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Last updated on June 23, 2021

When most of us go into parenting, we have a very specific goal in mind: not to irrevocable screw up our children.  Sounds about right.  Doesn’t it? We want to parent them in such a way that we don’t royally “mess them up”.  Do you know what I mean?  Perhaps not, but I’m going to try to explain it.  I’m going to help you figure out your parenting type and what that parenting types has to do with feeding. 

There’s no perfect way to parent, but parents tend to fall into four different types of parenting:  authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, and uninvolved.  These styles were the work of the great psychologist Diane Baumrind in the 1960s who focused on parents’ approaches to raising their children and how these approaches correlated to the children’s behavior.  She came up with some ideas that we still use today when we talk about parenting.

You have authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, or uninvolved parent.  Each of these parents has a different approach to discipline, communication, expectations, and nurturance.    That approach can affect their children. 

Do you know how your approach affects your child?  Perhaps you do, or perhaps you wouldn’t mind a little summary.  Let’s go over the four different parenting styles a little more concretely. 

Uninvolved parenting.  The name seems to suggest it all.  Doesn’t it?  This is the parent who sits in front of the television screen for hours when their children come home.  This parent allows them to watch as much television as they like or have as much screen time as they like.  The uninvolved parent does not plan playdates for their child.  It almost seems as if the uninvolved parent seems to busy that guidance and discipline of their children is an afterthought.  At the playground, you will find the uninvolved parent busy on their phone while their child is running around. With little guidance, structure, or affection from their parent, the child can develop developmental concerns. 

Now, you might be upset at the uninvolved parent for being, well, uninvolved.  However, many uninvolved parents aren’t that way intentionally.  Perhaps they have to work around the clock because of their financial circumstances, and they want to be more present for their children.  The problem is they also need to provide a roof for the family and bring in money for food, clothes, and other basic life necessities.  At the end of the day, they lack a lot of support, and they are exhausted.  They are trying to do the best they can. 

Authoritative parenting:    This is the parent who is a mixture of the other two types: authoritarian and permissive.  To truly understand them, you need to understand these other two types of parenting.  Thus, we will explore this parenting type further, but let’s move onto to a conversation about authoritarian and permissive parenting.

Other two: authoritarian and permissive parenting

Do you lean more towards being an authoritarian or permissive parent?  To help you figure this out, why don’t we do a quiz today?  I’m going to ask you if you agree with a set of particular statements.  There will be ten statements in total.  For each statement, ask yourself, “Do I agree with this?” If you do agree, assign that statement a number: one.  If you do not agree, assign that statement the number zero.  You do not count up the number of statements with which you disagree.   Just count up the number of statements with which you agree.  All I want to know is whether you are more permissive as a parent or more authoritarian.   Are you ready? 

1.   It is important that my child does what I say even if they do not understand why. 

2.  I set high standards for my child, and they face serious consequences if they do not meet those standards. 

3.  I do not tell my child that Iove them as much as I probably could, and I do not show much physical affection. 

4.  I like to give my child more structure than freedom to explore. 

5.  I expect my child to be a model of good behavior. 

6.  It’s OK with me if my children are a little afraid of me. 

7.  I need to give my child a lot of discipline because otherwise they will be pretty rebellious. 

8.  My child has to take me for whom I am as a parent.  I do not apologize much to my child. 

9.  My child needs to understand that I know what is right for them. 

10.  My child might not think that they can talk to me about too much. 

Did you tally up your scores as we went through this exercise?  The closer to the number 10 that you got, the more likely you are to fall more on the authoritarian side of parenting.  You tend to be more demanding.  The closer to the number 0 that you got, the more likely you are to fall more on the permissive side of parenting.  You demand less of your children than the authoritarian parent does. 

Let me explain this difference between permissive and authoritarian parenting in another way.  Let’s say that at different times, two different children are both climbing a high wall from which they might fall down.  One child has a parent with a more authoritarian style of parenting.  The other child has a parent with a more permissive style of parenting.  What does each parent do?

The parent with the authoritarian style might tell the child, “Stop climbing the high wall right now.”  If the child falls down, the parent might say, “What were you thinking? I told you not to do this.”  The parent might then leave with the child so that the child is no longer around the high wall.

The parent with the permissive style of parenting might notice the child climbing the wall.  They might move closer to the wall and keep their bodies close to the child.  They want to be able to help prevent the child from falling while still giving the child permission to climb the wall.    If the child falls down, the parent might say, “Are you OK?”   They might check the child for bruises and then allow the child to continue to play.

Can you see the difference in parenting style?  Knowing this, do you think that your parenting style is more uninvolved, authoritarian, or permissive? (Notice that we haven’t mentioned authoritative parenting yet.)  Does it matter?  Well, it certainly does.

Let's talk about what we're trying to do as parents.  Remember!  We're trying not to royally screw up our children. What does this mean?  Now, in all of this, don't be too harsh on yourself.  Almost all of us do not fall into extremes of any parenting style.  

What happens to a child who is often told, "Go do this! Do what I say.  Don't ask questions.  Just do what I say"?  How do you think that the child thinks about their role in the world? If someone is often telling them what to do and expecting them to do it,  how do you think that they feel about their own decisions?  They might feel like they can't truly be themselves.  They have to stifle who they are.  

What happens when a child is often told, "I love you, baby!  I just don't have rules for you."  Generally, these children grew up to be more impulsive.  They might have difficulty compromising or figuring out other people's needs because the permissive parents often allow them to do what they want.  

Now, in the next section, we will talk about how this might affect feeding. 

Three "legal" things:  First, either a male or a female could consider themselves to be a mother.  My job is to serve and not to judge.  Second, although I am a family physician, I am not your doctor or therapist.   Please see your and your child's doctor.  Third, the information presented here is for educational purposes only.  It does not constitute professional medical advice.