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Parenting Tips: Raising a successful child.

Updated on March 19, 2013
Me with my son.
Me with my son. | Source


I'm never very comfortable offering parenting advice, to be honest. When my son was born, I was given too much unwanted and unsolicited advice, from every corner.

There were doctors and nurses, in-laws and siblings, well-meaning church friends and strangers at the store -- each of whom had their own opinion, and no matter what I did it seemed someone disapproved. My son's pediatrician felt my son wasn't eating enough and I should switch to formula; the nurse frowned disapprovingly and told me to seek a lactation consultant.

A stranger in a parking lot saw me clipping what was then a new style of car seat into its base in our car and ran up to yell at me for not buckling in my baby. My mother-in-law tut-tutted when my son starting walking at 12 months, informing me that her son had been walking at 10 months. When my son wasn't potty trained by age 3, she told me her son had been potty-trained by 18 months.

Even the magazines in the waiting room at the doctors office shouted headlines at me: Circumcise! Don't circumcise! Breastfeed! Bottle feed! Cloth diapers! Disposable Diapers! In a frantic effort to appeal to all parents about everything, the magazines shouted down out contradictory advice and left nothing but muddled message that reeked of judgement and disdain.

For those first few years, I honestly felt like I was the worst possible parent in the world. Every parenting decision I made -- from things as minor as what clothing he wore to decisions as major as whether or not to get him circumcised -- was dissected and judged, with my worthiness as a parent the only thing on trial.

So I really, really dislike offering parenting advice. It took me several years to accept the most important truth in my world: My son and my husband think I'm a good mom, and they are the ones whose opinion matters.

That said . . .

I feel comfortable answering this question because:

  • The advice was freely sought, and
  • My advice is backed up by (drumroll please) research!

So. How to best raise a successful child? Engage in authoritative parenting. Basically, there are four recognized types of parenting styles, which are as follows:

  1. Authoritarian
  2. Authoritative
  3. Permissive
  4. Uninvolved

*As a caveat, please remember that each child is unique, and nature plays a role as well as nurture.


In laymans terms, the authoritarian style is the strict-dad style we're all familiar with from sitcoms. It can be summed up in the sentence: "Because I said so!"

These parents set absolute rules and limits, and brook no push-back whatsoever. If the kid asks for an explanation, or comes up with a reasoned argument for altering a rule, the parent doesn't listen: Children are to be seen and not heard, and questions are not tolerated.

These parents set absolute rules and limits, and brook no push-back whatsoever. If the kid asks for an explanation, or comes up with a reasoned argument for altering a rule, the parent doesn't listen: Children are to be seen and not heard, and questions are not tolerated.

Research has shown that children raised by authoritarian parents are more likely to raise rebellious, angry kids who both crave and resent strong authority figures.

Curious Boy
Curious Boy | Source

Authoritative Parenting

The authoritative style is similar in that the parents set rules and limits, but they also allow for curiosity, questions, and growing minds. With this parenting style, the parents set the ultimate rules and limits, but they will listen to their child's input if the child can reasonably defend their opinions and viewpoints. Such parents would respond to a question of, "But why?" not with, "Because I said so!", but instead with an age-appropriate answer that satisfies the child's curiosity.

These parents believe in letting their kids experiences the consequences of their behavior, but in a controlled environment -- like, perhaps, setting a variable allowance or reward system for completed chores, where the child earns more or less based on the amount of work done and the effort put into it. This teaches both the value of work and the value of money, plus gives the parents opportunities to teach money management skills. In short, the authoritative parents provide the training wheels for life, knowing that those wheels must come off.

Research has shown that children who have at least one authoritative parent are happier and better adjusted. They are more independent, less likely to suffer from depression, and less likely to undertake criminal or rebellious activities. In other words, these children grow up to be successful, a statement that is factually backed up by repeated and peer-reviewed research.

Permissive Parenting

Permissive or indulgent parents are the type that are so popular to deride in popular culture these days. These are the parents who appear to want to be their child's best friend. They do not seem content with demanding respect, nor with earning their child's love -- they want their child to consider them a friend, to really like them. Or perhaps that's too psychoanalytic -- perhaps it's as simple as not wanting to see their child unhappy, ever, and being unable to deal with the guilt of denying their child something within their power to give them.

So these parents tend to be lax on discipline and rules. They make exceptions for their child, terming them "unruly" or "rambunctious" and blaming any bad behavior on the part of the child on outside sources -- "The teacher is biased against boys," they might say, or "If that boy hadn't been teasing my daughter, she wouldn't have bit him!" These are the parents who shrug and smile in a restaurant as their 7 yr old writhes and screams on the floor because they didn't get a root beer float right then, and excuses the behavior with a shrug and a, "Kids, what can you do?"

These parents raise kids from outrageously spoiled playground tots who know they can do no wrong into young adults who have spent their lives sheltered from the consequences of their actions. Oftentimes, permissive parents find themselves still protecting their adult children; managing money, co-signing loans, applying to colleges, and even arranging job interviews and housing.

Research has shown that children raised by permissive parents are often immature and demanding. They tend to defy authority and lack ambition. Ironically, children of permissive parents often feel their parents don't love them, although the permissiveness and lack of rules is in fact usually borne out of a strong love that impels the parents to protect and shelter their child.

Don't talk to me
Don't talk to me | Source

The Uninvolved Parent

The final parenting style is that of the uninvolved parent, which isn't so much a "parenting style" as it is a seriously damaged and possibly mentally ill personality type. I really hope I don't need to clarify this parenting style, or why it's damaging. Basically, this is the parent who doesn't care about their child's life, interests, or success; they likely regret they had a child at all. Their indifference often borders on neglect, and can easily cross into it. The main identifier of an uninvolved parent is their lack of presence, both physically and emotionally.

Unsurprisingly, research has shown that children of uninvolved parents have the hardest time adjusting to society, in every regard.

To sum up . . .

Again, each child is unique. Nature plays a role as well as nurture. You might have a happy-go-lucky child who is completely unconcerned with the lack of a caring involved parent; you might have a level-headed little decision maker who assesses your permissive parenting and quietly goes about setting their own limits.

But the research clearly shows that such possibilities are the exception, not the rule. To give your child the best shot in life, cultivate an authoritative parenting style -- it's the best shot for providing your child with the tools for a successful, happy life.


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    • krsharp05 profile image

      Kristi Sharp 

      6 years ago from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota.

      Excellent Hub! I couldn't agree more about everyone offering advice. It seems as though that happens with every major life changing event doesn't it? It sounds like things are going well for you so...good job! Now you can feel good about ignoring all that advice that was being pummeled at you :) Keep writing.

    • that one girl profile imageAUTHOR

      that one girl 

      6 years ago from Washington state

      Thank you! I'm sorry your son and his wife are spoiling your granddaughter. It's always so hard to watch loved ones make bad decisions, and I can only imagine that it must be a 1,000x worse if those bad decisions not only affect the decision-maker, but negatively affect an innocent party.

    • cloverleaffarm profile image

      Healing Herbalist 

      6 years ago from The Hamlet of Effingham

      Great hub, and it's nice to see a young person using the "authoritative" method. I have seen all the "other" methods in my many years, and this one out weighs them all. The child learns "real world" limits. Kudos to you.

      PS. I have been guilty of the mother in law thing, but only because I see my grand daughter becoming the "ruler" of the house. I think they are in for a LONG battle.

      Voted up..etc.


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