|Posted by Naveen Kini on July 9, 2017 at 10:15 PM|
Parents in India are at an undesirable crossroad these days. Many are torn between the orthodox approach to parenting that they have been subject to during their formative years (where togetherness, discipline, obedience and boundaries played an important part) and the demands of bringing up a child in this modernistic society (where the future seems to be getting increasingly competitive, nuclear, liberal and exploding with information).They are juggling multiple roles of being an employee, spouse, parent and sometimes, a caretaking son/daughter for their parents, without clear-cut guidance and informative literature to direct them. This often results in an unequal struggle between accepting modern viewpoints on education, entertainment and nutrition, and trying to retain the cultural and social flavor that India is proud of. Despite multiple constraints, most parents do an admirable balancing act, to ensure that their children learn to "get along without them", and face the new world as confident, balanced and empathetic individuals.
As W. E. B. Dubois said “children learn more from what you are, than what you teach". Most often, the style of parenting adopted by parents closely reflects their own childhood experiences, observations and perceived deficiencies. That said, there can be no rigid definitions of good and bad parenting, and most parents usually develop a successful blend that suits their distinctive home environment.
Developmental psychologists have researched how parents affect the development of their children, and have proposed that there are links between parenting styles and their effects on children, which in turn may decide eventual adult behaviour.
In the early 1960s, psychologist Diana Baumrind suggested that the majority of parents display one of three different parenting styles; Authoritarian, Authoritative and Permissive. Later, Maccoby and Martin also suggested adding a fourth, Uninvolved or Neglectful. Recent research has outlined another increasingly prevalent style, Helicopter parenting!
Let's take a closer look at each of these parenting styles and the impact they can have on a child's behavior.
In this style of parenting, children are expected to follow the strict rules established by the parents, without being explained the reasoning behind these rules.
• Such parents are more inclined to tell, not ask, the child to perform a specific task.
• No 'ifs, ands or buts' are entertained, and resistance is met with certain punishment.
• The approach is strictly "Do as I say!" and is usually followed by the dreaded "or else" which invokes fear in the child.
• The children are given very few choices, and decisions about their life are wholly made by the parent.
• These parents usually are reserved by nature, and restrict the amount of warmth and nurturing they bestow on the child.
Children of authoritarian parents are prone to having
• low self-esteem (feelings of being good for nothing)
• being fearful or shy (they seldom venture on stage, or speak out against injustice or bullying)
• associating obedience with love (giving in to unreasonable demands of others)
• having difficulty in social situations (poor interaction with relatives and peers)
• and possibly misbehaving when outside of parental care, say in a hostel..
A second major style identified by Baumrind was the authoritative style.
• Like authoritarian parents, these parents too establish rules and guidelines that their children are expected to follow, but are much more democratic in the enforcement of them.
• They are willing to listen to questions, and respond to them clearly and coherently.
• These parents expect a great deal of their children, but they provide warmth, feedback, and adequate support.
• They are assertive, but do not intrude in their child's routine affairs, or restrict their natural curiosity and playfulness.
• The disciplinary methods that they adopt are designed to support, rather than punish the child.
• They have the ability to listen and talk openly and directly with the child, without being judgemental or condescending, thus providing the child with a deeper understanding of the society and world around them.
• The child’s day is structured, with a planned bedtime and clearly understood household rules.
It is this combination of expectation and support that helps children of authoritative parents develop skills such as independence, self-control, and self-regulation. This type of parenting creates the healthiest environment for a growing child.
Permissive parents, sometimes referred to as indulgent parents, have very few demands to make of their children. These parents are responsive but not demanding, tend to be lenient and try to avoid confrontation.
Typically, such permissive parents
• Do not have set limits or rules.
• Often compromise their rules to accommodate the child’s mood
• Display a willingness to be the child’s best friend, rather than the parent
• They often bribe the child with large rewards to perform essential tasks like homework, and sometimes complete the task for the child
• Dangerous acts like underage driving and alcohol consumption are often turned a blind eye to
Permissive parenting can have long-term damaging effects. In a study published in the Scientific Journal of Early Adolescence, it was found that teens with permissive parents are three times more likely to engage in heavy underage alcohol consumption.
Other damaging effects of permissive parenting include
• insecurity in children because of a lack of set boundaries
• poor social skills (such as sharing and empathy) resulting from the lack of discipline
• poor school performance as there is hardly any motivation to excel
• frequent clashes with authority when things don't go their way
• obesity can be another unfortunate result of parental indulgence
Uninvolved (or Neglectful) Parenting
Psychologists Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin have proposed this fourth style characterized by few demands, low responsiveness, and very little communication. While these parents fulfil the child's basic needs, they are generally detached from their child's life.
Typically uninvolved parents
• might make sure that their kids are fed and have shelter, but offer little to nothing by way of guidance, structure, rules, or even support.
• spend long periods of time away from home leaving the child alone, often lying or making excuses for not being there.
