Child Behavior: What kind of mom are you?

Educate yourself and adhere to a family plan

Child psychologist Diana Baumrind conducted a long-term research study on parenting styles and its effect on child's behavior. Baumrind identified four primary parenting styles. They are as follows:

a) Permissive Parenting: These parents make few demands on their child. They are often tolerant and accepting of most of their children's behavior, setting minimal or no boundaries or rules of conduct. This style seems to produce a child who is impulsive, immature, prone to tantrums, demanding and has poor social skills.

b) Authoritarian Parenting: This style of parenting has a high degree of control, rigid limit setting and boundaries, and a demand for compliance. Parents set rigid rules and standards of conduct for children to obey. They do not encourage "give and take"; rather, they value obedience "because I say so." They use punitive discipline measures ? even physical abuse when rules are broken. Children from this style seem to be less independent, less capable of self-control and more anxious and aggressive.

c) Uninvolved Parents: This style is similar to the permissive parent where the parent makes few demands on the child; however, these parents are characterized as being unresponsive, neglecting or rejecting. These parents spend less time with and energy on their children than any other style. They have little interaction with their children, and act as parents more out for their own comfort and conscience than anything else. Children that emerge from this model are often non-compliant, withdrawn and have difficulty developing adaptive social relationships.

d) Authoritative Parenting: These parents encourage verbal input from their children regarding family rules and the boundaries set by parents. They are warm and supportive of the individual needs of their children, but also value the conformity to the families rules and attempt to bring it about by exerting consistent and firm but not excessive control. Children of authoritative parents have been shown to be more sociable, independent, confident and have better social skills than the other three styles.

Authoritative parenting appears to produce the best outcomes for children because these parents attempt to maintain a balance between boundaries and control and warmth and respect ? and they encourage their children to do the same. They also engage in what researchers believe characterizes the optimal parent/child relationship: reciprocity, or the ability for parents and children to engage in respectful exchanges or ideas and feelings.

What discipline strategy and parenting style is used will determine whether a child internalizes family values and a code of conduct, or complies out of fear or out of desire for rewards. To make disciplinary tactics most effective, they should be consistent, without threatening in any way the child's well being, and occur as soon as possible after the occurrence of misbehavior.

Paul Schwartz, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology and education at
Mount Saint Mary College. He is available for speaking engagements to parent groups.