There's nothing quite like facing up to your own behavior as it is reflected back to you by your child. However, if you are conscious of your own personality and parenting style, you can use those moments as learning opportunities to assess the inner workings of the parent-child relationship and gauge if your parenting style is encouraging healthy and effective communication skills or sustaining negative interpersonal behaviors that you would like to avoid passing down to the next generation.
1. Being a Self-Aware Parent
Parenting styles are more often than not inherited from the environment in which you grew up; in other words, you are destined to become your parents. In some cases that's good, especially if your home environment modeled authoritative parenting, having discipline, and rules tempered with expressions of love and care. However, if the family model you had to follow was more authoritarian or permissive in nature, chances are that you are too. The important thing is to be aware of how your family relationships and consequent learned behaviors impact your personality and your parenting style. Fran Walfish, a respected child, couple and family psychotherapist, advises in her book "The Self-Aware Parent" that being conscious of your personality type gives you a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses in your parenting style so you might make conscious choices to promote stronger relationships with your children.
2. Finding Your Parental Style
The parenting style that you grew up with and worked for you might not work well for your child. The parenting styles conceptualized by Diana Baumrind in 1966 as permissive, authoritative, and authoritarian are used as normative guides of the differences in the way parents influence their children psychologically and behaviorally. To determine your own parenting style, it is easier to look at the main diagnostic principles behind the defined parenting styles, "parental responsiveness" and "parental demandingness," originally identified in the first chapter of the fourth edition of the "Handbook of Child Psychology: Socialization, Personality and Social Development" by Maccoby and Martin in 1983. Adopting an effective parental style means intermingling your own personality with your child's and trying to achieve the balance between parental warmth and discipline that will work for your unique relationship.
3. Matching Parental Style to Child Personality
To successfully match parenting style with a child's personality leads to healthy development for the child, as she will have the amount of discipline needed for behavioral control and successful integration into society and the right amount of parental support to strengthen her self-esteem. Where one style of parenting might work for one of your children, it might not work for their sibling, as they present different personality types. A study published in 2011 in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology found that pairing parenting style to personality type effectively reduced symptoms of childhood anxiety and depression by half.
4. Flexible Parenting Style
To adopt an effective parenting style for your child is to adopt one that has fluidity. A child's growth and development is not static, so to ensure your child goes from strength to strength and continues healthily through the developmental milestones, it's important to be aware and assess your method of parenting regularly, using the child's behavior as an indicator. Behaviors of preschoolers with authoritarian parents were noted in the 2004 edition of "Supporting Children in Their Home, School, and Community" as withdrawn and displaying anxiety and hostility in interpersonal relationships. Permissive parenting produced children lacking independence and often viewed as selfish in relationships. Paying attention to your child's interpersonal behaviors will give you a good indication of where you are on the parenting style scale and where you might need some adjusting.
- "The Self-Aware Parent: Resolving Conflict and Building a Better Bond with Your Child"; Dr. Fran Walfish; December 2010
- Child Development: Effects of Authoritative Parental Control on Child Behavior
- "Handbook of Child Psychology: Socialization, Personality and Social Development"; Mussen (Ed.) and Hetherington (Vol. Ed.); 1983
- Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology: Temperament Variation in Sensitivity to Parenting: Predicting Changes in Depression and Anxiety
- Supporting Children in Their Home, School, and Community; D.H. Sailor
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