Parenting Styles

In the 1960's Diana Baumrind defined a set of parenting styles based on her observations of children. In the 1980's this was expanded to a set of 4 that are still frequently talked about:

Parenting Style Typical Outcomes
Warm and responsive
Clear rules
High expectations
Value independence
Better in school
More self-respect
More self-confidence
Better social skills
Fewer emotional problems
Less trouble with authorities
Lack of communication
High expectations
Strict rules
Unquestioning obedience required
Rules trump empathy or compassion
"Tough" love
Poorer in school
Less self-respect
Less self-confidence
Poorer social skills
More emotional problems
More substance abuse
More trouble with authorities
Warm and responsive
Few or no rules
Lenient/No limits
Being liked more important than being effective
Impulsive behavior
Struggles following rules
Weaker social skills
Relationship problems
Cold, unresponsive or ignoring
No (consistent) rules
Indifferent to feelings and behavior
Any discipline because of "inconvenience"
Impulsive behavior
More trouble with authorities
More substance abuse
Depression and higher suicide risk

These styles have now been studied for decades. It has been consistently shown that Authoritative parenting, not Authoritarian parenting or the other styles, helps create the healthiest, happiest and most effective kids.

The parenting tools we'll be talking about are meant to help you be a more Authoritative parent and help you avoid the pitfalls and problems of the other styles. These tools will also work for kids at all the stages of responsibility Paul Jenkins has identified. You may well find they help in other relationships or areas, too.

Self-Regulation and Self-Control

We want kids who are good at self-regulation and self-control. Children who are capable of this are also capable of self-government as Nicholeen Peck describes it. They can take care of themselves better, have more self-respect and self-confidence than average kids, and are more empathetic and compassionate towards others. They're kids in the process of becoming the kind of adults you'd like them to be.

Family Mission Statements

Your family mission statement will help you and your family stay on track with what you value most when things go wrong or get chaotic. When you find yourself needing to sort something out, you can use your mission statement as a center to work from. It will remind you about what to point out while guiding or correcting your kids.

There are two sample family mission statements below. You can use them as starting points for developing your own. There are many more readily available online as well as websites offering step-by-step guidance for creating one. You can google "family mission statement" to find them.

Sample Family Mission Statement

Three Essential Skills for You

Observe and Describe Behavior

Observing and describing behavior is first, because it's where everything starts. You have to notice something, and then you have to communicate what you've noticed to someone else.

Sometimes we struggle with observing. We get too busy or distracted and don't pay attention. Things get out of whack and we don't really know why. We might have caught bits and pieces, but we have a very incomplete picture. We tend to ignore things or jump to conclusions. Eventually this leads kids to being confused because nothing tends to happen and then too much does. It often makes them angry because it feels "unfair" and out of proportion.

Sometimes we struggle with describing. In our anger or frustration, we use colorful, emotionally loaded ways of describing what we think happened. We start "accusing" while we're still telling our side of the story.

To accurately describe something, our language should be "neutral." It should stick to the facts and if anything is expressed about someone else's feelings or motives, it should be done in a tentative, wondering or questioning way. You can think of it as if some completely independent and fair-minded person was watching and then tried to report it or talk about it.

When you are describing what you've observed, your goal is to let the other person know what you think happened in a way that lets them clarify it from their point of view. You want them to fill in some of the blanks for you. You want to know what it means for them before you decide how to move forward. Even if you decide they're wrong, you need to know their side and their feelings before doing something.

Effective Praise

We have a strong habit of noticing "bad" things far more often than we notice "good" things. In parenting this often means we fail to praise our kids for the many good, helpful and positive things they say and do. We should be rewarding them with praise far more often than we punish them with scolding or consequences.

Research in relationships has shown that praise should happen 4 to 6 times more often than correction or scolding. As you get better at observing and describing, practice telling your kids (or others) what you liked about what you just saw. Praise the little things regularly and when it comes time to correct, you'll have enough good will built up in your relationship that you can be recognized as a "good guy" not a "bad guy."

Correcting Behavior

Correcting behavior and imposing consequences is something all parents have to do at times. It is always best done calmly. If you aren't calm or can't be calm in the moment, tell your child you're going to take a few minutes to think it through and then tell them what you've decided.

Here's a step-by-step approach to correcting behavior:

  1. Get your child's attention.
  2. Express empathy.
  3. Describe the behavior.
  4. Describe the consequence.
  5. Describe what you want them to do instead.
  6. Give a reason why this is important from their point of view.
  7. Practice the new behavior (and reduce the consequences if it's positively done).

Four Basic Skills for Your Kids

The four basic skills outlined below are everyday working skills your children need to not only get along at home but also at school and someday work. Each one addresses a different aspect of dealing with authority or points of potential friction with others.

