Parenting Styles Examined

Parents- they come in all shapes, sizes, personalities, and styles. Today we will be delving into the works of Drs. John and Julie Gottman and the 4 parenting styles they outline in their book, “Raising and Emotionally Intelligent Child”.  The four styles are:  dismissing, disapproving, laissez-faire, and emotion coach. 

Dismissing Parent

  • Disengages, ridicules or curbs all negative emotions
  • When a child tells them, I am sad, they might start telling a knock-knock joke to distract the child. 
  • To avoid feeling out of control, the parent utilizes distraction to avoid dealing with the greater problem. 
  • Another problem-solving technique for this parent is just the passage of time. They will respond to a child you’re fine and then continue to go along with their normal activities. 

I have seen this in family sessions, when a child brings up a fear or worry, for example drinking too much or fighting in the family. The parent invalidates the child’s emotions by saying that’s silly, or you worry too much. This dismissive approach leads the child to then feel there is something wrong with them. They start to believe what they feel is inappropriate and then cannot regulate their emotions, causing greater problems for the family.   

Disapproving Parent

  • Does not value or acknowledge the child’s feelings
  • However, instead of joking or distracting, they are negative, judgmental, and critical.
  • Our child who tells a disapproving parent I’m sad, may receive the response You have nothing to be sad about- that’s stupid! Or the old cliché, stop crying, or I’ll give you something to cry about. 
  • The disapproving parenting style is controlling, manipulative, and authoritative. 

Parents leaning toward this style are more concerned with discipline than the child’s emotional expression. I run across this in parenting consultations when a parent will tell me they punish the child for expressing anxiety or anger, even in socially appropriate ways. Children in this case then become fearful of expressing their emotions, often leading to emotional withdraw and shutdown. 

Laissez-faire Parent

  • Endlessly permissive. 
  • They offer no guidance about problem solving or understanding emotions. 
  • When a child communicates to this type of parent, I’m sad, the laissez-fire parent will allow them to be sad, this may include tantrums, yelling, or aggression. 
  • There are few to no limits set on behavior with the laissez-faire parent. 

The children of these parents I see in play therapy often have too much power and control. They have difficulties forming friendships, because they are bossy. During family sessions, the parent is quick to give in to the child’s demands and expectations. Due to this, the child is unable to regulate emotions in a healthy way. 

Emotion Coach

  • This type of parent is aware of their child’s emotions and recognizes emotional expression as an opportunity for connection and teaching. 
  • The response to child who says I’m sad, will include reflection of feelings. 
  • You are sad that Suzie cannot come over to play today. This small statement validates the child’s emotions and communicates that expressing them is ok.
  •  However, an emotion coach parent also sets limits when problem solving and coaching their child through upsetting situations. 
  • This may include, its ok to be sad, and it’s not ok to throw your backpack on the ground. Would you like a drink of water or to jump on the trampoline instead?

To learn more in depth how to be an emotion coaching parent, sign up for our webinar here.

Children of emotion coach parents develop a mastery of understanding and regulating their emotions. This mastery supports them in all areas of life including self-confidence, socially, academically, and physically. As the parent and child work through these experiences together the child feels empathy, trust, and affection in the relationship. 

Now that you understand the four parenting styles, drop me a comment and let me know which one you think you are and which one you would like to be.

Remember to sign up for the webinar here.

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