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4 Parenting Styles

There are 4 predominant styles of parenting. Within each style there are shades and variations of all kinds. 3 of them are bad. 1 of them is good.


Permissive parents—give rewards to stop or prevent negative behaviors because they are unwilling to discipline.

The description might bring to mind a stereotype--the spoiled children of rich parents. But permissive parenting occurs at every socio-economic level. The hallmark of permissive parenting is the unwillingness to deny children what they desire. This is different than the occasionally suspending the no-dessert-before-dinner rule. Permissive parents let children make all of their own choices, even when those choices are ultimately self-destructive.

  • Parents are unwilling to discipline.

  • Respond to behavior by appeasing.

  • Creates kids who are entitled and manipulative.

Dismissive parents—treat children like a burden often because they are unprepared for the responsibility.

All of these styles occur on a spectrum of sorts. At its most extreme dismissive parents are completely unprepared for children when they arrive. They lack both the ability and the availability to parent effectively.
But less extreme forms are more common. Parents who relished their pre-child independence and maybe resist the transition into parenthood with its tentative plans and milk-stained clothes and develop mild dismissive tendencies. Or perhaps, parents who think kids should be easier to raise then they are may find themselves overreacting to adverse behaviors out of fear that they have been sent a defective unit. And that fear tends to be contagious.

  • Parents lack the ability and/or availability to parent.

  • Overreact to behavior.

  • Creates kids who are insecure.

Authoritarian parents—have no tolerance for mistakes and confuse discipline and punishment because they pin their personal self-worth to the performance of their children.

At its most extreme, authoritarian parenting is violent and abusive. But it harms children even before reaching that extreme. Authoritarian parents frequently conflate their children’s behavior with their own identity, so when their children misbehave they take it as a matter of personal weakness. Ironically, authoritarian parents rarely live up to their own standard and frequently say some version of, “do what I say not what I do.”

  • Parents are command and control oriented.

  • Response to behavior with highly punitive punishment.

  • Creates kids who are fearful and distrustful.

All of that was dark and kind scary, yeah? Here comes the good one.

Authoritative parents—seek a balance between opposite but equally important ingredients on the fulcrum of attachment.

Good parents understand that their children need two necessary but opposite things from them: grace and discipline, and they are constantly seeking the right mix of them. Rarely do good parents feel like they’re nailing it, but they are at least aware of the two components and trying to blend them in the best combination to the benefit of their child.


Aware. Trying. That’s what it takes to be a good parent.

The fulcrum on which an authoritative parent balances these two ingredients is attachment. They know that above all else, their child needs to feel a strong attachment to a loving caregiver. So grace and discipline are delivered as gifts--equally valuable gifts that will

  • Parents are balancing the necessary opposites of parenting.

  • Response to behavior by correcting and restoring.

  • Creates kids who are securely attached.

A word of warning

Don’t divide responsibility for these two halves the same way all the time. If mom is always nurturing and dad is always the disciplinarian, it will drive the two parents apart. Kids will learn which parent is more open to which kind of request or situation. Both spouses need to mix grace and discipline. You are a team, and you need to coordinate so that you maintain a strong alignment.

Ray Deck III1 Comment