“How can I raise my child so they aren’t a snowflake?”
“I want my children to be independent and successful when they are older. I’m skeptical that Gentle Parenting will actually be able to teach them this.”
“Gentle Parenting does not prepare children for the “real world.” I don’t want my child to be unable to live independently.”
I get these questions and comments a lot, especially from dads.
They say these things because it’s difficult to imagine how Gentle Parenting can result in a tough, resilient, successful child when the world is a harsh and hurtful place. The automatic thought is that Gentle Parenting has led to the so-called “Snowflake Generation,” a generation of children that are supposedly less resilient and more likely to take offence as adults than the previous generations.
I’m not a fan of this term, but I can see how this misconception became popularized. The term “Gentle Parenting” is easily confused with being permissive, uninvolved, and lacking consequences, rules, or boundaries, and therefore MUST raise a child to be unable to deal with the “real world.”
The thing is… Gentle Parenting raises your child to be resilient, mentally strong, independent, and successful, but the name or label is misunderstood.
There are four major parenting styles: Authoritative, Authoritarian, Permissive, and Uninvolved/Neglectful. Another term for Gentle Parenting is Authoritative Parenting. All four of these parenting types have been well researched for decades, and Authoritative Parenting has proven to have the most successful outcomes for children and families.
To answer the questions and comments I often get, we need to look at these parenting styles and explain some of their research.
NOTE: These four parenting styles may sometimes be labelled differently, but how they are described and measured matters most.
How is each parenting style described and measured?
All four parenting styles are described by two main attributes: warmth and control.
Warmth is measured by how loving and involved a parent is with their child. High levels of warmth mean a parent loves their child and is highly involved in their child’s life.
Control is measured by how often a parent gives rules, boundaries, consequences, and responsibilities to their child. High levels of control mean a parent uses rules, boundaries, consequences, and responsibilities regularly to teach their child.
Each parenting type is different based on how much warmth and control are used in daily parenting. The graphic below shows how much warmth and control are involved with each parenting type.
Authoritative / Gentle Parenting Style
High Warmth + High Control
Authoritative parents show high levels of warmth and high levels of control. Experts agree that an Authoritative Parent creates the best overall outcomes for their children and families.
These parents set firm rules and boundaries but allow two-way communication with children about why these limits exist. Authoritative parents spend time with the child doing important activities for the child. Instead of harsh “in-the-moment” punishment, these parents allow for natural consequences for their children as a way to discipline. They will often communicate with their children about rules and expectations.
Authoritative parents have a healthy balance of nurturing, respect, and discipline for their children.
Authoritative Parenting is the parenting style we live by at Our Mama Village! It is the most challenging style for parents because it involves patience and time commitment, but the resulting outcomes are worth it for you, your child, and your family!
Authoritative / Gentle Parenting Outcomes for Children
Children with authoritative parents, in general, have the most favourable outcomes in ALL areas of life (including social, academic, and psychological) when compared to all other parenting styles.
Research has shown, and experts agree, that children with authoritative parents show the highest levels of academic achievement compared to the other parenting styles. They have also demonstrated lower levels of mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, and aggression into adulthood.
Authoritarian Parenting Style
Low Warmth + High Control
Authoritarian parents are known for showing high levels of discipline and control with their children and low levels of warmth. Authoritarian parents value keeping children compliant with rules, emphasizing respect, and ensuring that the child knows that the parent is in control. When children misbehave, authoritarian parents enforce “good” behaviour and stifle “bad” behaviour through threats, harsh punishments, and control.
Authoritarian parents do not feel that they should have to explain their reasoning for rules to their children. “Because I said so” is a typical response when questioned. They will often favour using spanking, yelling, threatening, and psychological control as measures to ensure “bad” behaviour doesn’t happen again.
Authoritarian Parenting Outcomes for Children
Although it is a commonly held belief by authoritarian parents that the use of harsh disciplinary measures (such as spanking, yelling, and threats) are effective in increasing “good” behaviour, the research does not agree. Recently, a study found that these harsh disciplinary measures and psychological control were the most significant predictors for behaviour worsening over time.
Although it may seem that these methods are effective because they decrease the behaviour in the moment, over time, the challenging behaviours are much more likely to increase in frequency.
Later in life, children who had parents who used authoritarian methods reported higher disruptive, aggressive, defiant, and other anti-social behaviours. The children in these studies were at a higher risk (compared to children from the other parenting styles) for engaging in aggressive behaviour as youth and adults.
Experts have also seen that when an authoritarian parent gets angry at their child for low academic performance, the child will continue to perform low on problem-solving tasks. Research has shown that parental anger and shaming contribute to low academic performance.
