This article was first published on The Asian Parent.
My friend and her husband are the perfect parents. They are organised in everything they do, and have set mealtimes and bedtimes, and among the different parenting styles people follow, I feel that theirs belongs to the authoritative parenting style – a disciplined yet compassionate style many parents aspire to adopt.
Studies have frequently shown that children raised with the authoritative parenting style (who lead by example versus authoritarian parents who lead by strictly enforcing rules) tend to be happy, independent, self-controlled, and achievement-oriented. These children usually have a good relationship with their parents, and do well in school.
And yet, my friend is worried because her son is not doing too well in school. The boy, who does not suffer from any intellectual disability, has a hard time concentrating on his tasks, and struggles to finish his work on time. His grades have been dropping too.
As much as my friend has tried to help him, he seems disinterested. “What am I doing wrong? Is there something wrong with my way of parenting?” she asked me the other day.
Why You Should Have Confidence in Your Parenting Style
In your journey as a parent, there will be many a time when you are plagued with self-doubt.
“Am I using the right parenting style? Should I change my parenting style? Which one should I use?”
It is normal for parents to have questions on whether what they are doing is right or the best for their child. It is natural to feel confused, alone, angry, frustrated, and insecure.
The truth is, your success or failure as a parent depends on what you define as success or failure. What is important to one parent may not be so important to another.
The most important part to consider in any parenting style is the effect it has on your children. Your parenting style can affect everything from how close your relationship is with your children, how confident your kids are, and who your child chooses as friends.
Studies have shown that even a child’s cognitive development is affected by the parenting style his/her parents used while growing up.
For example, children of permissive parents – or “Marie Kondo” parents who say yes to everything that “sparks joy” from sweets to video games – tend to be self-confident and unafraid to speak their minds. At the same time, they are also more likely to lack self-control, and show signs of anxiety and depression. Each parenting style has both negative and positive aspects. The challenge, as parents know all too well, is when to use what style to help bring out the greatness we know is in our children.
Meanwhile there is also attachment parenting, which is sometimes called kangaroo parenting because parents are always involved and children never leave their mother’s “pouch” – for better or worse. In this parenting style, parents are often completely involved and emotively caring, as they try to strike a balance between developing their children’s IQ and EQ.
With attachment parenting, there is a lot of emphasis on breastfeeding on demand, skin-to-skin contact, baby-wearing, co-sleeping and minimising separation from your little one, especially during the infant and toddler years. Babies of attachment parents apparently cry less and have fewer behaviour problems, and grow up feeling more secure.
It is important to remember that although parenting styles have been categorised and named by experts, you might not necessarily fall into any one of them. Your own particular style may be a little of one style, a lot of another and just a tiny bit of a third.
Sometimes it even helps to modify your parenting style based on your child’s needs and experiences. This is called organic parenting, and it means to listen to and understand your child better, and to be flexible based on his or her needs.
For instance, an authoritarian parent may want to tell a bullied child to toughen up. But using the organic parenting approach, the same parent may choose to give the child more cuddles and reassurance that things will get better instead.
It has also been shown that often, your parenting approach can depend on your “mood”. There is no parent who is perfect all the time.
"Parents are human beings who react differently in various situations, depending on their mood and the circumstances" (Martin & Colbert, 1997).
When a parent is in a bad mood, they tend to use a more authoritarian style of parenting, where children are expected to follow orders without questioning or sharing their inputs.
So, there are times a parent will be authoritative, teaching wisely and with compassion, and other times when they will be authoritarian, instilling the importance of routine and enforcing discipline. A combination of parenting styles may in fact, work best for the parents and child.
The parenting style you choose can also depend on your culture and your child's temperament.
"There is no universally 'best' style of parenting," writes author Douglas Bernstein in his book Essentials of Psychology.
"So authoritative parenting, which is so consistently linked with positive outcomes in European American families, is not related to better school performance among African American or Asian American youngsters."
Studies have shown that parents of children who exhibit difficult or aggressive behaviour began to exhibit less parental control over time.
Increasing Your Confidence as a Parent
How would you deal with criticism of your parenting style and have more confidence in your way of parenting?
Well, like everything else in life, “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”
There will of course be people who disagree and criticise your way of parenting, because there are a million “right” ways to do it. But the truth is, no one has all the answers. No one is a perfect parent.
Remind yourself that every child is different. What is right for one child may be wrong for another.
There are plenty of studies done and plenty of experts out there, but no one knows your child like you do. Confidence in your parenting can come only from you, your parenting partnership, and your relationship with your child.
