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  • Writer's pictureJeannette Koh

The 4 main parenting styles


Parenting styles are standard strategies that parents use in child-rearing. Research has shown an association between the parenting styles of parental figures and the attachment styles of their children (best understood with attachment theory).

This article is the first of 2 parts. In it, I detail the 4 main parenting styles and share the way my parents brought us up. The second part explores attachment theory and the 4 attachment styles.

Parenting styles

1. Authoritarian

The authoritarian parent requires obedience from a child above everything else. They enforce rules strictly and take very little account of the child’s feelings. 

The child responds to the parent and complies with the behaviour because they fear punishment and may not understand the reasons for compliance. 

2. Authoritative

The authoritative parent enforces rules to elicit good behaviour, but takes the child’s feelings into account. 

They explain the rules and consequences of actions and are more reasonable than the authoritarian parent. They instruct the child in proper and appropriate behaviour and are the child’s role models.  

3. Permissive

The permissive parent often treats the child like a friend. 

There is no real parenting role and the child will almost always be allowed to make his own decisions about things. 

Some of these decisions may lead to undesirable consequences. As a result of a lack of structure and rules, there is little discipline or compliance to the parent’s demands or the parent often backs down on them.  

4. Uninvolved

The uninvolved parents have no interest in their child’s development at all. They would not know who their child’s friends are. Nor do they spend time with him to guide or instruct him. 

The uninvolved parent may neglect his child’s needs due to factors beyond his control like work or other environmental conditions. 

How our parents’ styles influence our own 

How my parents brought us up

Upon reflection and hindsight, my parents used a combination of both authoritarian and authoritative styles when my sister and I were younger. 

The former (authoritarian) was used until we were 9 or 10 years old; the rules were more or less relaxed when we became teenagers. 

I remember very clearly, “No means no!” And there was no way we could risk asking for the thing we wanted a second time. We grew up in an era where children were seen not heard and we accepted this treatment as the norm as it was similar in school. We were taught by authoritarian teachers as well who saw nothing wrong in flinging our books out the window or yelling unsavoury names at us when we did not do our sums right.

My father was the head of the household and my mother took his cue. Both were consistent in their treatment of us. Although authoritarian, they were quite fair in their punishments. Maybe it helped that both my sister and I were quite compliant when we were young. 

My own parenting style

As a result of my strict upbringing, I have also been quite strict when bringing up my own children, relaxing only when they went to secondary school. 

We had rules at home and did not indulge them. For example, they had to share the computer and all 4 shared a room in the early years. They also wore hand-me-downs and ate whatever was on the table. 

Now that the younger two are in their late teens and the older ones are young adults, they are quite mature and responsible in their behaviour. 

How an understanding of parenting styles can help teachers better relate to their students

When we understand how parenting styles can influence the attachment styles of our children and students, we find ways to better relate and communicate with them.

In part 2, I go deeper into attachment theory and the 4 attachment styles. These are helpful when trying to understand our patterns of behaviour in and around relationships.

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