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 A large family of 7 is posing for a picture on the sofa. Parenting style, family activities, education.

Understanding the Most Encouraged Parenting Style in America

The landscape of parenting. The metaphor seems appropriate because at times, particularly in the beginning, the landscape seems unclear, almost like you’re wandering through a trackless forest. How do you know where to go and what to do? At least that’s how we felt as we started our parenting journey.

As you begin to find your footing and get a hang of raising tiny humans, finding a parenting style, with parenting techniques that line up with your values, becomes important. How to raise great kids is a mystery that all parents are trying to unravel.

What Is a Parenting Style?

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Raising your children is a challenge. All kids are unique, as are all the circumstances in which they are growing up so the idea that you can raise your kids, “like this”, is nonsense. What helps parents be able to navigate the landscape of parenting is a framework of ideas and attitudes. This is a parenting style.

Parenting approaches are rooted in the values that the parents hold and what they hope for their children. If you have high aspirations for your kids and want them to be productive and impactful members of society, you need to raise them in a way that will help them accomplish that.

Since your kids will spend most of their lives as adults, you have the responsibility of making sure they are ready for adulthood while still creating great memories, showing them love and teaching them life lessons. That’s a tall order, especially because kids don’t come with handbooks or instructions! Have no fear because while we can’t do the hard work of parenting for you, we can help lay out some fundamentals so that you can focus on doing what only you can do: be great parents.

4 Main Parenting Styles in America 

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Of all the different parenting strategies and parenting theories, 4 main parenting styles dominate the culture in America today. These 4 styles range from highly permissive and disengaged to highly structured and disciplined. What are these parenting styles?

Authoritative Parenting

Authoritative parenting is a child-rearing style that has been found to create some of the best outcomes in children. For parents looking to learn parenting skills in line with authoritative parenting, the key is high standards and expectations while still being highly responsive and in tune with your kids. This takes effort and intentionality, but it is worth it to see your kids flourish. Research has shown that children from authoritative parents have higher levels of self-esteem, as well as better outcomes later in life.

What are some of the key attributes of authoritative parents?

  1. Clear rules and consistently enforced boundaries.
  1. Encourage independence in kids through listening and conversation.
  1. Warm and nurturing.
  1. Positive discipline is more commonly used than punishments and excessive discipline.
  1. Earn children’s respect through fairness and clarity.

Permissive Parenting

Permissive parenting is an approach that is very lax and open, with few rules and a lot of love. Discipline is a distant, rarely discussed topic in the households of permissive parents and the main idea is that kids will do as kids do and they are best when left alone, without the weight of the world on their shoulders. “They will have plenty of rules and restrictions as they are older so why not let them be carefree while you can?” Unfortunately, a survey of over 1000 permissive parenting families had shown worse outcomes in grades, self-esteem and other markers than some other parenting styles.

What does permissive parenting look like?

  1. Very little structure or schedule and encourage freedom over responsibilities.
  2. Consequences or punishment are rare.
  3. Parents have a “friend-like” relationship with their kids.
  4. Few rules and guidelines for behavior.
  5. Ask for input from kids for decisions in the household.

Uninvolved Parenting

As you can imagine, uninvolved parents have little involvement with their children, often to the detriment of both the children and the parents. This doesn’t necessarily mean the kids are in danger; as parents, they simply aren’t as engaged as other parents are in raising their kids. This could be because of a work situation, health problems, lack of awareness or any other number of reasons. Unsurprisingly, kids with these types of parents, as shown in large studies, had the worse outcomes of the 4 major parenting styles.

How can you tell if you are an uninvolved parent?

  1. Uninvolved parents do not take an interest in their kids’ school or activities
  1. They are not emotionally available or interested in developing those relationships with their kids.
  1. Don’t really have rules or monitor their kids, very little supervision under their watch.
  1. Not supportive in really any way and are distant, choosing to focus on their lives instead of raising their children.

Authoritarian Parenting

    Authoritarian parenting would be considered the opposite of uninvolved parenting because they are strict and demanding, forcing compliance to the many rules they have with tough punishments. Yelling is common and there are no real discussions, allowing the kid’s feedback to be able to change their behavior. Research has shown that this type of parenting leads to poorer social skills and self-esteem than those raised by authoritative parents.

    What are the signs of authoritarian parenting?

