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What's your parenting style?

Experts have identified four basic types: authoritative, permissive, authoritarian, and hands-off. Whatever your approach, here's how to make the most of your parenting style.

By Carol Lloyd

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Permissive parenting

While shopping, your seven-year-old son begs for a special cookie (even though he's already had his share of treats that day). You say:

A. "Not a chance. You should know better than to ask me for one right before we have dinner."

B. "OK, you've been such a good boy, you deserve a cookie." He seems to have his heart set and, after all, it's only one cookie.

C."No, you’ve already had plenty of treats – pick something healthy instead."

D. "Don’t nag me. What I spend my money on is up to me."

Are you frequently the parent who picks B? You’re not alone. Permissive parenting is common in this day of busy schedules, harried two-worker families, and a feeling that we just don’t get enough quality time with our kids. We love them to death! Why must we say, "No" all the blooming time?

Unfortunately, indulging our children’s every wish can have unfortunate consequences both for the child and the parent. Children can end up feeling entitled to getting what they want, not what they need: the self-restraint, patience, and other character traits that will help them succeed in life. Parents who give in to the short-term battles about the extra toy or the chore that never gets done face bigger battles down the road when the child is used to running the show: fudging on homework, back talking parents, or simply not behaving responsibly.

Here’s the ticket: your love. Permissive parents are deeply in touch with their overwhelming affection for their children, which is no small thing. The problem? Sometimes these parents aren’t thinking about the long-term consequences of their parenting choices. So don’t dismiss your desire to make your child happy. Instead, consider their long-term happiness a little more.

When you find yourself in a permissive parenting conundrum, ask yourself, "What will make my child happy tomorrow, or next week, or in ten years?" The answer may make you seem a little stricter in the moment, but you’ll know that you’re acting from your deepest impulse, your love for your child.

is the executive editor of GreatSchools and mother to two raucous daughters, ages 9 and 13.

Comments from readers

"Loved the article and the way it found strengths in every type, yet helped parents consider if some changes would be helpful! "
"I started attending college at 51 just last week I got a module about analysing four parenting types and my 13 year old helps me with the typing he was amazed as he read my essay format and he mentioned that I was an authorative parent warm, flexible with the child as long as what he wants to do does not affect his schoolwork I did my paper with the studies done by Erik ericson i compared him with Kohlberg studies of parenting(those were the studies i was given not Erik Ericson }I admire him very much.Is amazing how accurate this studies are you see the studies show the kids from authorative parents are intelligent well, my boy is in Gifted class his average is a 92 so I am a proud mom and so is my child .We were both shocked to see this article and i decided to share my story. "
"This was really really a terrible, simplistic article that encourages parents to be one of these ridiculous styles. This is why I don't read anything written by "experts" on Great Schools, and I don't trust what I do read. None of these style is functional. The right answer in parenting is "eclectic" or "levelling" which amounts to considering every situation, every person, every child on a case by case basis and not being rigid in any way on the continuum. When parents get in trouble it is because they read and believe this kind of garbage that they should "be" one way or another. You need to adapt quickly to all variables or you will not be effective in parenting or in your own life for that matter. Geesh. "
"My daughter Nina newly nine, is starting to assert her independence.My parenting style is Authoritative no,no,no and last but not least because I said so,my husband on the other hand is slightly permissive, as our daughter gets older we will adopt other parenting skills,but for now our stlye works. "
"This article really does a disservice to readers. The research on parenting styles done by Diana Baumrind at UC Berkeley and many other developmental psychologists over the last 40+ years shows unequivocally that there is ONE parenting style (authoritative) that is best for child development. The other 3 parenting styles (permissive, authoritarian, and hands-off) are varying degrees of worse, pure and simple. To somehow imply that one can make the most of each parenting style entirely misses the point of the research on this topic. If your goal is to make all your readers feel equally good no matter how they treat their child, at least don't falsely claim that the psychological research supports your point of view. "
"Nice article. However I think different styles work differently depending upon the basic child type too. Unfortunately, every child needs a different style but by the time we figure out what style is best for one child, it may be too late. The siblings may feel bias if you alter your parenting style acceding to each child. "
"Nice. I appreciate that you found positive qualities in each parenting style while helping define the parenting style that's most effective. I read this and didn't come away feeling guilty, but informed and empowered to do better. "
"Extremely well-thought and well- written article. I have been observing and thinking on the parenting styles. This article has helped me a lot in clearing few things. "
"This article is very informative. I was raised in an authoritarian hosehold with both parents acting in that manner. I appreciated some of the rules and jusdgement used by my parents however, the no if ands, or buts about the rules did not go over well as a teen. I am the mother of three 2 teens and 1 preteen. I am an authoritative parent and feel that because of this style my children and I have very open lines of communication. I want them to feel they can come to me about both good and bad things. I tell them that I may still give them a mom's perspective after years of expereince, but at least they can feel that the advice is in their best interests. "