Which parenting style works best?

From relaxed, easy-going parents who treat their children like a friend to stern, authoritarian styled parents who maintain rigid discipline and others in between, the varying parenting styles is a controversial hot topic that most everyone has an opinion about. HEALTH examines these styles and finds out which is considered the best.

Which parenting style works best?


Your parenting methods may fit into one of a few different styles, with your specific style having a significant
impact on your children. Parenting styles were established in the 1960s by psychologist Diana Baumrind and include authoritarian, authoritative, permissive and uninvolved. And it was in 2011 when author Amy Chua launched her highly controversial book on parenting styles–Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother -that parenting styles once again were in the limelight. With its provocative headline, “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior,” it detailed the superiority of Chinese mothers whose authoritarian style of parenting was stated as the reason that immigrant children of Chinese parents seem to flourish in whichever society they settled in.

Further elaborating, Dr. Saliha Afridi, Clinical Psychologist and Managing Director of the Lighthouse Arabia,
states that there are many terms that are used to describe different kinds of parenting styles.

The Authoritarian Parent

An authoritarian parent, basically, is dictator-like and one who has many expectations from the child,” she says, in fact, there are a high number of demands with very low support. “There isn’t much warmth, care, or tenderness with this type of parenting style,” she says.

Permissive Parent

This parent, says Dr. Afridi, is also referred to as a jelly fish. “There is a lot of warmth, love, and support but very few demands or expectations of a child,” she says and the child usually is in control of the parent and does and says whatever he/she feels like without any boundaries in place. So bedtimes, homework and most every rule of the house is made to be broken, with the child in control of the parent.

Authoritative Parent

Dr. Afridi says that this is the most favorable type of parenting style.“There is a lot of warmth, love, support
but also expectations and demands from the child which give him/her boundaries on how to behave and act,” she says. Using a blend of love and boundary-setting, authoritative parents enable children to develop and learn independence. For example, parents using this parenting style may say, “I want you to go to sleep now because you are going to be up early for school tomorrow.” Whereas an authoritarian parent might say, “Go to sleep NOW because I said to!”

The Uninvolved Parent

These parents, tells Dr. Afridi, live nearly separate lives from their child.“There aren’t any expectations and
there is a lack of warmth or connection also,” she explains, and though the child’s needs are met in terms of food, clothing, shelter, and education, basically, this child does not have a guide or a parent in the real sense of the word.

Parenting Styles in UAE

With the huge melting pot of nationalities living in U.A.E., we would think parenting styles would vastly differ. Yet Dr. Afridi says that yes, while this part of the world does include diverse set of parenting styles, still the most common across the board is the permissive parenting style. She details, “A lot of parents are working and/or are affluent. They have good intentions at heart in wanting to provide their children the very type of life and exposure that they themselves did not have- however as a result, children are growing up self-absorbed, demanding, and spoilt.” These parents are afraid of placing expectations or demands on their children because they believe the child is fragile and it might affect his or her self-esteem negatively. And this, she adds, results in an inflated sense of self and truly fragile children who cannot have any demands placed on them without cracking. “These parents are saying ‘yes’ a lot more than no and children are growing up with no boundaries,” she explains. She also says that there is some uninvolved parenting in this region. “We have outsourced many household tasks to support staff – and now parenting is also being outsourced to nannies that
can provide basic care but not the warmth or love of a parent,” she says.

Going East

The more East we go, Dr. Afridi says that we will find more of the authoritarian parenting style. “There is still a lot of hierarchy present – with parents dictating the rules and children abiding by them without asking questions,” she says. “However, sometimes a parent who was raised with an authoritarian parent may swing to the other extreme and instead become a permissive parent.” He or she grew up with too many demands placed on them, so they will place very few demands on their child. And because these people often grew up with a lack of warmth, Dr. Afridi says that they may tend to over- indulge their child.

What Experts Recommend

Dr. Afridi suggests that in her expert opinion and the research conducted, it has been concluded that the authoritative parenting is the best for children. “It results in the best outcomes for individuals, families, and communities,” she explains, with these children growing up feeling safe with consistent and firm boundaries. They fulfill their potential because parents have high, clear, and reasonable expectations of them, but the children don’t crumble under these expectations because parents provide a lot of guidance, support, encouragement and love. “These parents are attuned to their children but they don’t hover over them,” she explains. “They allow the child to face challenges, grow, learn from his/her mistakes and develop the much needed muscle of resiliency.”

Final Words of Advice

Parenting, remarks Dr. Afridi, has definitely become an arduous task.“There are lots of forces that parents
are up against these days and they are all communicating self-centered messages of power, greed, and materialism,” she says. “It is critical that parents be involved in the raising of their children’s and not let nannies or electronics do the raising for them.” She advises that parents need to invest time in attaching to their children, spending time with them, talking to them, playing with them– having a role and influence in their lives- so that
the other forces don’t have a chance at competing and gaining a complete hold on them.

Establishing Rules for Children at Home:

Parents, advises Dr. Afridi, need to sit down while their children are young and figure out the rules of the house. “Parents often think about what rules to establish or how they want to parent only after the kids have done something objectionable,” she says and these are ‘reactive parents’. She urges that it is important for parents to think proactively about parenting.What are the rules you want in your home? What values do you want to establish? “Just as a government needs to think of its constitution when it is established with rules that get amended, parents need to do this with their family system,” she advises. The following are some ways to do this:

  • Start early- establish rules that are anchored in values such as honesty, integrity, justice, humanity, courage and similar qualities.
  • Discuss the rules with your children and have them written down for reference.
  • Have logical consequences when these rules are not followed; for example, “you didn’t do well in school because you are distracted therefore you cannot go out with your friends or engage with electronic gadgets” and then remove the distractor.
  • As children get older, you may want to have a family meeting.This takes place once a week or every two weeks where parents and children bring their concerns to the table and have a discussion. Positives and negatives are both discussed at this meeting. This creates a democratic platform for everyone to share their input and have a say in the family happenings- which creates energy of collaboration and cooperation.

(Credit: Dr. Saliha Afridi)

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