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By Jennifer Dawson

When it comes to the many choices parents must make when they decide to have a child, ‘parenting style’ is one of them. Because parents tend to adopt a blend of styles or strategies, it perhaps befits the topic to do as scientists at Kobe University did in a study, and talk about ‘methods’ instead of ‘styles’. In the study, scientists found that parents tend to use one or more of the following methods when raising children: supportive, strict, indulgent, easy going, harsh, and average (the latter involves having average levels for all other key factors). Although it is impossible to define one specific combination of these factors as ideal, factors certainly emerge that are either positive or detrimental to positive growth and happiness in children.

Giving Children a Fair Start

Before discussing parental styles, it is important to clarify that one’s chosen style very much depends on the model of family one chooses to adopt. Having Kids’ Fair Start model aims to help parents make wise choices so that their children can have all their needs met (both material and affective). By planning families better and waiting until they are ready to have children, parents can work on issues that are important to them and their future family – including education and career stability. These, in turn, set up better outcomes for children and increase their chances of a good future. Inequality is something that society as a whole should work to eliminate to give all children a fair start. Currently, around 14.8 million children in the U.S. do not have enough food to eat and around 41% of them live in or near poverty.

Classic Parental Style Definitions

In other research (for instance, one study published by the Society for Consumer Psychology), researchers divide parenting into four defined ‘styles’ – authoritative (parents tell children what to do but give reasons for this), warm (parents relate well with children while expecting them to act maturely and follow set rules at the same time as enjoying independence), neglecting (parents offer little guidance and monitoring of a child’s life and activities), and indulgent (parents give children adults’ privileges but do not set responsibilities). In this study, some clear results did emerge. Children who were taught to have responsibilities and follow rules made safer choices, interacted positively with the world around them, and chose healthier diets. The researchers stated, “We found a lot of evidence that demonstrated that it is okay to be restrictive with kids…It’s also important to explain to kids why the restrictions are important.”

An Example Of Rule Setting: Making Healthy Choices In Life

Diet is one area which authoritative and warm parents tend to prioritize, as are areas like restrictive use of technology, and an emphasis on the importance of doing homework. This type of parent may take things further, teaching children how to avoid harmful products like BPA – a substance found in a plethora of modern products, including plastic food holders. BPA is known to disrupt the endocrine system and potentially cause or trigger asthma, infertility, early puberty, obesity, and even resistance to chemotherapy. Authoritative and supportive parents may avoid BPA-containing plastics, then, while being honest about the reasons why children have to take glass or BPA-free containers to school. The aim is to interest children in health and to explain why some choices need to be made, even if it means spending time researching healthier alternatives to commonly sourced products.

Understanding Dos And Don’t In Terms Of Methods

The Kobe study came to similar findings as the Society for Consumer Psychology research did. Children who had been reared with plenty of support and positive attention earned more money, enjoyed greater academic success, and were happy. Those who were reared very strictly had high levels of achievement but greater stress and lower happiness levels. Attention, interest, and a commitment to helping children understand why specific rules are set up are key. Perhaps, then, the idea isn’t to choose one parenting style, but rather, to give children time, attention and responsibilities, while also explaining reasons for rules and giving children the independence they need to grow into their own person.

It is difficult (and most probably unfruitful) to strictly define one parenting style that results in success, happiness, health and wellbeing for children. However, studies do show that investing quality time, care and attention in children does make for happier, well adjusted adults in the future. Neglect and strictness with no rhyme or reason do a child little good, and indeed this can be easy to understand for any adult who has ever worked for authoritarian management that left little room for ideas, innovation and independence. In the end, children are not that different from adults after all.

*Neither the author nor Having Kids received compensation for this piece.

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