just do the dishes yourself.

Permissive parenting style is associated with mixed outcomes for kids.

On the plus side, kids with permissive parents tend to feel loved and to have close relationships with their parents.

However, kids raised by permissive parents may struggle with things like self-control, setting boundaries, and discipline, since they are not used to following firm rules or boundaries at home. Kids with permissive parents may also struggle with their academic performance without parents enforcing the importance of completing their academic work.

Kids with permissive parents may be at increased risk for mental health and behavioral problems. For example, kids who were raised by permissive parents may be at increased risk of alcohol use and behavioral problems in adolescence and may also be at increased risk for depression. As a reminder, this is not true for all kids with parents who use a permissive style, this just indicates that the rates of these problems may be higher in kids with permissive parents.

These kids may also struggle to regulate their emotions and impulsivity so they may become more aggressive. What is the connection between permissive parenting, emotion regulation, and impulsivity? Emotion regulation is learned through practice, so if kids are not encouraged to think about their behavior and impulsivity at home through discipline, they may not learn to regulate these feelings and behaviors.

If you have a permissive parenting style (and you'll know if you take this quiz (opens new window)), you can click here to learn more about how to build on the benefits, strengthen your relationship with your kids, and more (opens new window).


# Do you or your child need support right now?

If you or your child are in a crisis situation please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, as well as prevention and crisis resources for you and your loved ones.

If you're not in crisis but would like to connect with an online counselor (through our partnership with Betterhelp), please use one of these links: