Until today, I never would have been able to tell you what kind of parent I am. Sadly, I now know. I am a permissive parent. And my children are pretty much in deep trouble because of it.
A new study out of the University of New Hampshire shows that of the three parenting styles they looked at -- authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive -- only the authoritative parents raise respectful, happy adolescents. Are you surprised? I am not.
The fact is, as they are defined, two of the parenting styles are just plain lazy. Here are the definitions:
- Authoritative parents: These parents are both demanding and controlling, but they are also warm and receptive to their children’s needs. They are receptive to bidirectional communication in that they explain to their children why they have established rules and also listen to their children’s opinions about those rules. Children of authoritative parents tend to be self-reliant, self-controlled, and content.
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- Authoritarian parents: These parents are demanding and highly controlling. They are the "my way or the highway" parents and come off as detached and unreceptive to their children’s needs. These parents set rules and expect obedience. Authoritarian parenting produces children who are discontent, withdrawn, and distrustful.
- Permissive parents: These parents are non-demanding and non-controlling. They tend to be warm and receptive to their children’s needs, but place few boundaries on their children. If they do establish rules, they rarely enforce them to any great extent. These parents tend to produce children who are the least self-reliant, explorative, and self-controlled out of all the parenting styles.
The fact is, it's easy enough to be authoritarian or permissive. Both are really just lazy styles of parenting. Of course, a child is going to be "obedient" if mom or dad beats that idea into them. But are they really going to understand rules and feel them in their bones? Probably not.
It's a disrespectful kind of parenting.
Permissive parenting, on the other hand, is also lazy. It's essentially the parent abdicating all authority in favor of the "easy" road. Why say no to cupcakes before dinner when it will only result in a fit? Unfortunately, although I know I strive to be a benign yet structured authoritative parent, my lazy default is definitely permissive. And the result could be a lack of self-control for my kids. Oops.
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As someone who was raised by permissive parents, I have seen it first hand and I know. But darn it, it's sometimes easier to give in on the issues. My kids push boundaries hard.
Still, this study does give me food for thought. We can all probably use some pointers on how to be a better parent (no matter how perfect we think we are). The fact is, if we want to have happy kids (and teens), we need to be open to the idea that maybe we aren't perfect (gasp!). I'll admit my shortcomings and how I want to be better if you will, too.
What kind of parent are you?