In simple terms, parents must find a parenting style or even a hybrid of styles that work best for them and their children.
Here is how you can be more confident as a parent:
- Strengthen your support network
It takes a village to raise a child. The more supported you feel in your parenting, the more likely you are to develop a high level of parenting confidence.
Support from your spouse or partner is very important. You and your spouse are partners in parenting and should work together as a team. When parenting styles clash, children get inconsistent messages from their parents and feel confused.
For example, the mother may display an authoritative style while the father favours a more permissive approach. This can sometimes lead to mixed signals or even situations where a child seeks approval from the more permissive parent to get what they want. Differences in parenting style can also increase conflict in a relationship.
Sharing parenting tasks with your partner reduces the feeling that you’re overwhelmed or stressed, and increases your confidence in your parenting.
Apart from your spouse, parenting support may also be provided by family and friends. You can also find support in online communities like Facebook groups or websites where like-minded parents can share information and have discussions.
Avoid comparing yourself to your friends who are also parents. Focus on what you like about your parenting, and feel free to also observe and tell your friends and what you like about their parenting.
- How can we set goals and values for your child?
How do you measure “great parenting” or “successful parenting”? To know whether you’re being a great parent, you first have to define what “great” means to you.
All parents want their kids to be happy, confident, strong and successful, but we may prioritise them differently or define them differently.
Which values are most important to you? Which are least important? How can your daily actions reinforce those values?
It’s important that your daily actions reflect your parenting values. Otherwise, there may be a gap between what you believe and what your kids think you expect of them. For example, in one study, 80% of youth said they believed their parents valued achievement and good grades over being a kind or happy person. This may have happened because the parents were probably constantly checking up on their grades, and not on other things.
Try to remember your own childhood. What went well? What were some things you wish didn’t happen? Use your own childhood as a reference to avoid your parents’ mistakes and to duplicate their successes.
- Monitor your child
You’re more likely to feel confident in your parenting skills when you know what your child is up to, what he or she is watching online, and who his or her role models are.
Several studies suggest that kids exposed to violent role models are more likely to be less empathetic, engage in aggressive behaviour, or demonstrate fearfulness.
Monitor your child. It doesn’t have to be spying on them. Watching their favourite shows together at least once, playing video games together, organising playdates and getting to know their friends are great ways to monitor your kids’ activities without spying.
- Create opportunities to bond
Creating opportunities to bond strengthens family relationships. Family rituals are great for bonding, and can help the whole family connect. It could be as simple as having dinner together every day. In fact, one study showed that families who had regular family dinners were less likely to have troubled teens.
Don’t let screen time become a substitute for real life interaction.
Schedule quality time with your kids. Strive to be mindful and fully present when with your child.
Giving your kids important responsibilities within the family can also help them feel more connected to you. Feeling wanted and being valued is key to the happiness of both children and adults.
Work on your stress and depression levels
Research suggests that parents with high stress and depression levels are more likely to have low parenting self-efficacy, and the higher parents’ self-efficacy levels, the less likely they are to suffer from anxiety, stress, and depression.
Working on the issues causing your stress and depression can help increase your confidence in parenting. It’s also easier to help your child manage his or her stress and anxiety when you have learned to manage yours.
As mentioned earlier, an authoritative parent in a bad mood, might use a more authoritarian style of parenting, and act unreasonable.
Alternatively, a child's temperament can also influence the parenting style a parent uses. If the child has a difficult temperament, a parent may turn authoritarian and resort to strict punishment, and when a child has an easy-going temperament, the parent might be more authoritative. Parents are affected by a child's personality.
So, in a chicken and egg situation, children's temperaments influence parenting styles but parenting styles have a significant impact on children's personalities too.
Remember, finding your confidence as a parent may take time, practice, and a little trial and error. Be patient with yourself.
“Parenting is the easiest thing in the world to have an opinion about, but the hardest thing in the world to do,'' said Matt Walsh.
Parenthood doesn’t come with superpowers, and there are no perfect parents. No matter what parenting style you choose, believing in yourself is a job already half-done.
Every child is born with unlimited potential, a life full of possibilities and every child will shine in their own individual way. As parents, we know what is best for our children. In order to spark the imagination within our children to recognise what they can become, who they can be and the kind of things they can achieve, they have to be provided with opportunities; opportunity to do the things they love, opportunity to find new hidden talent, opportunity to see what the world has to offer; to find their passion. We provide the guidance and support for our children to go after their peak of potential. We feed their greatness.