Chapter 2: What’s the Best Parenting Style to Reach Your Goals?
Now that you’ve set your parenting goals, it’s time to see whether the foundation you’ve set will, indeed, lead you in the most direct path to achieving those goals.
Foundation-Building Toolbox: Parenting Styles Toolset
To build a healthy family, you need a solid, stable balanced foundation on which to build. A big part of creating this foundation has to do with what you believe about parenting. Your beliefs about what parents are “supposed to” do influence the choices you make. These beliefs and the resulting things you say and do are your parenting “style.”
If your style is “imbalanced,” it can lead to long-term problems. If you have a “balanced” parenting style, you still have a wide range of options available to you, but each is healthy and effective in helping you reach your long-term goals.
There are five parenting “styles,” which commonly have certain long-term outcomes. If you have read many research-based parenting resources in the past, you’ll recall that there are usually only three: Permissive, Autocratic, and Authoritarian (used to be called “Democratic”). To avoid the confusion parents sometime remembering the difference between the two “A” styles and misconceptions about “Democratic,” I call these three main styles “Permissive, Over-Controlling, and Balanced.”
For a few years, decades ago, I only taught those three styles, until I learned in The NextSTEP (no longer in print, but is by the authors of S.T.E.P.: Systematic Training for Effective Parenting) about five “personality priorities.” I overlaid these with the three main parenting styles and used fun names that brought a visual image to mind, for easy remembering. Watch this “parenting style show” and you’ll see what I mean!
The five styles Parent’s Toolshop teaches fit within the three main parenting styles, because two were different types of permissive parenting and two were different types of autocratic parenting.
Interestingly, Dr. Diana Baumrind, whose research is the most widely cited for the long-term outcomes of the three parenting styles, recently identified two types of permissive parenting (for a total of four parenting styles). Her findings match exactly with four out of the five parenting styles I have been teaching for decades. I wouldn’t be surprised if someday researchers also identify, through their parenting studies, that there really are two kinds of autocratic parents, for a total of five parenting styles! (If you want to know more about this history of parenting styles and the research behind what Parents Toolshop teaches, watch The History of Parenting Styles: What’s Missing & What Might Research Discover Next?)
The Five Parenting Styles
Greg* was a Power Patrol. He was a military man who wanted obedient children, so he maintained a position of rigid control, which worked in the short run. Long-term, he felt distant from his youngest daughter, who was so fearful of him she was blindly compliant, afraid to make mistakes and incapable of solving problems. His teenage daughter was rebellious and resisted any type of control or rules. Through the T.I.P.S. class, he learned to balance his parenting style. He taught his children self-control by setting bottom-line limits and allowing some choices within them. He had to learn to watch his tone of voice and body language so he was firm, but not intimidating, so his children would behave out of respect, not fear.
Shanna was a Perfectionistic Supervisor. She often micro-managed her children’s lives and thought her children’s behavior was a reflection of her parenting. She realized her children felt that nothing they did was good enough and were afraid to make mistakes. After taking the T.I.P.S. class, she balanced her style, by allowing their children to make decisions within her bottom-line limits and find their own way of doing things. She was able to stop using guilt trips, lectures, bribes and sticker charts to manipulative and control their behavior. She encouraged her children to learn from their mistakes, instead of expecting perfection. She is now seeing them develop the life skills they need to succeed in life, without her hovering or snoopervising.
Nancy was an Over-Indulger. All she wanted was happy children, so she gave them whatever would make them happy and rescued them from conflict and disappointment. Her good intentions robbed her children of opportunities to experience real life and as adults they had a hard time getting or keeping a job. They were spoiled and expected to have life handed to them on a silver platter. They got involved in drugs and Nancy took custody of her grandchild. She was determined not to make the same mistakes, so she took the T.I.P.S. class. She balanced her parenting style by keeping the warmth and nurturing, but set more limits. She taught her grandchild healthy coping skills. She was supportive and loving, but didn’t take over or give bail outs. She saw her grandchild the happiest when she earned her own accomplishments, which has developed a sense of self-motivation Nancy’s adult children never had.
John was an Avoider. He wanted parenting to be easy and conflict-free, so he withdrew and either denied or avoided problems. He sought the easiest solution to every problem, even if it’s wasn’t the most effective solution. These quick fixes caused huge long-term problems. John’s teen thought he didn’t care, so he didn’t either. He tried to get away with everything and denied responsibility for his actions. When his son was referred to drug court, John took the T.I.P.S. class. He balanced his style by making an initial investment of time, energy and skill. He taught all his children better decision-making skills and held them responsible for their poor choices. Now an adult, his son mentors other troubled teens and parenting the younger children has been much easier!
