Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Parenting Styles & Power Struggles

Children are all so unique; they have their own thoughts, opinions and desires. Getting to understand who your child is without controlling them is an extremely important parenting tool. We all want to have an opinion in the choices we make and no one likes to be controlled. An ideal environment for children to grow is one where some limits are set along with a healthy degree of room to explore their environment and make independent choices.

Permissive Parenting  


The permissive parent assumes a child will come up with solutions for themselves. The belief is that a child is in charge and will eventually find their way when they are ready. Children require routine, structure, predictability and boundaries and they do not naturally learn these qualities without guidance.

You may have seen the toddler at the playground pulling toys out of other children’s hands while pushing others down as their parents ignore their behavior justifying, “they will figure it out on their own.”

Authoritarian Parenting


Does trying to control children work? Perhaps, but it may be at the cost of a child’s self-esteem and their feeling of safety in the world. When a child’s autonomy is continually oppressed and then it is not, children may lack the ability to safely navigate their environment because they were never taught how to be self-sufficient. They were told what to do and when to do it with little assurance to trust their decisions.

Authoritarian parenting encourages a child to simply follow orders. Any form of independent thinking on the child’s behalf is greatly discouraged. Most people who believe in disciplining their children in an authoritative way were raised that way themselves. Authoritarian beliefs are often extreme and fueled by a person’s ego, fear or anxiety.

Authoritarian Parenting Cycle


Ego         Fear          Anxiety


  • Ego – “If my child misbehaves, I will look like I am not a good parent and that my child walks all over me.” “If my child does not do well in school, it will seem like I am not making an effort to have them study enough.”
  • Fear and Anxiety – “If I allow my child any form of freedom they will run wild and never listen to a word I say.”
“I have already established my authority, how can I change when this is all I know? After all, this way works.”

Conditional Love


“I will love you if you please me,” is not a solid basis for children to feel confident and flourish.

Pioneers in humanistic psychology, Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow believed that in order for an individual to thrive emotionally they need an environment of genuineness, authenticity, openness, self-disclosure, acceptance, empathy, and approval. Only then can a person live a life of fulfillment and have a positive point of view of themselves.

Conditional love can be conscious or unconscious and exists on the basis of a child obeying their parents.

The In-Between


There is more to positive discipline than focusing on a child’s desirable behaviors. It is also the ability to be receptive to your child and understand their individual cues and desires. Often times we forget that our children have preferences for when they can listen and attain the messages we send them. When a teenager runs off to their room and slams the door behind them after a heated argument with a parent, the parent may feel angry and disrespected, fueling a power struggle. The parent’s automatic reaction may be to storm into their child’s room and raise the stakes by grounding them or demand that they do what they are told. Both child and parent are disappointed, sad and angry and the reality of the situation is that the parent would simply like to explain what is to be expected of their child.

Children need a moment to reset, as do we, before they are open to what we have to say to them.

  •  Take a moment to calm down and allow your child time to do the same 
  •  Listen deeply to your child - most negative behaviors stem from a place of unmet needs
  •  Problem-solve through solutions
In doing so we open the door to trust and open communication with our children.
Children need love from their parents as much as they need food to eat or air to breathe. Providing unconditional love allows a child to know that the choices they make do not define them as a whole. A parent may not like everything a child does, but they can always be there to offer guidance and support to steer them onto the right path in life.


Rogers, C. (1973). The Interpersonal Relationship: The Core of Guidance. In ,Raymond M. Maslowski, Lewis B. Morgan (Eds.), Interpersonal Growth and Self Actualization in Groups (pp. 176-189). MSS Information Corporation. ISBN 0842202897.

Maslow, A.H. (1961). "Peak Experiences as Acute Identity Experiences". Am. J. Psychoanal. 21: 254–260.


  1. I have found that somewhere in the middle is usually a good place to land on parenting. You don't want to be too controlling, yet you need to be firm and not let children have too much control. It is a hard balance and it's always good know realize when you are leaning too far to one side!

    1. Thanks for the feedback on this post. The balancing act is half the battle and awareness plays such a huge role in parenting.

  2. Sadly, there is no hard fast exact rules for parenting. You need to asses each child individually and use your gut instinct to guide you.

    1. Your comment is such a great addition to this post. I believe that instinct is what truly guides us in parenting. You may learn tools that help you parent successfully, however finding the perfect moments to step in and use them is key.

  3. I love this specific description of parenting styles, b/c although we think that our parenting method(s) is so distinct, it tends to have hallmarks of at least one style mentioned above. My approach is the in-between.. most days, anyway! :)

  4. Now I'm trying to figure out where I fall as far as styles go! lol I think we each fall in different places with each child depending on each situation.

    1. Very true. Thanks so much for being a part of this post.

  5. I think sometimes in any parenting situation, a lot of parents go between many different styles. We don't label how we parent. With many kids at such different ages (18, 12, 6, and 1), it's hard to stay consistent from one kid to the next. Our 12 year old for example is already proving MUCH more complex and difficult than her 18 year old sister before her was. For the most part we stick with in-between. We converse, and listen, and offer advice and suggestions for how to get through situations. But sometimes it's not always effective or easy that way!

    1. It makes perfect sense that what works for one child may not work for another. Parenting is not easy! There are days I truly need a break, feel burnt out and I listen to those moments. It seems your intention is to guide your children with the idea that they are all individuals and that is huge. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  6. This reminds me of my favorite parenting book, Kids Are Worth It. She calls Permissive parents Jellyfish and Authoritarian parents Brick Walls. She advocates being a Backbone parent, structure with flexibility. I try my best to follow her advice though of course I fall short constantly.

    1. Thanks for your thought and insight. It is inspiring to know that more and more parents are relying on a supportive environment in disciplining their children.