4 Parenting Styles were just the start

4 parenting styles were just the start

I often hear parents discussing their parenting style like a badge of honour, but have you ever wondered where parenting styles come from? It all started with the four parenting styles of authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, and uninvolved parenting and their impact on children, which were developed in the 1960s by Diana Buamrind. She was a psychologist who used them to define the outcome of certain mainstream parental behaviours. But those four parenting styles were just the start.

Over time, and particularly in the last decade, that trend to define has blossomed into a bizarre attempt to ideologically differentiate one parent from another and has created a huge explosion of parenting styles. You can see them all over the internet. We can be instinctive parents or we can practice attachment, positive, unconditional, holistic, nurturing, slow, or egalitarian parenting, to name a few. There are now moms who identify themselves by their parenting styles: silky moms, crunchy moms, and scrunchy moms. At the moment, gentle parenting, or child-centered parenting, is a very popular style; you could also term these moms “Crunchy Moms,” as they’re more likely to lean toward what they feel is the “natural” way of doing things, like co-sleeping and an attachment-like style. What’s the crunch supposed to signify? Granola perhaps? A silky mom is the polar opposite, with a more disciplined approach, and a scrunchy mom, well, she would have a foot in both parenting worlds, though any parent who did that might not be readily accepted by either group.

Confused yet? I am.  So what does the idea of styles really mean, and what’s behind this apparent need to label?

4 parenting styles were just the start: Parenting labels have a downside.

I can’t say I like labels because every time you label someone as having one quality, positive or negative, you exclude everyone else. For instance, take attachment parenting. If I’m not an attachment parent who practices co-sleeping and babywearing, then it implies that I’m not attached to my kids, which just simply isn’t true.

Similarly, had I set out to be an egalitarian parent, which apparently is defined as providing a democratic environment for my kids with lots of choice, did my decision to deny my three-year-old the choice of whether or not to have a chocolate bar before dinner make me an outcast amongst my egalitarian peers?

What if I decided to be a “slow parent”? Then surely I must have chosen to savour the joys of life and to stop and smell the roses. Did this then mean that if someone else decided against “slow parenting,” they then raced through life, ignoring its beauty and the joys and emotions of their kids, without noticing a thing?

Perhaps you describe yourself as a “gentle parent.” Does that mean that parents who don’t subscribe to that particular philosophy are not gentle? Perhaps they’re horrible, mean brutes who step on their child’s emotions and generally don’t care. From my experience, that’s not the case at all.

4 parenting styles were just the start: What do different parenting styles really mean?

But now more than ever, it’s supposedly important to identify yourself with a style. For some reason, people seem to get quite emotional about it. So why am I mentioning all these parenting types, and why is it even important what people call themselves or what kind of parenting style they identify with? Well, it’s important because it makes people feel like there are multiple and very different ways to bring up emotionally normal, healthy, resilient children, and that’s something that’s frankly not true.

Instead, there are numerous ways to deviate from the norms of child-rearing. The fundamentals of child-rearing though, have remained unchanged since the dawn of humankind, and they are unlikely to change anytime soon.

The 4 parenting styles were just the start: The right one is obvious.

Let’s start with the four well-known parenting styles mentioned above. They are authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, and uninvolved. It’s easy to see the one that’s ideal. Have you found it? That’s right; it’s authoritative, striking a good balance between providing strong boundaries and lots of love and cuddles. I also call it “normal parenting.” Oops, am I labelling?  You see, even I can do it. The other three styles have issues, but I think that’s obvious.

The amount of styles reflect the market.

As time has gone on, more and more parenting labels have shown up, trying to describe a parenting style that further subdivides our ideal, and those styles have become more and more creative. That’s because parenting is a market, and a market demands consumer choice. What? only one decent parenting style? Are you nuts? If I say no to cookies but yes to apple slices for a toddler’s mid-afternoon snack, that must mean I’m parenting somewhat differently than my peers. I’m watching my child’s diet, and I’m interested in healthy eating. I must be practising a new style of parenting dominated by healthy eating, where fruit snacks are in but cookies are definitely out! Okay, I’m being facetious. Parenting styles tend to differ more than that, but they are also, by definition, exclusionary.

