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Parenting

How Is Your Parenting Style Impacting Your Child?

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By Gunjan Gupta
5 Mar'22  9 min read
How Is Your Parenting Style Impacting Your Child?
Synopsis

There’s a lot of information about the different parenting styles in books and on the internet, that shows how parenting is often put into various silos or categories, namely - authoritative parenting, authoritarian parenting, and permissive parenting. However, in its actual application, parenting is a dynamic phenomenon, and every parent, consciously or subconsciously, ends up creating their own style of bringing up their children. Here, in this article, I shall discuss with you my experiences and learnings in my journey as a parent, the different types of parenting styles that have always been spoken about, the importance of play and discipline, and how to make parenthood a fulfilling journey for yourself, as well as, growing up, a happy and enriching journey for your child.

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How Is Your Parenting Style Impacting Your Child?
Synopsis

There’s a lot of information about the different parenting styles in books and on the internet, that shows how parenting is often put into various silos or categories, namely - authoritative parenting, authoritarian parenting, and permissive parenting. However, in its actual application, parenting is a dynamic phenomenon, and every parent, consciously or subconsciously, ends up creating their own style of bringing up their children. Here, in this article, I shall discuss with you my experiences and learnings in my journey as a parent, the different types of parenting styles that have always been spoken about, the importance of play and discipline, and how to make parenthood a fulfilling journey for yourself, as well as, growing up, a happy and enriching journey for your child.

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As I sit here writing, after a long day or rather weeks, months of endless household chores, work, taking care of the twins, being a wife, and many other roles I play tirelessly and proudly, I think about my ‘parenting style’. I wonder, "Do I have a style of parenting?", " Do I neatly fit into any particular parenting style or perhaps a bunch of different parenting styles?" Some more thoughts and questions follow- how did I play with my kids today? Did I read a book to them? Did I yell at them too much? Did I shout commands at them and walk away to finish another task?

I am a mother to 5-year old twins. I am also a clinical psychologist and have worked as a school counsellor for the most part of my professional life. I practice as an independent mental health practitioner, spend a whole lot of time at home with my family, home-educate the kids with my husband, on some days spend useless amounts of time on Instagram, eat a lot of chocolates (every day), and drink coffee to survive and thrive. What I share with you above is a huge part of my everyday reflection time, just like eating chocolate is. I ask myself questions to grow as a parent. I sit with the discomfort and the joy of the answers I arrive at.

Parenting is hard. There is no manual that tells us how to do this. There is much theorizing about different types of parenting styles, how to be a good parent, a good enough parent, a gentle parent. It's often this binary categorization of either this or that, that dehumanizes our role as a parent. It puts pressure on us, as parents, to categorize our daily struggles and joys into neat compartments of different types of parenting styles so that we feel good about ourselves for fitting in. But what if we don’t fit in? What if these categories don’t serve us?

In the 1960s, Diana Baumrind, a developmental psychologist, formulated three different parenting styles - authoritarian parenting, permissive parenting, and authoritative parenting. Another type, defined as ‘uninvolved’ or ‘neglectful’, was added later on. These are pretty much self-explanatory terms, if not, a simple Google search can give you a lot to read. What is interesting to note in Baumrind typology is the distinction between practices, and the different types of parenting styles. Your style is the emotional tone of your approach. Authoritative parenting is nurturing, communicative, and has clear expectations of their children. These parents know how to regulate emotions, and help their children find ways to be self-reliant.

Keeping the high standards and rigid categorisation aside, let's look at our daily lives with kids. We also cannot ignore the fact that we are still parenting during a pandemic! In these times, conversations have helped us connect as a family. Along with making space and time for daily reflection I passionately believe in having conversations as a family.

From online classes to basic hand wash routines, it can feel tedious on some days. With everyone on the edge, often, a favourite song or a hug with a “Let's talk about what's happening here!” can change the energy in the house. Many times, if not most, these acts are purposeful and intentional.

I recognised early in my parenting journey that gifts bought for your kids have a short-term effect, but having conversations, and really listening, goes a long way. Sitting with your child snuggled up on the couch with the soft morning light filtering in, and the children sharing their deep feelings with you, their exciting dreams and their challenging moments, or maybe you are that parent who loves a dance party with your kids, and you talk over nimbu-pani afterwards. As long as there are conversations, I see warmth and bonding. The best part is, that every parent bonds with their child in their own unique and beautiful way.

Experts say that these practices or acts, can give you a sense of your predominant parenting style. This is why I spend a few minutes every day (or a few times a week at least) reflecting on my emotional relationship with my children. I wholeheartedly encourage parents to notice and deeply understand their emotional relationship with their children.

authoritative parenting,authoritarian parenting,permissive parenting, importance of play,disciplineEvery Parent Develops Their Own Style Of Parenting

I am guessing, but I feel that if you are reading this article, you already are a thoughtful parent who cares about your child, and want to know exactly how is your parenting style impacting your child. You are possibly here to become better in some way. You want to feel seen and appreciated. Maybe there is a crisis and you blame yourself. Parent guilt takes up a lot of space! Whatever it is, the idea is not to box yourself in a category, but rather to explore your relationship with yourself, and create moments of bonding with your child. In infancy, the child needs the parent to be close, to be physically present. As the child grows, they need our emotional presence.

