Way back in the 1960s, before “screen time” or childhood obesity became national epidemics, a
developmental psychologist named Diana Baumride published a report outlining three basic parenting styles.
Baumride labelled them Permissive, Authoritarian, and Authoritative.
Permissive parents reason with their kids and accept their behaviours. Authoritarian parents set strict rules and try to shape their child’s life. And authoritative parents seek to be firm, but rational.
Fifty years later, Baumride’s distinction is still as relevant as ever, according to former Stanford dean and author of “How to Raise an Adult” Julie Lythcott-Haims.Parents seem to have an awfully tough time in particular separating authoritarian from authoritative.
“The authoritative parenting style is what we need to be aiming for,” Lythcott-Haims tells Business Insider. “That’s highly demanding, high expectations, and highly responsive to our kids’ needs and concerns.”
Authoritarian parents only have high demands. They rarely respond to what their kids need, be it a new fall coat to replace the one that’s falling apart or listening to how they feel when they say they’re getting bullied.
“Authoritarian types are mean, heartless, and cruel, and just have a bunch of rules,” Lythcott-Haims says. “That’s not what we want.”
Nor should parents just be highly responsive: the permissive parent who seems like their child’s best friend and lets them paint on the walls because it’s seen as self-expression. Permissive parents often fail to instill in their kids a sense of boundaries, Lythcott-Haims says.
“If you’re highly responsive without expectations, you’ve abdicated your role as parent,” she says. “No, parents set rules. Parents give chores. Parents have expectations around when you will and will not do this and that.”
The best part of authoritative parenting is that it helps kids for life. According to the Harvard Grant Study, a 75-year research project, the single biggest predictor of happiness and health in adult life was having done chores as a kid.
Unfortunately, Lythcott-Haims says many of today’s helicopter parents feel it’s better to shield their kids from household duties to spare them of even momentary suffering. She says many of the mental-health issues she saw as Stanford’s dean of freshmen between 2002 and 2012 were products of kids feeling unprepared for the stresses of adult life.
Much of that can be avoided if parents recognise their main job is to raise their kids into the adults they will become.
That means setting strict rules and high expectations, but not at the expense of love and affection.