Parenting SA

Even though all parents and children are unique, research suggests there are four broad parenting styles that parents use in raising children. While they might use elements of one or more styles at different times, studies show that parents usually have a preferred style, particularly when tired or stressed.

On behalf of Parenting SA, Jodie Benveniste, Adelaide psychologist, parenting author and Director of Intuitive Parenting, outlines the different parenting styles and how they impact children. She highlights the benefits of the Supportive Parenting Style.

The Parenting SA website also has a broad range of parent easy guides for parents of children aged 0 to 18 years.


Hello, I am Jodie Benveniste, psychologist and a parenting author, and I help parents get to the true heart of parenting. In this talk we are going to talk about what parenting style works best for children.

We know from research that parenting is really important for children's outcomes. In fact, the neuroscience literature really shows us that the relationships our children have when they are growing up, and their family environment, have a great impact on their growth and development. We also know from research that there is a parenting style that is best for children.

We can actually divide parenting styles into four main categories. It might be that you use one or more of these different parenting styles at different times, but you also might have a dominant parenting style that you rely on, particularly when you are tired or stressed.

The authoritarian parenting style offers children lots of structure and boundaries and discipline. Children brought up with the authoritarian parenting style can be quite obedient but they can also lack self-worth and not necessarily have great wellbeing, and that's because this parenting style can be a little bit too harsh and lack a bit of warmth and love. The authoritarian parenting style does not allow children to make their own decisions. Parents really want them to obey, to 'do what I say because I told you so.' They tend to focus more on punishment than guiding and teaching their children good behaviour. They can also parent based on their mood and can fly off the handle, rather than parenting based on the situation of what their child has done. And at school they can really have high expectations of their children, but sometimes they don't offer the love and support that children need to really do well at school.

With the authoritarian parenting style children might be obedient and might do what you say but they also might fear you which creates a disconnect between you and your child. And is that based on the loving relationship that we really want to have with them? Authoritarian parents do not take into account their child's temperament or child's development so they might have unrealistic expectations of their behaviour. They might expect a five year old to do something they are not capable of doing until they are at least twelve. Then they may punish the child because they have not done what they ask them to do, but really that child does not have the development skills they need to be able to do what their parents ask of them.

With the permissive parenting style it is almost opposite of the authoritarian style. So parents who are permissive are very warm and loving, affectionate and very responsive to their children but they don't always provide the guidance, the structure and the boundaries that kids really need to learn discipline and good behaviour. Permissive parents might give in to their children, so if their child gets upset because they want another chocolate biscuit, a permissive parent will just give them another chocolate biscuit. Permissive parents are not always great at setting consequences and following through with actions. So they may say that a child is only allowed to have an hour of screen time but when it comes to the end of that hour they don't follow through.

Permissive parents do not always teach their child about boundaries. The child's behaviours may be impacting others. Their child might hit and scratch or bite another child and they don't intervene and teach their child how to behave in an appropriate way. Permissive parents don't always take into account their child's temperament or their stage of development. They don't necessarily realise that children really need those boundaries and structures at every developmental stage so they can progress through those milestones and help their growth and development.

Children who grow up with permissive parents can feel loved but also lack self-discipline because they have never been taught discipline. They can lack social skills about how to play well with others, and they can sometimes be a bit anxious and insecure because parents have not set those boundaries for them. When it comes to school they may lack the structure and the focus and the boundaries that kids really need to do well in their education.

The disengaged parenting style combines the lack of love and warmth of the authoritarian parent and also the lack of discipline and structure of the permissive parent. Disengaged parents take little interest in their children and they don't really provide guidance, boundaries and structure that children need to learn. Disengaged parents might attend to their children's basic needs but they won't necessarily meet their child's deeper needs. They tend to be a little more engrossed in their own life and their own needs and may sometimes be neglectful. They don't always provide the structure their children really need. Like 'It's time to go to bed now', and 'It's time to do your homework', and 'It's time to cook a good meal and sit down together'. They don't always provide the love and warmth and affection, the cuddles that kids really need to thrive.

Children who grow up with disengaged parents will be socially withdrawn because they have not learnt those social skills. They can be quite anxious and insecure because they haven't had the boundaries they need. They can also be out and about, getting into trouble, hanging around with the wrong crowds, skipping school because they don't have someone looking out for them and supervising them, providing the guidance they really need. At school their parents probably have very low expectations of them achieving, even attending so that the kids may be at school or may not be. Disengaged parents are not always there to help children with their homework, supervising how they going and really helping them to succeed at school.

The parenting style that is best for children is the supportive style. It's a style where you are warm and loving and you're affectionate but you also create structure and boundaries for your children, and you guide their behaviour. You don't focus on punishment, you focus on guiding and teaching and helping them to learn good behaviour.

Supportive parents really listen to their children. They ask them questions, they look at life from their point of view. They explain things, they have discussions. They allow their children into decision-making. Supportive parents also allow their kids to grow and learn themselves. They let them gain independence and skills. They don't do everything for their children so they learn for themselves, rather than being over protective and doing everything for them.

Supportive parents set boundaries, they follow through with consequences and they do it pretty consistently or as consistently as possible. Children learn much more quickly the more consistent we are. Supportive parents are flexible and when they are parenting they really take into account the situation, their child's temperament, the child's state of development, so they can really guide their child's behaviour and make the right decisions at the time.

Supportive parents really encourage children to have a go, take risks, and even make mistakes. The best thing to do to help is to let children learn from those mistakes, so go through what happened, how could you do things better and what they learn from the situation.

Children who grow up with supportive parents are self-confident, they feel capable, they are emotionally mature, they have good social skills, and they enjoy better happiness and wellbeing which sets them up well for adulthood. At school they feel really well supported, loved and have a structures in place to try their best and really achieve.

Our parenting does really matter. We can have a really strong, positive, wonderful influence on our children's outcomes. So what is best for children? It's about being warm and loving, setting those boundaries and guiding their behaviour. And most of all, enjoying your relationship because really that's what parenting is all about. Developing a strong, loving relationship with your child.


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Last published: 07 Aug 2020 4:01pm

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Last Updated:
02 Mar 2021
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26 Feb 2024
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