Strict or Permissive?

If you had strict parents, you might have promised that you would be a different sort of parent when you grew up and had children. You imagined that you would be more gentle, loving, and supportive. Once you had children, you may have found yourself able to keep that old promise, or, you may have found you have more in common with your parents than you had originally thought.

Sometimes you wonder if you're doing the right thing, no matter which parenting path you've chosen. That's when it's helpful to break things down and examine the various parenting styles and the ramifications of each type. Psychologists have found there are three main styles of parenting.

Control Freaks

Authoritarian parents are the strictest of the strict and put order and obedience before love and warmth. Is it any wonder that their children perceive them as control freaks? These parents have strong feelings about their children's conduct and use criticism to try and make them obey. Such parents don't believe in offering choices to their children.

By the same token, explanations are never deemed a necessary adjunct to a child's behavioral education. If the child dares to ask why the parent demands a certain behavior, the parent often responds with a pat, "Because I said so."

Authoritarian parents focus on ill behavior instead of complimenting the expected, good behavior. Since good behavior is seen as the standard it is considered unworthy of comment. However, punishment or harsh words are offered the child when he dares to disobey.

The consequence of such parenting is children who are incapable of independent thought. They follow rules without understanding the whys and wherefores and have therefore lost the process of reason.

An Unpleasant Task

Permissive parents are at the opposite end of the spectrum and seem determined not to impose any structure on their children. Whatever the child does is accepted with warmth and love. Permissive parents make no or few rules for their children. Such parents don't believe in forcing boundaries on their children.

The permissive parent believes in providing children with lots of choice and never considers whether the child is capable of making informed decisions. Such parents prefer not to comment one way or the other on the behavior of their children. They may feel incapable of changing their children's behavior, or find discipline an unpleasant task.


Authoritative or democratic parents are hard-working. They make the effort to provide children with logical explanations for good behavior. They teach their children about the consequences of their actions. But the job of the democratic parent doesn't end here. Such parents watch to see how their lessons take in their small fry and do so in an atmosphere of love and warmth. They watch for good behavior and give praise when it comes, reinforcing good behavior rather than focusing on the bad.