Your parenting style will have a large impact on your child’s development, especially during their preschool years.

When your child is preschool age they are experiencing lots of change and development — physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. The way you parent your child greatly influences the way they see the world around them, interact with their peers and respond to situations. 

What Are the Four Different Parenting Styles?

There are four main parenting styles, first discovered by psychologist Diana Baumrind in the early 1960s. These styles are:

  • Authoritarian Parenting: Parents who practice the authoritarian style of parenting typically establish rules and guidelines that the children are expected to follow. This parenting style is also known as “strict parenting.” When a child asks why they have to pick up their toys or eat a vegetable, this parent would simply respond “Because I said so.” Authoritarian parents do not want their rules or guidelines questioned, because they believe that this shows a lack of respect. It is important for authoritarian parents to avoid appearing soft or vulnerable to their children, again because it might cause their child’s respect for their authority to wane.
  • Authoritative Parenting: Authoritative parents have high expectations for their children, but typically balance those expectations with understanding and support for their children. For example, if their child throws a tantrum because they don’t want to brush their teeth, there would be a consequence for the poor behavior, but also a discussion of why oral hygiene is important and why brushing their teeth is a good thing. Authoritative parents are open to communication between themselves and their child and want to make sure that their child understands the “why?” behind their expectations.
  • Permissive Parenting: Permissive parents typically view their relationship with their child as a friendship, and are more lax with their expectations and more indulgent to their child’s whims. Permissive parents have relatively low expectations of their child’s maturity and self-control, and rarely discipline. For example, if their child were to refuse to eat their carrots, going so far as to yell and throw the offending vegetable across the table, a permissive parent would often pick up the mess and offer the child a different food, without disciplining them for their outburst. Permissive parents want to make sure that their child sees them as a friend and knows that they are on their side.
  • Uninvolved Parenting: Uninvolved parents are neglectful of their child, both physically and emotionally. An uninvolved parent may leave their child at home alone to fend for themselves at young ages when a child cannot care for themselves adequately. They generally prefer to be away from their children and are unaware of who their child’s friends and teachers are.

Which Is the Best Parenting Style?

Research shows authoritative parenting is the most optimal parenting style, in regards to parent/child dynamics and child development. If you don’t identify as an authoritative parent, that’s okay. No parent is perfect, nor does anyone expect you to change your parenting style overnight. However, it is a healthy practice to self-reflect on the way you parent and interact with your child to see where you could improve.

This is not a competition to be the best parent in the world, but rather a challenge to be the best parent you can be for your child. Here are some ways you can integrate authoritative parenting methods into your life.

Encourage Questions & Discussions

Whenever your child questions a rule or command, chances are, they aren’t trying to be disrespectful. Children are very curious and genuinely want to understand why they have to do something. The next time your child says “But why?”, use this as a chance to talk about the reasons why they have to perform a certain task, like brushing their teeth, picking up their toys, or eating healthy foods. This will ease their frustration at performing a task they don’t view as enjoyable.

Set Healthy Boundaries & Expectations

While it is important to have a healthy, loving and trusting relationship with your child, remember your job is not to be their friend, but rather, their guide, especially in the early years. Help your child understand you are the leader first and foremost, by limiting compromise and enforcing clear expectations. Don’t let your child walk all over you. This will allow your child to grow into an adult who can practice self-control and maturity in social situations.

Be Involved in Your Child’s Life

Get to know your child’s friends, classmates, and teachers. Make sure you have a few moments every day to give your child your undivided attention. Talk to your child about their day and ensure they feel heard.

Did you connect with one of these parenting styles? Remember, every parent is unique, just like every child is unique, and thus, your parenting style might not fit the exact mold of the four established parenting styles described above. However, being aware of the parenting style that you lean toward can help you better understand the dynamics between you and your child and also help your relationship with them flourish.

At Little Sunshine’s Playhouse & Preschool®, we encourage parent engagement both in and out of the classroom. To learn more about our student, teacher and parent emergent learning, contact a Little Sunshine’s Playhouse® near you, today!