What kind of parent do you want to be? Your own parenting style will be shaped by how you were raised, and whether you want to parent in the same way.
Children tend to thrive when parents are warm and loving and provide clear guidance and support. They’re more likely to listen to your guidance when they feel understood.
But parenting is hard, and no one gets it right all the time. It helps to remember that:
- there’s no such thing as a perfect parent
- there’s no one right way to parent
- every child is different, and has their own personality and unique qualities, and these can change over time - you need to adapt your parenting to meet their needs as they change
- you’re not just a parent, you’re a person with your own needs - looking after those needs makes parenting easier
- it’s okay to ask for help - all parents need it at times.
Above all else, a loving relationship with your child is what's important.
There are three broad parenting styles. Many parents use a combination of styles (possibly being tougher than usual when they’re stressed, or more permissive than usual when they’re exhausted, for example), but tend to use one the most:
- Authoritarian style (the rock)
- Permissive style (the paper)
- Authoritative/supportive style (the tree).
Take Tākai's parenting styles quiz to see which you use most.
This style of parenting is mostly hard and inflexible. Authoritarian parents often focus on unquestioning obedience, strict rules, and enforce harsh punishments when their directions aren’t followed.
These parents sometimes think they need to be tough on their children so they’ll learn important family values and life lessons.
Children with authoritarian parents can:
- be more anxious
- only think they’re loved if they do what their parent says or behave the way they want them to behave
- have less self-confidence and lower self-esteem
- be less independent
- be more easily influenced by their peers
- reject their parents and their values when they hit the teenage years.
Permissive parents are also known as helicopter parents. Someone who parents this way often gives in to their children to keep the peace, and they like to rescue or save them from anything that might be hard or upsetting.
This can mean their children may be:
- less able to deal with frustration or disappointment
- overly dependent and insecure
- find it harder to develop persistence and problem-solving skills
- less confident in their own decision-making
- less considerate and more likely to blame others for their problems.
Some parents might take this approach because their parents had an authoritarian style, and they want their kids to have a happier childhood than they did.
This style of parenting is firm but fair. Authoritative parents set limits and expect children to stick to them, but they can be adjusted over time as needed. These parents respond to their children’s needs and listen to their views. ‘Tree’ parents let their children know what their expectations are, have reasonable consequences if that’s not what happens, and they praise good behaviour.
Children of authoritative parents tend to:
- respect others
- be self-motivated
- have good self-esteem
- know what they want and how to get it.
Most parents use a mixture of these three styles, depending on how they’re feeling.
It’s a good idea to think about:
- how you were parented – the good and the not so good
- how you want to parent your child
- the way you interact with your child now, and the way you manage them
- how this might feel to your child or how you think your child sees you
- whether you want to – or might need to – change what you’re doing to make sure your child has good memories of their early life and grows up to be a happy and capable adult.
Tips for a firm and fair approach
- give your child lots of love and positive attention, and be your child’s safe and secure place to come back to
- know what normal behaviour is for your child’s age. This will help you have realistic expectations of them
- try to spend time doing something they like with them every day. Remember it’s about quality not quantity
- ‘catch’ them being good and give them lots of praise for it
- have a routine, but know that some days won’t be plain sailing
- give lots of warning so they know what’s coming next – plan, and keep them informed
- give them simple choices, like whether they’d like to wear the red or the blue t-shirt
- agree on a small number of rules (too many and your child will be overwhelmed and won’t be able to remember them) and stick to them
- if they break rules, follow through with consequences that are reasonable and related. For example, if they draw on something they shouldn’t draw on, take the crayons away for a bit
- understand that all children are different. Think about your children and the things that upset or challenge each of them - one approach doesn’t fit all
- remember you’re a role model for your kids - they’ll learn more from what you do than what you say, so behave how you want them to behave.