Photo: Nathan Russell
In 1966, Diana Baumrind identified three parenting styles that most experts have broadly accepted ever since:
- Permissive: parents give lots of love and attention with few rules or constraints. Children are encouraged to explore freely without repercussions and to see their parents not as role models, but as a ‘resource’ for them to use as they wish.
- Authoritative: parents are highly supportive and highly demanding, offering a balance of rules and boundaries that are clearly explained, with plenty of opportunities to explore and develop.
- Authoritarian: parents focus on controlling the behaviour of their children and believe that they should always ‘do as they are told’.
In practice, most of us slide between these styles, depending on circumstances. But it probably won't come as a surprise to learn that authoritative parenting is the one the experts believe works best. Research shows that parents who provide positive support and high expectations plus a lot of opportunities to try things out are more likely to raise children who are confident and motivated, with good critical thinking skills. Providing firm and consistent limits and a reason for the rules promotes social responsibility and the right kind of assertiveness, and enables children to regulate their own behaviour.
Authoritative parents make demands that tally with their children's ability to take responsibility for their behaviour - which makes children feel competent and self-reliant. This in turn helps to build self-esteem, cognitive development and emotional maturity.
Authoritative parenting works in all contexts - so online, it enables children to behave sensibly when they are not being supervised and to identify (and minimise) risks.