As parents, we naturally spend a lot of time thinking about our children. In fact, we are always thinking about the next “best thing to do'' for them. When I write about the emotional relationship between parent and child, it is to bring to attention what lies at the core of the relationship, and how the emotions between the parent and child are navigated through. Parents might conduct themselves on an autopilot mode to get through days. It's precisely in the every day, that an understanding of our emotions, and our exchanges with our child can be observed. Spending time understanding how you emotionally show up as a parent is a good question to start with. Also question the demands of discipline and control, about the words and facial expressions conveyed towards achievements/failures, the time spent baking, playing, reading, and resting.

Here, I notice myself understating the importance of play. Unfortunately, when we think of play we think about small kids, we think running around, we think toys, some often think it is time-pass. This is a limited understanding of play. The essence and importance of play lie in the abandoned fun one experiences when truly playing. Such experiences come around, when there are no corrections made on how something is played, or suggestions on how to do some things better, on how to talk to peers, and other forms of control parents ordinarily have over their children. The teaching skill is not what I question, but I do question our need as parents to even control the most natural language of communication - that is, play. Dr. Shelja Sen, an author, and a narrative therapist working with children and families for over two decades, has written and extensively talked about the importance of play, and exploring and expanding our playfulness quotient (PQ). It is a term coined by Dr. Sen that brings to our attention the need for playfulness in different parenting styles, especially in these recent tough times. It encourages parents to pay emphasis to silliness and playfulness in daily interaction, a general sense of lightness.

I fully support Dr. Sen’s suggestions, and have been finding my own path to discovering playfulness. Sometimes I notice myself singing silly songs with my kids, on some days it's letting myself have a little dance while cleaning the house, sometimes it's holding my ‘big kids’ onto my lap and letting them be babies. There is such preciousness in playfulness once discovered.

This does not imply that one has to be playful all the time. In fact, it is most vital to note that no one parenting style works all the time. Playfulness in adolescents and adults can look different from that of young children but that doesn’t mean it has to be less joyous. Joy and connection can be experienced, and intentionally created by families in varied ways. Laughing while watching a movie, however, does not qualify as playfulness. Instead, it is a deep connection with the inner child that separates playfulness from ‘just having fun’. Playfulness is a nurturing experience. Younger children are naturally more playful, because this is how they explore their surroundings; with older children, there can be restraint, but once they feel safe, playfulness emerges. Exploring different mediums of arts and movement without attaching competition to the experience can provide a good platform to start. In your life, you would have experienced bonding while maybe cooking a meal, or painting, maybe even while putting the laundry away, when you would be light on your feet, singing and laughing out loud!

There is a lot to understand in how we respond to the need to discipline our children. Setting limits and boundaries is a big part of disciplining a child. How you discipline your child is also always on display for others to see, and therefore comment on. In our cultural context the grandparents, aunties, and uncles are all part of a larger parenting circle, even though in most urban settings the joint family living system is becoming rare. How we discipline, can easily be influenced by how we were disciplined by our parents, and the different types of parenting styles they adopted. It is not easy to change that, but a conscious recognising of that can be liberating. Unpacking how you respond to your child when they make a mistake, can be a good question to start with.

Limits have to be communicated clearly, crisply, at the right time. The idea of discipline is not to humiliate, label, scold, and walk away, neither is it to justify your demand. Consequences have to be stated clearly, as should expectations.

I can go on about this and there is also a lot to read on this on the Internet, because discipline is an essential part of the different parenting styles worth exploring.

It is also worth considering that parenting was never meant to be done in isolation. I strongly suggest finding a community of parents, that support your journey of becoming whatever kind of a parent that you wish to be.

We don’t have to try, and fit into a box. No parent completely falls into the category of only authoritative parenting, authoritarian parenting, permissive parenting, or any other form. We are free to create our own personal parenting style. Of course, a lot of this arrogance is coming from a comfortable upper-middle-class urban life that I lead. There are privileges my life provides me in the way I bring up my children. I cannot overlook that. I strongly believe in deep connection, conversations, the importance of play, emotional support, and creating opportunities for our children to be independent, which are significant ways we can be intentional parents.

Gunjan is a clinical psychologist and has worked with various schools as a counsellor, with children across the age spectrum. After more than a decade in the field, she took a sabbatical to focus on her wellbeing, spending some time travelling, immersing in yoga, and taking care of her twins. Gunjan works to upgrade the conversation around parenting, equal responsibility, career breaks, psychological upheavals, and limitations built into motherhood. Her personal inquiry makes space for a fresh, honest and nuanced conversation about the reality of urban parenting.

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