I wonder how many of you (teachers, parents, carers and other members of the wider community who read this newsletter) will be aware of the work by Diana Baumrind, a clinical psychologist who developed a framework for identifying the effect of certain parenting styles, a framework that has since been applied to teaching, and even to the wider world of people management.
Essentially, Baumrind categorised parenting styles on two particular traits we, as parents (and teachers and managers) demonstrate in our actions towards our children, students or employees:
- The extent to which we have high expectations or high demands – this is known as Demandingness.
- The extent to which we respond to the needs of our children or students – this is known as Responsiveness.
Baumrind then developed a model where Demandingness and Responsiveness intersect, creating four distinct quadrants, each identified as a particular ‘parenting style’.
As you can see above, the four parenting styles identified by Baumrind end up being:
The Neglectful parent (or teacher), is exactly that. They have little involvement in the life of their child (or student) and are not overly concerned with their development. They expect little, and provide even less in return. Children raised in such environments (and sadly there are many in Australia) are usually categorised further as being victims of what is known as both ‘Type 2’ and ‘Complex’ Trauma. Parental involvement, care, stability and nurturing are virtually non-existent for these children. We now know that young people raised in neglectful homes will eventually incur permanent neurological disorders in most cases. Neglectful teachers, I’m sure you would agree, should perhaps consider another profession.
The Permissive parent loves their child. Similarly, the permissive teacher usually wants to be liked by their students, to be considered a friend. They try to meet all of the demands the child place upon them. They love and nurture, or love teaching and parenting, though they fear doing anything that might create stress for the child. However, they demand little from the child in return. As a result, the child’s growth and maturity can be stunted. Unfortunately, both the permissive parent and the permissive teacher can, at times, be enablers of student dependence on adults, lack of motivation and responsibility for their actions, and, eventually, academic problems.
The Authoritarian parent or teacher usually has quite the opposite effect. They try to shape, control, and evaluate the behaviour and attitudes of the child in accordance with a set standard, an absolute standard that they have constructed, or has been constructed by another authority. The authoritarian parent/teacher values obedience, and favours punitive measure to curb student self-will. Autonomy of the student is therefore highly restricted. Authoritarian teachers are low on involvement and relationship building, and high on enforcing strict discipline. There is little opportunity for discussion or argument, and rules are sacrosanct. Responsiveness is often low; poor behaviour is punished, and poor student results are ignored. Such children and students eventually resist this form of control, and a clash of wills usually results.
As with most things, the middle ground is the ideal place to be when developing children or students into independent and resilient adults.
The Authoritative parent takes the best from both worlds. They place high demands on their children, but are also highly responsive. The parent attempts to direct the child using a rational, issue-oriented, approach and manner. They encourage verbal give and take, and share the reasoning with the child behind their rules and directions. The authoritative parent values self-will in the child, and while they exert some control where the child and parent disagree, they try to not hem the child in with restrictions. The child’s individual interests are encouraged, but standards for behaviour are still set by the parent. Crucially, the parent does not assume that they are always right.
Similarly, the Authoritative teacher employs a blend of high involvement and firm but fair discipline. They care about their teaching and their students, and reward outcomes, not necessarily effort. Teachers see students as having responsibility for their actions, but are willing to teach, correct, support and help those students improve in both their achievement and their behaviours.
I would encourage all parents and teachers to do as I have done, and consider where their own practice might fit within the context of Baumrind’s model. In doing so, maybe you could ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you think these styles are accurate? Do they actually exist as described, in both the world of parenting and teaching?
- Do you, as either a parent or a teacher, tend to employ one of these styles, or elements of different styles to varying degrees depending on the situation?
- To what extent does your chosen approach have an effect on the development of the child/student for which you are responsible?
- Has your parenting or teaching style changed over the years, and if so, in what way has it changed?
Generally our parenting and teaching styles are shaped by our own preferences and our own prior experiences. In each case, I would suggest, we all would have cause to reflect on our styles, and consider what we could do differently. Will we always get it right as parents? No, of course not. Will we always get it right as teachers? Same answer, of course we won’t. Will all of us try to improve for the sake of our children/students? I believe we all will.