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What's your parenting style?

May 10, 2014 :
DH Illustration.

Every child is different. So is every parent. And there’s no formula to perfect parenting, though a democratic approach to matters of discipline is known to work best, writes Dr Anjali Chhabria.

It is not easy being a parent. It has never been. But in today’s day and age, with a plethora of parenting information at our disposal, it is perhaps all the more challenging. Should you be your child’s friend, whom s/he can confide in? Or should you be the disciplinarian, who ensures that the child is fit to face the many challenges of life? 

Every child is different. So is every parent. What works for one may not work for another. Parenting is a full-time job. There are no breaks, no weekly offs, no vacations. Even when ‘the child’ is 60, parents continue to worry about ‘the boy’s/girl’s wellbeing. 


There are parents – mostly mothers – who feel compelled to keep close tabs on their children. They are called ‘helicopter parents’, as they constantly hover around their little ones and not-so-little ones. The intention may be noble – to prevent the child from any harm or danger – but the outcome can be disastrous. Such children tend to resort to lying to prevent the constant patrolling and often have low self-esteem and trust issues. 

The thing with parenting is that it’s, often, a thankless job. But you make one mistake and the price to pay might be too high. Being an extreme parent - whether too strict or too lenient - can be harmful for your child’s wellbeing. It's important for parents to strike a balance. Most parents fail to understand that there is a difference between assertiveness and aggressiveness. Being aggressive will only make the child either overtly or passively aggressive.

In my opinion, the question of being a tiger mom - wherein the emphasis is always on hyper discipline and achievement - is a complete no-no. Instead, parents must try to understand their children and help them grow into happy, self-sufficient, self-disciplined, independent, successful individuals. It’s best to encourage the child to have goals and dreams, and support them when the need arises.

Parents are the key people who influence a child's development right from the time s/he is in the mother's womb. We have seen the effects of both nature and nurture on children. Research has proved children of the same genetic make up (twins) when kept in different environments grow up to be two very different individuals. Thus, the parenting approach adopted in raising a child is very important, as it will reflect in the child's personality and behaviour as s/he grows up.

Over the years, we have seen parents trying to approach different styles of parenting in order to discipline their child. But often people forget the boundaries of these styles. Let's discuss some parenting styles and their effects on children.

The boss is always right

The mantra: In the authoritarian parenting style, the parents are the boss. They lay down strict rules, which the child is expected to follow. And if the child fails to do so, it would result in punishment.

The ground reality: The child is never made to understand the reason behind the rules; s/he is just expected to follow them without asking any questions. These parents are the ones who maintain their own status as superior to the children. This often results in children following their parents out of fear. There’s often a lack of close, loving relationship between these parents and children. Such kids may look obedient and well-mannered, but usually score low on the emotional quotient.

Who’s the boss, anyway?

The mantra: In the permissive parenting style, parents believe in being more of friend to their child than a parent. They do not expect much in terms of discipline and maturity from their child and just believe in nurturing and communicating more with their offspring. 

The ground 

reality: It’s more of a free relationship between the parent and child. But,  these children are often observed to perform poorly at school. They may also lack self-discipline. To quote Maria Montessori, “The mother who feeds her child without making the least effort to teach him to hold the spoon for himself and try to find his way with it is not a good mother.”

There’s no boss here

The mantra: In the authoritative parenting style, parents set up rules for children to follow, but in a more democratic manner. The rules made are often discussed with the children and parents are willing to listen to any questions the child may have. If the child fails to follow any rule, the approach of the parent is more loving and forgiving.The ground reality: These parents are more assertive than aggressive. Discipline is expected through a supportive method and children are encouraged more towards independence and self-regulation. These children have been observed to be more confident, ethical, happy and successful.

Experts agree that the best way of raising a child is the authoritative parenting style. Such an approach leads to more understanding, trust, love and respect between the children and parents. 

The way we discipline our children will have huge impact on what they become tomorrow. When a child feels that s/he is a valuable member and that the parents genuinely care about his/her thoughts and feelings, the child willingly respects the parents and follows the rules set.

There’s no formula to perfect parenting. But here go a few tips that’ll help you become a better parent:

n  Trust your childn  Listen to your childn  Empathise with your childn  Don't compare your child to othersn  Don't label your childn  Do not force your aspirations on your childn  Reason with your child; don't impose your decisions on him/hern  Respect his/her thoughts and feelingsn  Be there when your child needs you, unconditionallyn  Be a good role model; practise what you preachn  Take interest in your child's life, beside his/her academic performancen  Spend quality time with your childn  Know your child's surrounding (school, teachers, friends and the like)n  Ask for inputs from your child in family discussions

Parenting can be quite overwhelming. But it’s important to stay true to yourself, not get stressed and do your best. And once in a while, it’s good to even give yourself a pat on the back and say, "Great job!"
(The writer is a psychiatrist and founder of Mindtemple) 

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