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Raising Multicultural Children: Best Parenting Styles

Updated on March 9, 2016
Raine Law Yuen profile image

Raine has interest in exploring the intersections between East and West, A South African Born Chinese with two children of mixed ancestry.

Parenting Styles In Raising Bi-Racial Children. Raine Law Yuen.
Parenting Styles In Raising Bi-Racial Children. Raine Law Yuen. | Source

Parents play an instrumental role in our identity construction and how we perceive the world. Cultural values are typically ingrained in people and passed on from one generation to the next often without conscious awareness. Since mothers are usually the prime caregiver – it follows then that the ethnic origins of the mother would influence her parental style and relationship with her child/ren.

What do studies reveal about ideal parenting styles and skills required to enable children to succeed and have high self worth in the 21st century?

According to a study conducted in the early 1960’s by psychologist Diana Baumrind four important dimensions of parenting can be identified with four main types of parenting styles identified.

Parental dimensions

  • Disciplinary strategies
  • Warmth and nurturance
  • Communication styles
  • Expectations of maturity and control

Parenting Styles

  • Authoritarian
  • Permissive
  • Uninvolved/Negligent.
  • Authoritative


The Authoritarian Parent.

The authoritarian parent is strict with inflexible rules and very clear boundaries. Children have little opportunity to express their opinions or feelings and may be punished severely when rules are broken. Whilst a child might have very clear rules and instructions on what is expected in terms of behaviour, the disadvantage of being too strict on children and not allowing opportunity for creative and self expression is that a child may grow up feeling overwhelmed in a world that requires independence of thought and the ability to think critically and creatively. Whist this type of parenting style is not ideal in the 21st century – there are times when being prescriptive is necessary and even advantages – for example routines that children do not always like to do but are essential to everyday functioning. Example when my children were younger I seem to have to constantly remind them to place their lunch tins in the wash or wash their hands before eating. I don’t allow them to sit and eat our family meal until they have complied with these rules. Over time repetitive rules become habits and so the requirement to be prescriptive diminishes.

The Permissive Parent.

On the other end of the spectrum is the permissive parent. This parent does not have many clear rules or expectations in behaviour with the consequence that the child becomes uncertain where the boundary lines are and may lack goals, become manipulative, irresponsible or disrespectful of authority figures or their peers and do not always fulfil their best potential. Many parents lose connection with their children today due to the stressful nature of modern living and may often suffer from feelings of guilt which results in turning a blind eye in situations or treating their children as friends rather than risk upsetting their child with disciplinary measures when required – thus allowing their children to dictate the terms of the relationship. It is important to keep in mind that children have not as yet developed the maturity to make certain decisions and even although they might express unhappiness with discipline – they need and want structure and guidance.


The Negligent/Uninvolved Parent

The negligent/uninvolved parent is one that does not care or provide any clear rules, expectations or boundaries to their children’s behavior which results in a child that tends to cope poorly at school or in activities. This type of parent is also found in homes where the parent is often under stress and is under pressure to produce certain outcomes and therefore not able to focus energy or time on the child. Children are forgiving and resistant. It is never too late to start becoming a more involved parent. Take small steps – decide on just one area at a time where you can give your undivided attention to your child even if just for a few minutes.

Studies indicate that an  authoratative parenting style is the best model to bring up well adjusted children.
Studies indicate that an authoratative parenting style is the best model to bring up well adjusted children. | Source

The Authoritative Parent.

The authoritative parent is seen as the ideal parenting style in the 21st century as it provides the best results for bringing up children that are well balanced with good self esteem and achievement orientated. The Authoritative parenting style involves setting clear expectations and boundaries with challenges and enables the child to demonstrate initiative and creativity with regards to how goals should be met with the result that the child feels secure in the knowledge that the parent is supportive, has high expectations but provides space for the child to develop to their fullest potential.

Although the Authoritative parenting style may be seen as ideal, Situations may require a mix of different styles. For example parents may need to exercise an authoritarian style when it comes to completing homework and a more permissive style when it comes to interacting with friends over the weekend.

Some Tips To Help You Implement An Authoritative Parenting Style.

  • Firstly, being aware of the different parenting styles by reading material and articles such as this is a good start.
  • Observe your behaviour and parenting style. Although parenting style might be effected by mood, stress and situational factors such as work and lack of sleep, overall a dominant parenting style will emerge over time. Ask yourself ‘What type of parent are you?’ By doing so you will obtain some insight as to your shortcomings and then ask yourself what would you need to do to move towards the desired model of parenting?
  • Consider your child’s personality and temperament when deciding on an ideal parenting style.
  • Take small steps. Don’t expect to make big sudden changes. Define your Childs strengths and weaknesses and provide more latitude for creative expression in areas of strength and maintain closer supervision and structure in areas of weakness.
  • Be consistent. Children need structure and consistency to feel safe and if they know that your reaction is consistent they will not be so tempted to challenge parental boundaries.

All About Tiger Mother.

The Tiger Mother Phenomenon.

Studies conducted by a university associate professor intrigued by the tiger mother phenomenon found that children of tiger parents were more troubled emotionally and estranged from their families, did less well academically than kids with supportive and easygoing parents. It was also found that in general that Asian parents are supportive of their children and do not typically conform to the Tiger mom stereotype.

We are living in an era where both parents are often required to work. Instant decision making and multitasking are the order of the day which requires a different mindset from past generations. Studies on fundamental skills required in the 21st century name the ability to think critically, creatively and intuitively as essential to success and finding a good job.

Children of the 21st century require an environment that provides opportunity for independent and creative expression within boundaries and the security that their goals are supported in order to develop and fulfil their potential. The authoritative parenting model as defined by social scientist provides the best environment within which both care givers and offspring can feel a sense of shared participation with mutual respect and the opportunity to develop and maintain long term healthy relationships.

