Childhood is one of the most memorable phases of an individual’s life—one that will always remain etched in their memory for a long time. They will remember the negative and positive episodes. They will also remember how these situations were dealt with and how their emotions were handled. Thus, parents' outlook towards life situations, their problem-solving skills, and more importantly, their parenting style will have a significant impact on the kids' mental health and overall well-being. A nurturing and supportive parenting style can foster a positive environment for growth, allowing children to develop healthy coping mechanisms and a strong sense of self.
Open communication, empathy, and active listening are vital components of a healthy parenting approach. By creating a secure and loving environment, parents can promote their children's mental health, setting them on a path towards emotional well-being and fulfilling their potential.
On the other hand, a neglectful or excessively controlling parenting style may endanger a child's mental health. Overbearing behaviours can also lead to feelings of anxiety, low self-worth, and a lack of autonomy. Conversely, neglectful parenting can leave children feeling abandoned and unloved, leading to emotional issues later in life.
Three mental health experts decode the four prominent parenting styles and its effects on children's mental health.
This parenting style is considered to be the best and rightly so. For starters, it’s characterised by a high level of responsiveness (to the child) and demandingness (from the child). These parents set clear rules and boundaries and have open lines of communication as they maintain consistent discipline. And while they’re doing this, they’re being supportive of the child’s needs as well. Such a parenting style, that sees them empathise with their kid, is associated with positive outcomes in their child’s mental health.
On the other side, the child becomes more independent in their thinking and realising what they want as they know their parents are around to help when needed and are not intruding or overbearing. They know it’s a collaborative effort and with a scope of honest communication.
Parents following this parenting style are highly demanding and expect strict adherence from their children. They have little to no room for flexibility. The decisions are often made by parents with no attempt to involve the child or consider their opinions. For example, parents decide what the kid should study, who they should marry, and so on. There is limited emotional exchange as the child doesn’t feel comfortable to let their parents know how they feel. Discipline is enforced on kids through punishment and the consequences of breaking the rules are often severe. This parenting style is associated with negative mental health outcomes because the child is constantly criticised and compared with other, thus leaving them second-guessing themselves. They often have low self-esteem and a tendency to rebel and resent any form of authority they encounter.
These parents are extremely responsive but very lenient. They allow the child complete freedom without imposing any rules and limitations. And even if they exist, the child knows they will get away with their mistake. While there is a lot of emotional support and backing, there is no structure. As the parent is more a friend, there are often challenges of discipline. Parents are often overly involved in their child's life and there are difficulties with regard to self-control and boundary setting.
Extremely lenient parents are reluctant to enforce consequences and try their best to avoid conflict. Thus the child does what they please. During childhood this absence of an anchor or a figure that provides direction and guidance proves detrimental. When the child grows up, they often get a reality check when they step into the outside world and realise all their demands aren’t met.
Such kind of parents, do not have any clue about what's happening in their kid's life. They are emotionally distant and detached as well as fail to provide support and attention to their child’s needs. Along with the lack of support, there is no guidance or structure. With no supervision, the child has to fend for themselves, especially emotionally. The effects of such a parenting style sees the kid have emotional and trust issues, a constant fear of abandonment, a detach-attachment style along with a distant-avoidant relationship pattern.
How each of the four would deal with the same problem
Authoritative: They will speak to all parties involved, know what happened, and work things out. Such parents would help the child find their way back.
Authoritarian: The child will be reprimanded left, right and centre.
Permissive: The kid will be let off with them having no realisation of what they did.
Neglectful: The parents will be surprised or shocked to know their kid is punished. They might not even turn up if their kid is in trouble and are told about it.
It’s important to know that parents do not come from a bad intention. Their parenting styles are often influenced by how they were brought up or other life situations that were thrown their way.
Inputs by Sherene Aftab, founder of Serene Hour Counselling & Career Advice Consultancy, Mehezabin Dordi, clinical psychologist, Sir H N Reliance Foundation Hospital, Mumbai and Sonali Sarkar, Mom blogger, Certified in Child Nutrition and Child Care