Michelle was a Balanced Parent. She wanted to raise self-sufficient, self-disciplined adults, so she taught her children values and skills. She wasn’t having any major problems when she attended the T.I.P.S. class. Even before the first session, after reading The Parent’s Toolshop® book chapters to prepare for class, she had already made changes and seen improvements at home. She was finding win/win solutions by listening to her children and involving them in problem-solving. She quickly saw their confidence soar and they were getting along better with other children. To become more balanced, she simply needed to become the kind of person she wanted her children to become — and learn a few key skills to help make her job easier.
You will have one pre-dominant “conscious” parenting style; the one you use when you are on-the-ball, paying attention, and trying to plan responses. You will also usually have a “fall-back” parenting style that pops up when you are tired, frustrated, upset or have run out of options. Want to guess what style that is? That’s right, how you were parented.
By getting in the Balanced zone and staying there, no matter what happens, you will:
- Have the best chance of reaching your parenting goals, because you will:
- Identify what your long-term parenting goals are,
- Learn the skills you need to reach those goals and
- Consciously choose the beliefs, thoughts, words and actions that all line up with those goals.
- Become aware of and correct any inaccurate myths or unhealthy beliefs that interfere with your effectiveness.
- Avoid starting new problems or escalating existing problems that imbalanced parenting styles can cause.
- Be a positive role model for your children, which will also help them be better parents to your grandchildren!
- Avoid double standards that confuse children and lead to rebellion and resentment.
- See positive changes in yourself and your children simply because your perceptions are different.
- Get more cooperation between parenting partners and prevent arguments about who is too soft or harsh.
For a brief overview of the styles, with more suggestions about building teamwork with your parenting partners, watch What Is No One Else Teaching You About Parenting Styles?
Parental Love May Come Naturally, but Effective Parenting Skills are Learned.
Unless you consciously choose to learn effective parenting skills, your parenting style will reflect and repeat your own upbringing. Consider this story I often tell in my class; you may have heard it before.
The Roasting Pan Story. When I was in middle school, I went to my Great-Grandma’s house for dinner. I got the job of preparing the roast. I went to put the roast in the pan and my mom told me to cut off the ends of the roast. I said, “Why would I cut the tips off the roast? I learned in my home economics class that the ends are the best part.” She said, “I don’t know. That’s how my mom always taught me to make a roast and her roasts always turned out okay.”
Well her mom, my grandma, was on the other side of the kitchen so I asked her why she cut the ends off of her roast. She said, “I don’t know. That’s how my mom always taught me to make a roast and her roasts always turned out great.”
So I went to ask Great-Grandma, who was out in the living room sitting in a rocking chair. I was determined to get to the bottom of this mystery. So I asked Great-Grandma, “Why did you cut the tips off the end of the roast before putting it in the pan?” She said, “Why honey, I only had one pan and I had to cut the ends off the roast to get it to fit.”
The Moral of the Story: Sometimes we do things that people have been doing for generations, but we’ve long forgotten or don’t even know the original reason. Once we know the original reason, we often find that reason no longer applies, and we can choose a better way of doing things.
Today, you have “more than one ‘pan’.” In fact you have so much parenting information at your fingertips it’s mind boggling! You only have to head to your computer or mobile device and type a parenting concern into a search engine to get back thousands of possible solutions, on-demand, 24/7! But do you really want to spend weeks, months, or years poring over parenting advice? And how will you know how to separate the good advice from the bad?
I’ll give you some free resources in tomorrow’s lesson for screening and weeding parenting advice. Until then, take the following Action Steps to determine what your style is and what you want it to be, to reach the parenting goals you’ve set.
- Take the Parent’s Toolshop® Parenting Styles Quiz. It is the most-requested resource we have! If you want, at the very end of the quiz
- On the quiz page, opt-in for the bonus report that will tell you what your score means and give you an excerpt of Chapter 2 of The Parent’s Toolshop® book.
- Read the lesson and watch the “parenting style show” video (7:47 min) to decide what your current style is and whether it will best reach the goals you set in the previous lesson.
- Decide what parenting style you want to have. If it’s balanced, then The Parents Toolshop® is a good match for you to learn those tools.
Here is a list of the recommended resources in this lesson:
- Take the Parent’s Toolshop® Parenting Styles Quiz. There is an optional bonus report you can opt-in to receive, near the end.
- Watch the “parenting style show” video (7:47 min). It’s a video reserved just for my students and is not available on our YouTube channel.
- For a brief overview of the styles, with more suggestions about building teamwork with your parenting partners, watch What Is No One Else Teaching You About Parenting Styles?
- If you want to know more about this history of parenting styles and the research behind what Parents Toolshop teaches, watch The History of Parenting Styles: What’s Missing & What Might Research Discover Next?
- Listen to the “Blended or Tossed: What’s Your Parenting Style?” session of the Lunch & Learn Audio Series, I go into more detail about the 5 parenting styles and what to do when your parenting partners have a different style.
* Every story in this guidebook is true, based on real-life Parents Toolshop® participants, but their names have been changed to protect their confidentiality.