Parenting style plays a crucial role in shaping a child’s mental health and overall well-being and different parenting styles have distinct effects on children’s emotional development, self-esteem and resilience. Authoritative parenting, characterised by warmth, support and reasonable expectations, has been associated with positive mental health outcomes in children and this parenting style fosters a secure attachment, promotes open communication and encourages autonomy, leading to higher self-esteem and emotional regulation in children.
On the other hand, authoritarian parenting, characterised by strict rules and discipline without much warmth or support, can have negative impacts on children’s mental health, leading to lower self-esteem, anxiety and difficulties in emotional regulation. Similarly, permissive parenting, characterised by high warmth but low structure and discipline, may result in children experiencing challenges with self-control, decision-making and academic performance.
Finding a balance between warmth, support and appropriate boundaries is essential for promoting children’s mental health. Nurturing a positive and respectful parent-child relationship, providing emotional support, setting clear expectations and allowing for age-appropriate independence are key factors in fostering children’s well-being and mental health.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Puja Kapoor, Paediatric Neurologist and Co-founder of Continua kids, stressed that parenting styles have a strong impact on the mental health of the child and although it is not the only causative agent to determine mental health but it definitely has an impact on defining it. She classified parenting styles as –
1. Authoritative Parenting:
This type of parent normally develops a close, nurturing relationship with their children. They have clear guidelines for their expectations and explain their reasons associated with disciplinary actions. Disciplinary methods are used as a way of support instead of punishment. Not only can children have input into goals and expectations, but there are also frequent and appropriate levels of communication between the parent and their child. In general, this parenting style leads to the healthiest outcomes for children but requires a lot of patience and effort on both parties.
Authoritative parenting results in children who are confident, responsible, and able to self regulate. They can manage their negative emotions more effectively, which leads to better social outcomes and emotional health. Since these parents also encourage independence, their children will learn that they are capable of accomplishing goals on their own. This results in children who grow up with higher self-esteem. Also, these children have a high level of academic achievement and school performance.
2. Permissive Parenting:
Permissive parents tend to be warm, nurturing and usually have minimal or no expectations. They impose limited rules on their children. Communication remains open, but parents allow their children to figure things out for themselves. These low levels of expectation usually result in rare uses of discipline. They act more like friends than parents.
Limited rules can lead to children with unhealthy eating habits, especially regarding snacks. This can result in increased risks for obesity and other health problems later in the child’s life. The child also has a lot of freedom as they decide their bedtime, if or when to do homework, and screen time with the computer and television. Freedom to this degree can lead to other negative habits as the parent does not provide much guidance on moderation. Overall, children of permissive parents usually have some self-esteem and decent social skills. However, they can be impulsive, demanding, selfish, and lack self-regulation.
3. Uninvolved Parenting:
Children are given a lot of freedom as this type of parent normally stays out of the way. They fulfil the child’s basic needs while generally remaining detached from their child’s life. An uninvolved parent does not utilise a particular disciplining style and has a limited amount of communication with their child. They tend to offer a low amount of nurturing while having either few or no expectations of their children.
The children of uninvolved parents usually are resilient and may even be more self-sufficient than children with other types of upbringing. However, these skills are developed out of necessity. Additionally, they might have trouble controlling their emotions, less effective coping strategies, may have academic challenges, and difficulty with maintaining or nurturing social relationships.
Aakriti Sethi, Emotional Wellness Coach and Parent Educator (UCLA ext) and Founder of Inner Verse Wellness, shared, “Parenting is not about being perfect; it’s about being aware, adaptable, and nurturing. A few bad moments do not count as being a bad parent. It could just be parental fatigue.” According to her, some signs of concern to be watchful about include –
- Statements You Use For Your Child When They Are Around: If you often complain about your child or criticise them for who they are, then pause. It not only makes them feel insulted but deeply affects their self-perception.
- Too Much Involvement Or Too Little Involvement: Hovering over children for every important task they do may make them dependent on you, and they may find it challenging to trust themselves, and not being present by either dismissing, or invalidating being on the phone will make them feel neglected.
- Tense Environment: If they witness abuse, drugs, violence, fights, anxiety, fuss, vigilance, ranting about loved ones or frequent bouts of melancholy. They might either imitate those behaviours or feel powerless, hopeless, always on the radar, or turn aggressive and less empathetic.
- Authoritative: High levels of parental control can result in children losing their sense of autonomy, feeling incapable, struggling to make their decisions, and being rebellious and aggressive.
- Forced Choices: Forcing a particular school of thought, be it career, religion, country they want to live in etc, without adequate chances for them to explore it, may encourage stereotypes, smoulder their authentic selves, increase guilt, and repress their dreams & choices. There is a considerable difference in guiding your children to make healthier decisions and enforcement.
Arushi Sethi Shah, Co-Founder and CEO at Trijog, said, “Observation is the largest teacher: let that sink in. How often do we pause, reflect over our own behaviour and do before labelling our children as disobedient, obedient, fussy, non fussy? Children learn what they see, they preserve and understand their needs, wants and feelings as a mirror of the individuals they spend the most time and company with- which in the formative and most crucial years is with our parents.” She suggested to look inwards as parents at every step since how you are, is eventually the base for the life brought into existence. She recommended considering the following points:
- As parents, how much have we wanted to grow and learn?
- Want part of our securities/insecurities we project onto our children?
- Our own self governing beliefs affecting our child’s perspectives and growth?
- Do we talk at or with our children?
- How do we communicate, paying attention to both verbal and non verbal cues?
As parents, learning to be conscious, loving, encouraging and coaching children to navigate their life’s challenges is the best gift you could give your children.