What is the best parenting style for your kids?
Teaching and parenting aren’t all that different. Different styles tend to produce different kinds of kids.
Kids need direction. They need to know that there is some authority figure that can give them the guidance they need. Parents and teachers who work in an authoritative way with kids produce remarkably well-adjusted children and adults. Authoritative in NOT authoritarian which does not have as positive results. Authoritarian parents/teachers set strict boundaries but do not teach the skills to allow kids to achieve expectations. On the other hand, authoritative figures expect a great deal from children. But they are also willing to put in the hard work to carefully explain expectations and are willing to put in the hard work to teach those skills. Children of authoritative parents and teachers enjoy positive relationships with peers and become independent and self-sufficient according to most recent research.
We like to think that all parents love their kids. Teachers also love many of the children in their classes. Parents who have strong physical and emotional bonds with their children often base their connection with kids on a strong bond of attachment. Many teachers use the same approach recommending that students do learning tasks “for Ms. Lincoln”, rather than for the value of the learning. Proponents of this approach to parenting insist that there are many fewer behavioral problems. The risk is that both parent and child can lose their individuality and feel totally connected and blended as one.
Do you remember a few years ago when a New York mother was cited for failure to care for her 9-year old child when she allowed him to ride the subway by himself? Free-range parenting believes in letting kids function independently with careful and judicious parental oversight. The goal is for children to develop self-determination that will benefit them throughout life. The advantages to children are that they will grow into independent adults. Some teachers and schools use this approach allowing students to go from activity or subject based on whatever interests them at the moment. For teachers or parents to use this approach, it is important to be aware of school rules or of what local laws are for leaving children unsupervised.
At the other end of the control continuum are teachers and parents who want to remove all possibility of failure for kids’ experience. Teachers will make sure that instruction for children is not too challenging as to cause struggle or frustration. This is a lawnmower approach to challenges that may be in the child’s way. With this approach, a parent may intervene with authorities to make sure the child does not experience the full consequences of behavior. Bulldozing life obstacles will make for a slightly smoother adolescence for the child. However, while life for the child may be easier in the short-term, the child misses the opportunity to learn to manage the slings and arrows of life that will come. These children often are less confident because they have not had to learn to solve a tough academic challenge or work through adapting to the failures that life will throw at them.
It is unusual for a parent or teacher to only be one style, but most tend to gravitate toward one style or another. The right choice is the one that works best for the teacher/parent and the child. Outcomes will be different.