It's very important to remember that these skills are intended to be used with your children's dignity kept in mind. The respect you show for them and the compassion for your kids you express while using them is in fact part of what makes these techniques work and what makes them part of healthy and loving parenting. If you simply try to use them as a short cut for getting things done in an Authoritarian fashion, they will tend to make your relationships worse. Remember if you want love and respect, you have to demonstrate genuine love and genuine respect.

It may be particularly valuable for you to pay attention to Disagreeing Appropriately. This is not simply something for kids to do. It's also how you should behave and what you model to them. This really is the core of showing compassion and respect. If you can maintain good, healthy social interaction when things aren't going well, you have accomplished something important for all your relationships.

Following Instructions

  • Look at the person.
  • Maintain a calm voice, face and body.
  • Say OK or ask to disagree appropriately.
  • Do/Follow the instructions immediately.
  • Check back to say you're done.

Accepting Correction and "No" Answers

  • Look at the person.
  • Maintain a calm voice, face and body.
  • Say OK or ask to disagree appropriately.
  • Drop the subject. (Don't talk about it or "give attitude.")

Accepting Consequences

  • Look at the person.
  • Maintain a calm voice, face and body.
  • Say OK or ask to disagree appropriately.
  • Carry out the consequences.
  • Drop the subject. (Don't talk about it or "give attitude.")

Disagreeing Appropriately

  • Look at the person.
  • Maintain a calm voice, face and body.
  • Show or demonstrate that you understand the other person's position, opinion, point of view, concerns or feelings with respect, empathy and compassion. (This is called validating.)
  • Express your position, opinion, point of view, concerns or feelings with respect, empathy and compassion.
  • Listen to the response and accept it. Drop the subject.

Some Consequences to Consider

Timeout · Writing sentences or a short essay · Doing small to medium size chores · Loss of privilege, electronics, TV, gaming or treat · Partial loss of allowance or spending money · Postponement of planned purchase or reward · Loss of time with or going somewhere with friends

Some Chores or Family Jobs to Consider

Sweeping · Mopping · Setting table · Clearing table · Putting away leftovers · Washing dishes or loading dishwasher · Putting dishes away · Cleaning sinks or tubs · Dusting and straightening · Washing laundry · Folding laundry · Putting away clothes · Picking up toys · Cleaning up yard · Taking out trash · Emptying waste baskets

Reminders for Calming and Self-Control

  • Breathe – Take even, relatively slow, relatively deep breaths.
  • Watch your thoughts and feelings. Label them "neutrally." Imagine them floating by like clouds in the sky or leaves down a stream.
  • Rephrase your thoughts more neutrally or objectively. How might a good friend or outside observer say it?
  • Look for elements of good or the positive in what's happening or being said to avoid tunnel vision and rumination.
  • Remind yourself that strong feelings will pass in less than 2 minutes if you don't keep adding fuel to the fire. You will be able to think more clearly and helpfully then. Almost nothing needs to be decided in the heat of any moment.

Questions for Journaling

  • Of the 4 parenting styles, which one best represents your family growing up? Did it change over time as your parents’ relationship(s) changed?
  • Of the 4 parenting styles, which one best represents your family now? Has it changed over time as your relationship(s) have changed?
  • What are the 3 hardest things about parenting for you? (If you’re not a parent, what do you suspect they might be?)
  • What are, or do you think might be, the best most rewarding things about being a parent for you?


Parenting SA, What Parenting Style Works Best for Children?

Smarter Parenting, Observe and Describe Behavior: Words to Describe a Child's Behavior

Smarter Parenting, Power of Praise: Building Self-Esteem in Children Using Effective Praise

Smarter Parenting, How to Correct Children's Bad Behavior: Fixing Behavior Problems with Correcting Behavior

Smarter Parenting, [Consequences for kids: Effective Negative Consequences] (

Smarter Parenting, [Rewards system for kids: Effective Positive Rewards] (

Paul Jenkins (Live on Purpose TV) Teaching Kids Responsibility – Positive Parenting


Nicholeen Peck, A House United: Changing Children's Hearts and Behaviors by Teaching Self-Government (2009)

Smarter Parenting, skills, lessons, videos, blogs, podcasts and some special needs/issues materials.

Verses of the Week

Proverbs 22:6
Train up children in the way they should go then, even when they are old, they will not depart from it.

Proverbs 9:10
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.

Prayer for the Week

Help me this week to begin to see my relationships in a new and more manageable way. Help me remember the tools I think will be useful to us, so that I can start making the lives and relationships around me happier and healthier. I really want to understand others better. I want more insight into how they think and into what they find important. I want to be a better parent and partner. Amen.