What’s Your Parenting Style?
Your child comes home from school one day and is visibly upset. He slams the door and drops his backpack on the floor—exactly what you’ve told him not to do.
How do you respond?
You’ve had a long and frustrating day yourself and refuse to address his behavior. He makes his way into the kitchen and immediately begins fighting with his sister. Screaming and yelling ensues. You raise your voice and tell him to go immediately to his room where he’ll stay without dinner. You’re irritated, but you trust that his attitude will blow over by tomorrow. In the meantime, he will not act like that no matter what is causing his poor behavior.
You run to hug him but he squirms and yells at you to go away. You let go and pick up his backpack for him and start emptying his homework and leftover lunch. He comes into the kitchen and immediately starts fighting with his sister. You offer him his favorite treat or a special outing tomorrow in an effort to make him happy again. He ignores you and continues fighting.
Something must have upset him, so you invite him into the kitchen and ask him about his day. He growls. “You look angry,” you say. He glares at you and nods. “Why are you angry?” He proceeds to recount how his classmate called him names and nearly the whole class joined in. He begins to cry. “I’m so sorry,” you say. “How did you feel when they called you names?” Dinner prep can wait; you talk with your child for 20 minutes. By the end of the conversation, his smile has returned. Both of you understand how his pain manifested in anger. Now he has a plan for how to handle the bullying if it happens again.
Fast forward to the next day—which child is best equipped to handle the bullying?
Fast forward several years—which now-adult child will know how to handle belittling in the workplace? How about emotional abuse from a potential partner?
Which child do you predict will have the highest emotional intelligence?
The above scenes depict three different parents with three different parenting styles handling a similar situation. For years, researchers have studied various parenting styles and the effects they have on children—specifically on their development of emotional intelligence. The emerging research is plentiful and obvious: parents with positive parenting styles—parents that create environments of love and warmth—have children with higher EQs.
So, what do different parenting styles look like and which one do you exhibit most often?
Parenting styles are known by a variety of names, but they basically break down to four different types: authoritarian, tolerant, authoritative, and democratic.
Authoritarian: An authoritarian parent is most like the parent in scenario one. They are all about maintaining control and demanding obedience. Rules are rules and children are expected to follow without explanation. Are you surprised to learn that children of authoritarian parents tend to have lower emotional well being? Additionally, authoritarian parenting is linked to cognitive anxiety and a heavy decrease in prosocial behavior. Is a child like that ready to face the academic and social challenges at school?
Tolerant: A tolerant parent is affectionate and loving and has few, if any, requirements or boundaries. Scenario three best represents this parenting style. This style enables bad behavior and poor communication. It doesn’t require children to understand or effectively express their feelings. Tolerant parenting is also referred to as “doting” parenting. Doting parents have been found to have children with lower levels of EQ.
Authoritative: Authoritative parents are warm and loving. They hold boundaries, but they invite the feedback and participation of their children.
Democratic: Democratic parenting is similar to authoritative parenting. As the name implies, democratic parents treat their children as equals. They foster an environment of conversation and exploration, like the example in scenario two. Can you see how this parent is helping their child develop communication skills by encouraging them to express their feelings? As you might guess, children who are parented in this way become better communicators, leaders, organizers, and problem solvers.
It’s important to recognize that we typically have more than one parenting style.
We’re human—our wants, needs, energy, and emotions fluctuate and thus we are by nature inconsistent. We may respond with a democratic parenting style in some situations, while at other times we may be extremely tolerant. Negative or unproductive parenting styles might not be due to ill-intent on our part. Maybe we’re emotionally exhausted or maybe we just don’t know what good parenting looks like.
The idea is to become as consistent as possible—a nod to our own emotional intelligence!
We need to model emotional intelligence to our children in order to encourage them to develop EQ skills. If we strive to adopt a democractic parenting style, we stand the best chance of nurturing the development of EQ in our children. They’ll have higher motivation for achievement and a greater sense of autonomy, and therefore more opportunities to practice self-reliance, self-competence, and self-confidence in all domains of life.
And yes, you’ll make mistakes. We all do.
But humility and consistent effort will speak volumes to your children.
So, which scenario is the most familiar to you? What things can you change to parent in a more “democratic way”? We’d love to hear your comments below!
Wang, Yanfeng, et al. “Emotional Intelligence of 3- to 6-Year-Olds and Parenting Style: Peer Communication Ability as a Mediator.” Social Behavior and Personality: an International Journal, vol. 47, no. 12, 2019, pp. 1–12., doi:10.2224/sbp.8636.