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Parents often wonder if the child-rearing strategies they use are helping to raise well-adapted and happy children.  It may not be easy for those struggling with opposition or misbehavior to determine the best strategy to discipline their child.  You may also feel like everything you say or do when responding to your child is negative. This can lead parents to believe they are doing something wrong or even harmful. In reality, knowing the right way to discipline your child can help them learn critical skills that foster positive growth and development. Let’s compare a few different styles to identify which may work best for you.

The Permissive Style

The permissive parent is extremely nurturing and caring. However, they do not provide a lot of structure or hold their child accountable for their actions. These could include cleaning their room, doing chores, or completing homework promptly. As a result, parents with a permissive style are often seen as more of a friend than an authority figure. When they do attempt to exert authority, their instructions are often unheeded by their child. As children raised by permissive parents do not develop a consistent sense of responsibility, they often have low self-esteem and less drive to achieve. Children of permissive parents also do not tend to look to their parents for guidance because they do not see them as authority figures capable of offering guidance. Parents may feel like they have developed a solid relationship with their child when using this style, but boundaries can be skewed, and consistent routine or structure is lacking. This can lead a child to feel insecure and unprepared for challenging life events.

The Aggressive Style

At the other end of the spectrum is the aggressive parenting style. This type of parent implements a more structured routine but does not act in a nurturing or caring manner. They are known for being very authoritarian and strict. They have high expectations for their children. However, they often only perceive their point of view as correct and struggle to listen to their child’s perspective. This can result in power struggles between the parent and child. As the parent looks to exert their authority, the child may become angry and rebellious. Children may also develop feelings of depression if they feel defeated and alone. When children feel that they are not listened to and have no outlet, their self-esteem and feeling of self-worth may plummet. This parenting style may lead your child not to turn to you for support or to engage in risk-taking behavior to feel validated.

The Assertive Style

The assertive parenting style is a balance between the other two parenting extremes. This approach involves actively listening to your child and maintaining firm boundaries so that both you and your child’s needs are met. An assertive parenting style includes providing viable choices to your child that allow them to find solutions to problems. Most importantly, it includes a healthy mixture of nurture and structure, which fosters positive self-esteem. You communicate to your child that they are loved and worthy of respect. You demonstrate that your child is capable of high achievement and managing frustration to overcome obstacles. Your child trusts they can depend on you and will turn to you for support and guidance to face upcoming challenges.

How Can I Parent the Way My Child Needs?

An assertive parenting style is the best, in my view. It is not too late to model this approach through changes in your own behavior. To use an assertive approach: 
  • Acknowledge your child’s feelings by listening to them when they feel bothered.  
  • Model the behavior you expect from them.
  • Be respectful when disciplining your child so they do not feel guilt or shame after an incident.
  • Offer choices, so your child feels heard and is part of the decision-making.
  • Use praise to demonstrate your approval when they behave in a desired manner.
  • Be consistent when implementing rules and expectations.
  • Show kindness to your child as you teach them skills they need to be successful.
As you find a healthy balance of caring and authority, both you and your child will notice a decrease in stress, and your relationship will flourish.
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