Psychologist Diana Baumrind identified four patterns of parenting styles based upon two aspects of parenting behavior: control and warmth.
According to Kimberly Kopko, Extension Associate in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University, “Parental control refers to the degree to which parents manage their children’s behavior—from being very controlling to setting few rules and demands. Parental warmth refers to the degree to which parents are accepting and responsive of their children’s behavior as opposed to being unresponsive and rejecting. When the two aspects of parenting behavior are combined in different ways, four primary parenting styles emerge.”
Parents who have an authoritative style are warm but firm. These parents foster independence while maintain limits and controls on behavior. These parents do not take the “because I said so” approach to parenting, but instead take into account their children’s viewpoint when guiding behavior. Because these parents tend to engage in discussions with their children, their children learn how to negotiate and engage in discussions. Because children of authoritative parents feel like their opinions are valued, and as a result these children tend to be more socially competent, responsible and autonomous.
Parents who have an authoritarian style are not very warm and are very controlling. As strict disciplinarians, they guide with an iron fist and use a restrictive and punitive discipline approach. These parents do take the “because I said so approach” and do not engage their children in discussions about family rules and expectations. These parents expect that the children should accept their authority, rules and expectations without question. Children of parents who take an authoritarian approach learn that following strict rules is better than independent thinking. As adolescents, these children may rebel, display aggressive behaviors or remain dependent on their parents.
Parents who have a permissive style are warm but permissive parents are very warm and not demanding. These parents are indulgent and passive in their parenting approach. Children with permissive parents tend to rule the roost as these parents believe love is demonstrated by giving into the child’s wants and wishes. These parents do not like to say no or disappoint their children. Children of permissive parents learn that there are not many boundaries that apply to them and rules and consequences are not likely to be serious. These children may demonstrate issues with self-control, be egocentric, have a sense of entitlement and form poor peer relationships.
Parents who have an uninvolved style are not warm and do not place demands on their children. These parents have very little interaction with their children and may even border on being neglectful. These parents are indifferent to their children’s needs and may communicate to the children that they don’t care about their actions or desires. Overall, these parents just don’t want to be bothered with raising their children. Parents who have this style may be overwhelmed or may be self-centered. Children of uninvolved parents learn that parents are more interested in their own lives than in the lives of their children and as parents themselves, may have the same parenting style. They may be also impulsive.
While parents typically don’t adhere strictly to one style and often employ a mixture of styles, experts agree that the optimal parental style is the authoritative style. According to Kopko, this style is associated with healthy development and offers a balance between affection and support while providing “opportunities for the adolescent to become self-reliant and to develop a healthy sense of autonomy within a set of parental limits, guidelines and rules.”
While nannies will also have their own parenting style, they should strive to adhere to the authoritative style, as the outcomes for children raised in this style are superior to those of other styles. When considering families to work for, nannies should ask about and observe the family’s parenting style to be sure that they are comfortable working for a family that may have an alternate style than their own. A nanny who strives to be authoritative, for example, may find it very frustrating working for a family that adheres to the permissive style and expects the nanny to also be permissive.
While the nanny and family do not have to share the same style, if the styles are different, both the nanny and parents must be willing to support each other in their style. If the family and nanny have different styles, the nanny should be proactive in explaining her style so that she can determine if it would be accepted and supported by the parents. Some families who have a permissive style, for example, are in need of and will request a nanny who has an authoritative style so that they can learn from the nanny and bring balance to the home.