Even with considerable appreciation for the importance that nurturing, involved mothers and fathers have in the lives of children, it is important to recognize that mere presence does not assure positive contribution. The parent’s emotional availability, mental health, and reasonableness all affect what it feels like for the child to be with the parent. Even the good effects of having an involved, nurturing father disappear if the father is a highly restrictive, authoritarian disciplinarian (Radin, 1982).
The term parenting styles describes the normal variation in patterns of how parents try to control their children (Baumrind, 1991). Parenting style includes both parent responsiveness and parent demands (Maccoby & Martin, 1983). Four parenting styles are commonly identified in the literature: indulgent (or permissive), authoritarian, authoritative, and uninvolved.
Indulgent (or permissive) parents are highly responsive but seldom demand mature behavior from their child, depending instead on the child’s self-regulation.
Authoritarian parents are demanding, but not responsive. They demand obedience to extensive sets of rules.
Authoritative parents are demanding and responsive. They hold high standards for their children but are supportive in their discipline.
Uninvolved parents are neither responsive nor demanding, but not to the point of being neglectful. (Baumrind, 1991)
In Western cultures, parenting styles are related to child outcomes, especially in adolescence. Children of indulgent parents have higher self-esteem but are more likely to have problems in school and in their behavior. Children from highly authoritarian families do well in school but tend toward poor self-esteem, depression, and poor social skills. Children whose parents are authoritative are rated more socially and intellectually competent than those of other parents. Children of uninvolved parents do most poorly in all areas (Darling, 1999). However, parenting style is also related to culture. In America, with a predominant emphasis on individualism and freedom, authoritarian parents seem restrictive and constraining. However, children of Chinese families with highly authoritarian styles develop very well, possibly reflecting the cultural attitude toward authority as serving the harmony of the group (Chao, 1994), and because strict and extensive rules are usually paired with great warmth and closeness (Marcus & Kitayama, 1991).
Implications for teachers.
Infant-toddler teachers may find it helpful to share this information on parenting styles with the families they serve. However, this may also be useful information for self-reflection: As an infant-toddler teacher, you have a relationship with your children that is very similar to that of a parent. Reflection on whether your style of relating to the children is permissive, authoritarian, authoritative, or uninvolved could be very enlightening.
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