Permissive Parenting Style
High Warmth + Low Control
Permissive Parents are very loving and show high levels of warmth to their children. However, unlike Authoritative / Gentle Parents, Permissive Parents offer low levels of discipline and control, often letting their children make decisions for themselves and ‘run the show.’
A household with permissive parents is often described by: a lack of routine, few rules or limits for children, and no discipline. These parents tend to allow their child to regulate their behaviour and view discipline as damaging.
These parents do not present themselves as authority figures and often bribe or use manipulation to get what they want from their children. They usually follow the child’s lead, allowing the child to dictate the parent’s behaviour.
Permissive Parenting Outcomes for Children
Studies have shown that children of permissive parents often reported high levels of self-esteem. However, research has also shown that adults who had permissive parents have difficulty following rules, often show a high level of relational problems, and have difficulty controlling their impulses later in life.
Permissive parenting is also linked to higher BMI (Body Mass Index) and lower activity rates in children. Experts have also shown that children of permissive parents had higher rates of school misconduct and lower academic performance levels than their peers.
Neglectful/Uninvolved Parenting Style
Low Warmth + Low Control
Neglectful / Uninvolved Parents show low levels of warmth and low levels of control.
Neglectful parents are uninvolved or uninterested in their child’s life and let their children do what they please. These parents often have high levels of stress in their own lives, limiting their emotional availability for their children.
Neglectful Parenting Outcomes for Children
Studies have indicated that children with neglectful parents are more likely to have higher rates of lying, defiance, not listening, being rude to others, and other antisocial behaviours. These children often turn to peers for support and are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.
Studies have shown that children of neglectful parents have lower self-esteem than their peers. Experts have also shown that out of all parenting styles, children from uninvolved/neglectful parents are most likely to end up in juvenile detention centres.
The outcomes associated with Authoritative / Gentle Parenting are the best and most successful for children and families. Although this parenting style involves a lot of effort on your part as a parent, the outcomes are worth the work!
I understand that while it’s valuable to learn more about this specific parenting style, it can be challenging to find a parenting guide to help. It is especially difficult if you didn’t grow up with a good example of Authoritative / Gentle Parenting.
To help, I’ve created a free masterclass that explains a lot about Authoritative / Gentle Parenting and how to get started. I know it’s well worth the time, and it can provide you with a clear starting point to achieve the outcomes you want for your family.
Are you interested in the research? Find the journal articles below.
Baumrind D. 1966. Effects of authoritative parental control on child behavior. Child Development, 37(4), 887-907.
Baumrind, D. (1991). Parenting styles and adolescent development. In Brooks-Gunn, J., Lerner, R., and Peterson, A. C. (eds.), The Encyclopedia of Adolescence, Garland, New York, pp. 746–758.
Berge J, Sundell K, Öjehagen A, Håkansson A. 2016. Role of parenting styles in adolescent substance use: results from a Swedish longitudinal cohort study. BMJ Open. 6(1):e008979
Calafat A, García F, Juan M, Becoña E, Fernández-Hermida JR. 2014. Which parenting style is more protective against adolescent substance use? Evidence within the European context. Drug Alcohol Depend. 138:185-92.
Glozah FN. 2014. Exploring the Role of Self-Esteem and Parenting Patterns on Alcohol Use and Abuse Among Adolescents. Health Psychol Res. 2(3):1898.
Lamborn SD, Mants NS, Steinberg L, and Dornbusch SM. 1991. Patterns of competence and adjustment among adolescents from authoritative, authoritarian, indulgent, and neglectful families. Child Development 62: 1049-1065.
Jago R, Davison KK, Thompson JL, Page AS, Brockman R, Fox KR. 2011. Parental Sedentary Restriction, Maternal Parenting Style, and Television Viewing Among 10- to 11-Year-Olds. Pediatrics. 2011 Aug 22. [Epub ahead of print]
Rothrauff, T. C., Cooney, T., & Shin An, J. (2009). Remembered Parenting Styles and Adjustment in Middle and Late Adulthood. Journal of Gerontology and Behavioral Psychology, 64(1), 137-146.
Miklikowska, M., & Hurme, H. (2011). Democracy Begins at Home: Democratic parenting and adolescents’ support for democratic values. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 8(5), 541-547.
Newman, K., Harrison, L., Dashiff, C., & Davies, S. (2008). Relationships between parenting styles and risk behaviors in adolescent health: an integrative literature review. Revista Latino-Americana de Enfermagem, 16(1), 142-150.
Spera, C. (2005). A Review of the Relationship Among Parenting Practices, Parenting Styles, and Adolescent School Achievement. Educational Psychology Review, 17(2), 125-146. Zeinali A., Sharifi H., Enayati M., Asgari P., Pasha G. (2011). The mediational pathway among parenting styles, attachment styles and self-regulation with addiction susceptibility of adolescents. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, 16(9), 1105–1121