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  • Cleo

Parenting styles & parenting books

Updated: Dec 31, 2021

When talking with parents about styles of parenting and choices each parent makes, I often hear comments such as "I started reading but was overwhelmed by the different parenting models out there so decided to just stop reading and do what comes naturally". Sounds reasonable, however, parenting books and parenting styles are quite different. Parenting styles are described below and there are not so many. Authoritarian, permissive, authoritative and conscious. The amount of parenting books on the market, a search for Parenting Books on Amazon returned over 60,000 results. This does not mean that there are 60,000 parenting styles, it means that a lot of books have been written about parenting using authoritarian, authoritative, and conscious styles (probably not so many about the permissive style given the nature of permissive parenting!). A huge number of experts re-coin established parenting methods with a new name and specific advice, but it is not a new method.

Here is an overview of each parenting style;

Authoritarian parenting* - using physical punishment as a method of control.

Parents believe smacking (and other forms of physical abuse) is necessary for teaching children 'discipline' and 'respect' and without an occasional spanking, children would 'run amok'.

The best a parent can hope to accomplish is immediate, short-term compliance. The behaviour enforced soon wears off, it does not cause children to internalise any moral message. Studies have also shown that physical and verbal abuse in the home is what produces violent children. Parents using this style of parenting will have been treated this way themselves and desensitised to violence at this level, denying that smacking the wrist or bottom of a child is an act of violence, which it is. The same action made against another adult would be treated as assault. A child's experience of being hit is, amongst others; terror, fear, wounded feelings, hurt, embarrassment and shock. Evidence of the child's hurt does not appear until later in life.

Authoritarian parenting* - using shaming as a method of control.

Shaming is harder to define, detect or measure but is a common method used to regulate children's behaviour. It is a verbal punishment that is designed to cause children to curtail behaviour through negative thoughts and feelings about themselves. It involves a direct or indirect comment about what the child is. It gives the child a negative image about themselves rather than the impact of their behaviour. It makes a child want to disappear or hide away to avoid the feelings of shame. eg, "Silly boy" , "Naughty girl" , "Good girls / boys don't behave like that", "Big boys don't cry", "You're being a whimp", "You are hopeless".

Shaming is a secret emotion that can be difficult to detect in other adults as well as children; as it does not have a distinct facial expression. Becoming ashamed is learned, we learn what we are expected to be ashamed of based on the things others shame us for. We become ashamed of ourselves because someone of significance in our lives put us to shame and parents' use of shame can have the deepest effect on children.

Shaming can be verbal, a look of distain, contempt or disgust and can lead to self-loathing. Most emotions have a physical expression which allows them to dissipate. Shame doesn't and the effects can be life-long.

Authoritarian Parenting* - using manipulation as a method of control

Although physical punishment is in decline, it does not mean authoritarian parenting is being rejected. Instead of using force over children, control is won seductively, using psychological manipulation. Material rewards or emotional rewards (praise) are tied to a child's compliance or parent pleasing behaviours. Ice cream or chocolate if you are good, gold stars, pudding if you eat your dinner, money for good grades. It is an extremely common, accepted and pervasive method of control that is deeply entrenched in western culture. It is not only used on children but also in management, business, education etc.

Manipulation hinders the development of emotional intelligence in children and impairs their relationship skills.

The effect of manipulation is only temporary and more and more of the reward or praise is needed to continue the effect of the manipulation. When a child anticipates a reward, they perform more poorly and can supress creativity.

Rewards and praise condition children to seek approval, do things to impress rather than doing things for themselves. It can damage self-motivation, encourage people pleasing and damage parent relationships with the parent becoming the assessor making them scary to the child.

Authoritative Parenting - (often referred to as Gentle or Peaceful Parenting) The basis of this style of parenting is the setting of clear and realistic interpersonal boundaries in order that children learn how to balance their own needs with the needs of others, which is essential for the development of empathy. Behavioural issues are addressed assertively, the parent relaying how it feels for them, with clear communication, without the use of manipulation, shaming or punishment. Undesired behaviour by a child is viewed with curiosity by the parent to understand what might be going on for the child. The authoritative parent is a authentic with their feelings, a strong leader when required and an empathetic support so children can develop their own moral code rather than a preached morality. The method is based on the parent being the role model and not imposing a 'do as I say, not as I do' methodology.

Permissive Parenting - is a parenting style where parents set few or any inconsistent rules and a relaxed attitude to parenting that is more like a friend than a parent. Permissive parents may be very loving and attentive or emotionally absent and / or vacant. They may have a very loving and nurturing behaviour towards their children but use bribery in order to get them to behave. There are not many demands or rules placed on permissively parented children and Children raised in this style can exhibit insecure behaviours, lack social skills like sharing, be demanding, unaware of how to set or respect boundaries, they may lack self-discipline and motivation.

Conscious Parenting (Sometimes referred to as Connection or Present Parenting) - shares some similarities to authoritative parenting. The fundamental difference is that the parent understands that their own childhood forms the basis of their reactions to their children and this is important to address rather than focussing on amending the child's behaviour. The Conscious parent understands that a child is a mirror to the parents own unresolved childhood pain, the parents reaction is the issue - never the child's behaviour. The parent child relationship is interrelated and a child is regarded as an equal and honoured as an individual without behaviour modification. Conscious parents commit to healing themselves throughout the parenting journey to become the best versions of themselves.

* descriptions sourced from: Robin Grille - ' Parenting for a Peaceful World '


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