Parenting styles

It is important to set rules, but there are many ways of doing this. In most situations, punishment and fear tend to work against you. When you teach a child using punishment, he or she tends to react with resentment, and to obey out of fear. There are more effective ways, or styles, to apply discipline and teach responsibility.

The style a parent or caregiver uses to set and apply family rules may differ according to the age, gender, or culture of the child, among other factors. But in general, a parenting style is the manner in which a parent demonstrates love and affection for a child, and how they limit and influence a child’s behavior by using consequences. Here, we discuss four main styles of parenting that research has identified: Permissive, Authoritarian, Neglecting and Democratic. As you will see, one of them is the desirable approach. Which best reflects your current style and which style would you like to be or would be most effective?


  • The permissive parent is responsive and shows affection and love, and is not very demanding about how the child should behave.
  • A child is allowed to make his or her own choices, or self-regulate his or her behavior.
  • The parent avoids confrontation with the child.
  • When behavior needs disciplining, the permissive parent is unpredictable, sometimes punishes the child, but many times chooses not to punish. They often threaten “punishment” but do not carry it through.
  • The unpredictable enforcement of behavior can confuse children who are still learning about rules and consequences.

Whatever you like, dear...

Research suggests that children raised in a permissive parenting style tend to be less self-assured and have lower self-esteem. They will decide on their own behavior, and are more likely to reject rules set by others.


  • This style is demanding on children.
  • The use of harsh punishments and scolding tends to draw excessive attention to a child’s mistakes or misbehavior.
  • Authoritarian parents often are status-oriented, and expect their rules to be obeyed without giving any explanations or opportunities for a child to discuss the rules and consequences.

NO! Do it my way!

Children raised according to this style tend to have low self-esteem and are often described by teachers and other adults as anxious, angry, aggressive and confrontational.


  • A neglecting type parent makes few or no demands on a child, and does not show love or affection. These parents are ‘disengaged’ or ‘rejecting’.
  • Parents have a hard time providing structure for their child, and will rarely monitor the child’s behavior.
  • It may appear that this parent is intentionally rejecting the child and their own parenting responsibilities.

Research shows that children raised in a neglecting family are often unable to regulate their own behavior, and may show antisocial behavior in school and the community.

Not now; I don't have time...


  • This type of parent is very loving and affectionate, observes and listens to the child’s needs but does not use punishment to limit the child’s behavior.
  • The democratic parent can be very demanding about the child’s behavior, but at the same time will respond to the child’s ideas and opinions.
  • Instead of punishing a child for negative behavior, this parent uses clear statements about positive behaviors they expect, and what the consequences are for negative behavior.

Let's talk about this.

Research indicates that children raised with this democratic parenting style tend to be the most competent, or ‘likely to succeed’ in family, school, and community environments.

Prevention-Smart launched for initial evaluation on June 26th 2009. If you have any comments or feedback, please email us via the contact form.