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Parenting styles can influence children

Sharon Dorr, director of Alumni & University Relations, gives her son, Ellis, a hug. One characteristic of good parenting is paying close attention to a child’s feelings, Dene Klinzing, professor of individual and family studies, says.
3:05 p.m., May 3, 2005--Your style of parenting can influence whether your child succeeds or merely survives, according to Dene Garvin Klinzing, professor of individual and family studies at the University of Delaware. Can you recognize yourself in the list below?

  • The authoritarian parent --This is the "because I told you so" parent who is likely to degrade a child and ignore the child’s point of view.
  • The authoritative parent--This is a mom or dad who sets carefully defined limits for children, the one who is a good role model and praises children for their efforts.
  • The permissive parent--This is the parent who is afraid to set limits on children or believes a child has to be true to his or her own nature.
  • The uninvolved parent--This is the parent who is indifferent to children and shows very little emotion toward them.

Klinzing says parenting style alone does not determine how children will turn out, but it can be an important factor.

Here’s a litany of characteristics of each of the four major parenting styles. No one will fit the description exactly, but most parents do tend to adopt one style more than the others, Klinzing says.

What authoritarian parents do: These moms and dads do not encourage their children to make decisions or show any independence. They believe what the child does is more important than why the child does it. They like their children to be seen and not heard. They sometimes mete out harsh punishment, according to Klinzing.

How their children sometimes turn out: Kids who live with authoritarian parents tend to be more anxious, more withdrawn and unhappier than other kids. They often are successful in school because they tend to be cooperative and don’t challenge authority. However, Klinzing says that when they get frustrated, it sometimes leads to anger. Boys are sometimes defiant, and girls generally seek approval. Both genders often find it difficult to make decisions. Klinzing says these are the kids who sometimes go a little wild in college.

What authoritative parents do: These parents have lots of verbal give-and-take with their children, Klinzing says. They give lots of reasons why children should or shouldn’t do things. They are good role models. They keep firm but reasonable control over their children. They set carefully defined limits, but they listen to their children’s needs and feelings. They are democratic parents. They are interested in why their children behave as they do, and they encourage their children to make age-appropriate decisions. They expect good behavior, and they praise and reward children for that behavior.

How their children sometimes turn out: These children tend to be very well-adjusted, Klinzing says. They accept challenges readily. They are independent and cooperative with others. They stick to tasks longer than other kids their age. They have excellent communication skills.

What permissive parents do: These parents set few limits for their children. Some are afraid to limit their children, Klinzing says. Some believe children should be true to their own natures and outside values should not be imposed on them. They are warm and accepting toward their children, but they let the kids do whatever they want, even to the extent of allowing them to eat what they want and go to bed when they want.

How their children sometimes turn out: Because these children are forced to decide things for themselves at a very young age, they may make many bad decisions. Klinzing says these are the children you see throwing temper tantrums in the grocery store at age 7. They are often quite demanding, immature and rebellious. Many defy authority, lack interest in school and become underachievers. They often grow up believing their parents don’t love them, the exact opposite of how the parents really feel.

What uninvolved parents do: These parents are indifferent to their children, according to Klinzing. They are undemanding. They treat their children almost as they would treat furniture. In extreme cases, their treatment could be classified as neglect. Many of these parents are seriously depressed and have little energy left for their children.

How their children sometimes turn out: This group of children have the most problems dealing with the world, Klinzing says. They have little emotional control and often have trouble forming attachments. They are easily frustrated. They have more academic problems and delinquency issues.

Parenting styles don’t necessarily doom offspring, Klinzing says. Sometimes a child with a bluebird-on-my-shoulder attitude flies through childhood regardless of how his parents treated him.

“If a parent has good skills and the baby comes into the world easy, that’s just heaven,’’ Klinzing says. “If the parents are good parents and the child is difficult, the child’s still going to come out alright. It’s just going to be more of a problem for the parents.

“If the parents are not that good but the child happens to have resiliency and a cooperative attitude and looks at the world well, that child’s probably going to be O.K., too. But, if the child comes into the world difficult and the parents have very little or inappropriate parenting skills, this child will be considered high risk,” says Klinzing.

Klinzing advises her college students who suffer from depression to be treated before they have children so that they do not become uninvolved parents, which she considers the worst parenting style.

Article by Kathy Canavan
Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson

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