As ideal as this type of parenting might be on paper, like anything else worthwhile, it does take some effort and conscious awareness of your behaviour as a parent.

Experts agree that an  authoritative parenting style is the most effective form of parenting regardless of ethnic background. Allow children some say and enable creativity in reaching goals. Raine Law Yuen.
Experts agree that an authoritative parenting style is the most effective form of parenting regardless of ethnic background. Allow children some say and enable creativity in reaching goals. Raine Law Yuen. | Source

Parenting Style and Ethnicity.

Studies indicate that an authoritative parenting is more common amongst whites with a Western type of upbringing whist the authoritarian style is more common with minorities such as Asian, Hispanic and Black families. It is believed that parenting is linked to culture, parental belief systems and environmental factors.

Parenting styles can also differ between parents where one parent is permissive and the other authoritarian. In this instance it is recommended that the parents discuss areas that are acceptable and unacceptable and those which they can reach agreement.

For example in my own home, my mother is Chinese and stereotypically more permissive, dutiful and polite. She was usually busy helping my dad in the family business and tending to our family’s household routines so she was not too involved in our personal lives. I would describe her as being a more permissive type of parent whilst my dad was somewhat strict and authoritarian parent requiring us to be obedient in our duties.

On the other hand I compare this with the tiger mother stereotype described in Amy Chua’s book titled ‘A battle hymn of a tiger mother’ where she states that a typical Asian parent raises their children with a strict focus on academics, classical music and does not encourage activities that kids typically enjoy such as watching TV, play dates and sleepovers. Stories such as these perpetuate the prevailing public perception of Asian parents being strict with a more authoritarian parenting style.

It can be said that the permissive and authoritarian parent reflects Confucianism where relationships are hierarchical in nature – hence women are expected to be yielding and dutiful to their husbands but children are expected to be respectful and obedient to their parents.


Being a successful 21st century parent is not easy and takes awareness, time and consistent implementation of the appropriate parenting style. The authoritative style is generally linked to raising children that are well adjusted and successful but other other factors such as culture, social influences and child’s personality need to also be considered when selecting an appropriate parenting style

Tiger Mom Debate. Comparing Parenting Techniques.

Rule Bound, inflexible, strict, punishment for not following instructions. High demand low responsiveness.
Indulgent, lenient, few demands. Allow considerable self-regulation and avoid confrontation. Nurturing and communicative. Friend more than parent.
Few demands, low responsiveness and little communications. Fulfil basic child’s needs but detached from child’s life.
Sets rules and guidelines to behaviour but democratic. Willing to listen to child’s input and questions. Supportive rather than punitive. Monitors child’s behaviour. Assertive but not intrusive.
Obedient and proficient but with lower self esteem, happiness and independence
Rank low in happiness and self regulation. May have issues with authority figures and respecting peer boundaries.
Rank lowest in all domains. Low self esteem poor social skills and academic performance.
Well adjusted, high self-esteem, happy, capable and successful.


Chua, Amy. Battle Hymm of The Tiger Mother. New York. Penguin, 2011. Print.

(Kopko, 2007)Kopko, K. (2007). Parenting Styles and Adolescents. Cornell Univesity Cooperative Extension, 1–8.

Root, Maria P. P. Multiracial Child Resource Book: Living Complex Identites. Seattle, Wash.: Mavin Foundation, 2003. Print.

Styles, P. (2008). Parenting styles. Dental Abstracts, 53(1), 30–31.

Chua, Amy. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. New York: Penguin, 2011. Print


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    • Raine Law Yuen profile imageAUTHOR

      Raine Law Yuen 

      4 years ago from Cape Town

      Thank you mdscoggins. I'm glad you found it useful.

    • Raine Law Yuen profile imageAUTHOR

      Raine Law Yuen 

      4 years ago from Cape Town

      Thank you so much for your feedback. Please let me know if there are other areas of interest on this subject matter that you would like me to explore.

    • mdscoggins profile image

      Michelle Scoggins 

      4 years ago from Fresno, CA

      Thank you Raine for the article, very intuitive. I think that it is very important to consider the values that emerge unconsciously such as by culture, religion and ethnicity and others. I will certainly share this well written article and use this foundation in my own practice - personally and professionally. Voted Up..

    • Raine Law Yuen profile imageAUTHOR

      Raine Law Yuen 

      4 years ago from Cape Town

      Thank you word55 - you are an angel in disguise.

    • word55 profile image

      Al Wordlaw 

      4 years ago from Chicago

      I had to revisit Raine, You deserve all the accolades for such a well written article on such a sensitive subject. I shall share it all over the place!

    • Damaris Bushong profile image

      Damaris Bushong 

      4 years ago from Minnesota

      Great hub Riane! So many parents now-a-days are just letting their children run the house and do not understand the importance of setting boundaries (no matter what type of parenting style they have). I too, am in a bi-racial marriage, my husband is the head of the household, but I tend to be the one to lay down the law. The most important part is working together and backing each other up in front of your children.

    • Raine Law Yuen profile imageAUTHOR

      Raine Law Yuen 

      5 years ago from Cape Town

      Thanks so much for your input. It's very encouraging to receive feedback from someone like yourself that has so much writing experience.

    • word55 profile image

      Al Wordlaw 

      5 years ago from Chicago

      Hi LoRaine, This hub is very well written and provides an excellent detail of how to function as a bi-racial family. If we all lived as Christians (living without favoritism and racism) then most of our problems would resolve themselves. This hub gives balance to the raising of children in mixed cultures, races and etc. Job well done here. Keep up the great work. Voted way up!


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