If you parent in a certain way, you are de facto, a member of a club. You can speak the same language with other moms, dads, and caregivers. You endeavour to follow the rules of that club, but if you begin to falter or things don’t work out, then there must be something wrong with you.

Ok, so what happens if a parent focuses on one of these styles to the exclusion of anything else? Well, if someone practices a minor variation, nothing much happens, but trouble begins when anything is taken to the extreme or one aspect of parenting is focused on at the expense of another. It’s the same in any area of life. Working the appropriate number of hours allows you to achieve balance in your home life. Working too much will turn you into a boring workaholic who is always on the phone and unlikely to have many friends.

It’s the same with food. Eat a balanced diet and stay healthy. Go too far the other way, and you either starve yourself or it becomes decidedly more difficult to move around.

4 parenting styles were just the start: Parenting is about balance.

The same dynamic is at play with parenting. Get the balance between boundaries on the one hand and love, cuddles, and attention on the other hand right, and you’ll have a great connection with your kids and a largely fun parenting experience. The rest is extraneous and doesn’t, frankly, matter except that it caters to a “need to belong.” That is a strong desire among humans. Nobody wants to feel as if they’re going against the grain or that they’re turning away from the “style du jour.” “Being in” is cool, just like it was in high school. Being “out”—not so much. And if you just say to hell with it and keep things simple, your peers will look at you with disgust and raise their eyebrows at how your children will undoubtedly be ruined by your stubborn refusal to remain in the club.

So what if you stick to your “style,” determined to follow the prescribed protocol? If you have your kids stick to you all day or co-sleep your way to heaven but offer no boundaries, you’ll have a problem, no matter what you call the style. That’s why “style” can be such a misnomer, and it seems parents have adopted it without even thinking about what those labels represent. They take us away from what’s important and focus us instead on what divides us. They emphasize the minutiae at the expense of the whole, which can lead to parents focusing on the trees rather than the forest.

And that’s a big problem because once you’ve adopted a “style” and found all the friends that support you in that parenting style, it makes it very hard to change. Your life can be going to hell in a handbasket, and oftentimes you can’t even see it. That’s because following the allure of a particular dogma blinds parents to what’s really going on.

You know what the most heartbreaking aspect of my job is? It’s parents who have followed one style or another that hasn’t worked. They kept telling themselves over and over again that it was all okay, that their five-year-old’s tantrums were normal; it was just a stage. They’d read the books and absorbed the tips, and now their child is turning twelve and wreaking family havoc.

I get emails all the time from parents, and many of them have teenagers. It’s heartbreaking because I have to say there’s not much I can do. With a five-year-old, I can change behaviour in a week. With a thirteen-year-old, it takes months, if not years, of sustained effort, and even then, no success is guaranteed. All of the parents I talk to care about their kids. They care so much. They always have. They are good and decent parents, trying their best, but they made one mistake: they allowed dogma to override common sense, so they struggle.

4 parenting styles were just the start: Let’s take stock of what’s important.

The four parenting styles were just the start of a huge explosion of parenting labels that have put up walls and continue to shield us from the support of common experience. I think we should focus on what unites us as parents rather than what divides us. We don’t need a “style.” We don’t need to make our parenting special; the equivalent of fillet mignon with sauce béarnaise when beans on toast will work just as well, and in many cases, better. After all, we’ve had 60,000 years of human history to get it right. We know what makes happy children. I think we should just stick with it and keep it simple.

Would you like to know the secret to building resilient kids that bounce back from disappointment?

Do you know how to deal with your child’s peer pressure?

Is there a secret to parenting?

Would you like to know why it is that gentle parenting doesn’t work?

Do you have a child that you’d like to learn to sleep by through the night?

Here’s Annie’s answer to one mom who complains of having a child that’s out of her control.

Do you have a child that’s biting or pinching?

Bad Parenting Advice: Houston We Have a Problem!


Leave a Reply

Verified by MonsterInsights