    1. Authoritarian parents are highly demanding but are not responsive to their kids' needs or feelings.
    1. Very few choices are given to children with an unwillingness to negotiate.
    1. Parents using this style are often extremely impatient and easy to agitate.
    1. May use shame as a way to make children feel bad or to listen to them.
    1. Often no explanation, or very little, of punishments for bad behavior.

    In America, when surveyed, 46% of parents identified as authoritative, 26% as authoritarian, 18% as permissive and 10% as uninvolved.

    Are There Other Types of Parenting Styles in America?

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    There is a whole constellation of other parenting type ranging from excessively lenient to incredibly restrictive and everywhere else. Different cultures and upbringings all lead to somewhat altered styles of parenting, with parenting advice and parenting tips from all sides of the spectrum.

    Helicopter Parenting

    Helicopter parents are the type of parents that hover over their children, making sure that everything is fine for them and being very involved in their children’s lives. As a parent, it seems like they are “preparing the path for the child” as opposed to “preparing the child to travel the path of life”. This includes removing natural consequences for their children, intervening in matters that should be within the ability of their children to control and much more.

    Obsessive Parenting

    Everyone has seen the parent screaming at the little league game or berating the coach of another team. This type of parenting can be labeled obsessive and similar to helicopter parenting, they are overly involved in the lives of their kids. They make decisions for their kids and don’t give them autonomy, not allowing for any type of growth.

    Authoritative Parenting: The Most Encouraged Parenting Style in America

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    When it comes to producing highly functioning, emotionally resilient, and balanced kids, the authoritative parenting style comes out on top. As parents, we all want the best for our kids and this style of parenting seems to deliver the most well-rounded and flexible children.

    • Authoritative parenting comes with high expectations but also with warmth and understanding of your kids and their growth.

    It's not easy to grow up. Authoritative parents understand that and are available and empathetic to their children’s struggles. They also know that following through and striving is important and will walk with their kids as they overcome challenges, helping them when needed and encouraging them when necessary.

    • What are the benefits of authoritative parenting?

    Parenting advice in line with authoritative parenting will lead to more confident, more productive, more emotionally stable, and balanced kids. It provides all the ingredients for a successful life.

    • America’s Children: a desire for high self-worth and well-rounded kids makes the authoritative style America’s choice.

    Not all cultures use the authoritative style of parenting but in America, the outcomes are what people want for their children. Strong, independent, and capable children that can leave the home and begin their own lives after school line up with the values of most Americans and it is no surprise that most parents choose this parenting style.

    How to Choose the Right Parenting Philosophy?

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    Choosing the right parenting style isn’t as simple as deciding on one and sticking to it. Some factors make these decisions more complicated. What factors are important to consider when choosing a parenting style?

    • Flexibility is key. There will be times when it makes more sense as a parent to be more permissive (such as when they are sick) and make allowances that you wouldn’t typically make. There are also times when being an authoritarian parent (walking in a crowded place) will deliver you the necessary results.
    • Culturally speaking, you and your partner may have different ideas about what is the right thing to do. It is important to discuss these matters as soon as possible and make plans around how you want to raise your kids and how you want them to turn out.
    • Community is crucial when parenting and some people in your community may have different ideas about parenting and how you should raise your children. Make sure that you are clear about how you want to raise your kids and why that is important. Communicate that to those in your community so they can work with you instead of against you.

    The Choice Belongs to You

    As parents, it is our sacred duty to raise and protect our kids. The authoritative style of parenting, with all the parenting tips, parenting resources, parenting education and parenting support available today, provides a solid foundation for your kids to grow on.

    It is important to be flexible and find what works for you as a family. No two families are alike and often, there is a mix of many parenting styles mashed into a workable and effective collection of styles that matches your family. There are no badges or awards for perfection in parenting, only the joy of seeing them grow up to be healthy, strong, and capable… and that is all the reward you need.

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    Cali's Books, founder, about us, why I love books, children's books

    Hi! I'm Cali, Founder of Cali's Books

    “I’ve loved books since childhood and wanted to transmit this enthusiasm to my children”

    I'm a mom of two young children who trained as an engineer and worked in investment banking and at Disney. A French of Caribbean origin (Martinique to be precise!), I grew up in Paris. Los Angeles is now the place I call home!

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