• seldom display emotions, and lack warmth in their interactions with the child.
• have no idea who the child’s friends or teachers are, and are uninvolved in the child’s life outside the home.
Neglectful parenting is one of the most harmful styles of parenting, because the children have no foundation of trust with their parents. A small child uses a parent as an anchored secure base from where he/she ventures out to test the surroundings, only to return back shortly for reassurance or approval. When the child does not receive the attention or love that it anticipates, the confused child reacts by
• being clingy, showing anger or avoidance.
• These children will have a harder time forming relationships with other people, particularly children their age.
• They tend to lack self-control, have low self-esteem, and are less competent than their peers.
Examples of each of the four parenting styles
Let us consider the case of a 3 year old snatching a toy from a friend:
An authoritarian parent would demand that the child return the toy immediately!
An authoritative responds sensitively, but firmly saying, "I understand you would also like to play with this doll, but your friend is playing with the toy now. Perhaps in a few minutes, you can take a turns at playing with the toy, but for now, please give it back"
A permissive parent chooses not to intervene, and believes that the child should be able to express himself, and is probably thinking “It’s just a doll, anyway!”
The uninvolved parent makes no attempt to rationalize or justify the behaviour, nor does he/she intervene.
Or, when a 5-year-old requests an additional slice of pizza, after eating his share:
An authoritarian parent promptly refuses the request, because that violates the no-extra-helping rule.
The authoritative parent responds to his child's hunger but does not give in to the demand. This parent might say, "You have had enough of high calorie food for the day, but you may have an apple, or a chapathi with dal"
The permissive parent allows the child to eat many more slices of pizza, and anything and everything he/she wants, without any limits or restraints.
The uninvolved parent may not offer a response at all to the child's hunger, and will expect the child to fend for itself.
The term "helicopter parent" was first used in Dr. Haim Ginott's 1969 book, Parents & Teenagers, by teens who said their parents would hover over them like a helicopter. The term soon became popular enough to become a dictionary entry in 2011! Also called "Overparenting", it means being involved in a child's life in a way that is overcontrolling, overprotecting, and overperfecting, and that is in excess of responsible parenting,"
• In toddlerhood, a helicopter parent might constantly follow the child, always playing with and directing his behavior, hardly allowing him time to be by himself.
• As the child grows, such a parent may insist on ensuring that a child has a particular teacher or coach, selecting the child's friends and activities, or providing disproportionate assistance for homework and school projects.
• In high school or college, these parents interfere in tasks that the child is capable of sorting out on his own (for instance, calling a teacher about minor fights, insisting on dropping the child to school or managing exercise habits)
Helicopter parenting can develop from a fear of dire consequences (fear a low grade, fear of not making the team, or not getting a certain job), from feelings of anxiety, overcompensation (adults who felt unloved, neglected, or ignored as children can overcompensate with their own children) and peer pressure from other parents (when parents see other over-involved parents, it can trigger a similar response)
Engaged parenting has many benefits for a child, but when overdone, it can lead to
• decreased confidence and self-esteem (my parent doesn't trust me to do this on my own)
• poor coping skills (will have difficulty in dealing with the stresses of life such as loss, disappointment, or failure)
• increased anxiety and depression
Limitations and Criticisms of Parenting Style Research
• Links between parenting styles and behavior are based on correlation, which cannot establish definitive cause-and-effect relationships.
• The child's behavior can impact parenting styles. Parents of difficult or aggressive children may simply give up on trying to control their kids.
• In many cases, the expected outcomes in the child's behaviour do not materialize; parents with authoritative styles will have children who are defiant or who engage in delinquent behavior, while parents with permissive styles will have children who are self-confident and academically successful
• Children raised in dramatically different environments can later grow up to have remarkably similar personalities. Conversely, siblings who share a home and are raised in the same environment can grow up to have very different personalities
• Cultural factors also play an important role in parenting styles and child outcomes. Authoritative parenting, which is so consistently linked with positive outcomes in European and American families, has not been shown to be related to better school performance among African American or Asian youngsters.
• In the Indian scenario, joint families, and presence of grandparents, who provide emotional, moral and often financial support, significantly affect the outlook and behaviour of the child.
This write up aims to sensitise parents on the outcome that various approaches to parenting can have on the psychosocial development of their children. No single style will hold good for all situations, and therefore learning on the go is an essential part of parenting. The authoritative style of parenting is generally linked to positive outcomes such as strong self-esteem and competence. However, other important factors including culture, family structure and social influences also play an important role in moulding children's behavior.
As a parting shot, these few lines from Diane Loomans poem "If I Had My Child to Raise Over Again" never fail to ring a bell…
(I would) 'build self-esteem first, and the house later'
'do less correcting and more connecting'
'take eyes off the watch, and watch with the eyes'
'do more hugging and less tugging' and
'stop playing serious, and seriously play'