At 18 years old, I am constantly thinking about my future. What job am I going to have? Where will I live? Who will I marry? And most importantly, will I be a good parent? I have years and years to figure it out, but it is never too early to start thinking and learning about good parenting skills. In order to reach my goal and become a good parent, I need to learn how to be authoritative because authoritative parenting has been shown to improve childhood development (Milevsky, Schlechter, Netter, and Keehn, 2006). Authoritative parenting is warm and consistent (Milvesky et al., 2006). I also need to learn how to create a secure attachment with my child(ren). The following sections will outline studies supporting authoritative parenting and the importance of reducing parenting stress in order to be a good parent.
Goals and Obstacles
My goal is to be a good parent by providing love and support for my children to foster their growth and development in a healthy way. Personally, I struggle most with staying calm and patient in tough situations. I also struggle with managing my own stress and putting it aside to help others. I aim to use social psychological principles to improve my relationships and interactions with my future children.
In order to be a good parent, I need to learn to avoid the sources of parenting stress, such as toxic relationships and social networks. According to Rogers (1998), mothers whose social support networks improve self-esteem promoted their ability to parent more effectively. This shows the importance of social support in parenting behaviors. To become a good parent, it will be important for me to have the goal of creating strong social networks with people whom I know will support and help me.
Rogers (1998) did a study on the sources of stress and their effect on parenting behavior. Rogers found that parenting stress affected parenting behavior, both directly, and indirectly. Stress that develops from different roles women have may affect their perceptions of parenthood, their perceptions of their children, and threaten their fitness as a parent. Parenting stress comes from many sources including marital relationships, social networks, lack of social support, and work stress. Stress from marital relationships is associated with inconsistent discipline and fewer paternal rewards.
Many amateur parents will base their parenting styles off of information they find online. This can be bad and lead to conflicts with one’s own beliefs. This relates to the social psychological principle of social comparison, as you are comparing yourself and your actions to those of other people around you. Often times when one spends time comparing themselves to someone else, they second guess their own actions and their personal beliefs. It is important for a parent to be confident in the decisions that they make when they are parenting their child.
Additionally, lack of social support has led to child maltreatment. Parents who have stress from work could take it out on their children at home. If they are dissatisfied with how they are doing at work, they will then show less compassion towards their child(ren). If a child has stress, they can transfer their symptoms to their mother which leads the mother to be more stressed out as well. This phenomenon can be described as “psychological spillover,” or more simply, displacement, as you are “displacing” your feelings, in this case, stress, onto someone else (Rogers, 1998). All of these stressors can lead to maternal depression, which can ultimately translate into inconsistent disciplining and lack of structure when parenting. It will be my goal to learn to avoid these sources of stress so that I don’t take it out on my children, potentially damaging their development.
The study performed by Rogers (1998) came up with a strategy of creating intervention programs to help prevent sources of parenting stress. These programs would incorporate a variety of techniques that would help individuals learn to deal with the different stressors in their lives that affect their parenting. One example of this kind of program is Meichenbaum’s (1985) Stress Inoculation Training. This training involved problem-solving skills, cognitive restructuring, guided imagery, self-talk, and progressive relaxation. Parent management training has also been shown to reduce parental stress and maternal psychopathology. I will make it one of my goals to learn, practice, and understand these techniques to apply to my parenting style.
Strategy and Supporting Evidence
To be the best parent I can be, my first strategy is to create a secure attachment with my child(ren). To create this secure attachment, I will show my child(ren) love and care. Additionally, I will be consistent in the rules I provide, making sure to explain the “why” behind everything I do. I will make sure to not be too strict but to have rules that my child(ren) must follow in order to earn respect. Secure attachments are characterized by developmental characteristics that allow an individual to be flexible as well as constructive in their interpersonal relationships (Simmons, Gooty, Nelson, & Little, 2009).
Secure attachment creates a sense of hope and trust in a child which will lead to an increase in their performance. A child’s sense of attachment will extend into his or her adult life as well. A person with a secure attachment established in childhood is more likely to exhibit healthy behaviors, such as the ability to work well both alone and with others. Having the ability to create a secure attachment with my future children will be extremely beneficial for their overall development.
In order for me to be a good parent, another strategy I can use is authoritative parenting. Ong et al. (2017) hypothesized that optimal parenting is associated with improvement in socio-emotional functioning from childhood into early adulthood. Ong et al. said that this was especially true for those who had more behavioral problems in childhood. Positive forms of parenting are beneficial for social and cognitive development. In comparison, negative forms of parenting, such as punishment and low warmth, are associated with disruptive childhood behavior and increased risk for child psychopathy. Child psychopathy can, in turn, lead to depression, anxiety disorders, and eating disorders.
In the study done by Ong et al. (2017), children ages seven to nine were given an IQ test. The same children were followed up with nine years later and were given a PBI (parental bonding instrument) test. The data showed a high correlation between behavioral and emotional traits in childhood and young adulthood. This suggested that consistent parenting proved beneficial to the consistency of these same traits over time.
Consistent parenting is defined in Baumrind’s parenting styles as authoritative parenting. Authoritative mothering has been found to relate to higher self-esteem and life-satisfaction, and lower depression (Milevsky et al., 2006). The Individual Psychology’s Parenting Model, based on the Adlerian theory, defined three parenting styles: autocratic, permissive, and democratic. Autocratic parenting is the least effective because it implies a superior/inferior relationship between parents and their child(ren), which fails to produce responsibility in the child.
Permissive parenting is also not effective and can be potentially harmful. Permissive parenting fails to give children a sense of personal achievement or any guidelines or rules to follow. According to Adlerian theory, democratic parenting is the most ideal. Democratic parenting teaches behavioral compliance and psychological autonomy as interdependent objectives.
In Baumrind’s definitions, authoritarian would associate with autocratic, and authoritative with democratic. Authoritarian parenting is defined as low warmth, harsh discipline, and inconsistency, whereas authoritative is warm and consistent. Authoritarian parenting includes negative qualities such as verbal hostility, corporal punishment, non-reasoning/ punitive strategies, and directedness (Robinson, Mandleco, Olsen, and Hard, 1995).
Authoritative parenting includes positive qualities such as warmth and involvement, reasoning/induction, democratic participation, and good-natured/easy going (Robinson et al., 1995). Authoritative parenting is also shown to foster secure attachments between children and their parents. Secure attachment contributes to a greater sense of individual autonomy and self-confidence.
Lamborn et al. (1991) found that adolescents who considered their parents to be authoritative had higher levels of psychological competence (Milevsky et al. 2006). In comparison to adolescents who perceived their parents to be neglectful, Lamborn et al. also found that those parents had lower levels of psychological and behavioral dysfunction. Students who believe they have authoritarian parents do well with obedience and conformity to adult standards, however, they show poorer self-conceptions. Adolescents with permissive parents have stronger self-confidence but experience more problems with disobedience and misbehavior in and outside of school.
Overall, authoritative parenting is the most beneficial as it has been shown to result in children with higher self-esteem and life satisfaction, and lower depression levels.
As a future parent, my goal is to be supportive and foster healthy development and growth for my children. I have learned the importance of decreasing sources of parental stress in order to avoid displacing that stress on my future children. I plan to focus on Diana Baumrind’s authoritative style of parenting while creating a secure attachment with my children.
The literature outlined above emphasizes the importance of the authoritative parenting style as it relates to a child’s high self-esteem and overall life-satisfaction. Authoritative parenting comes from parental warmth and consistency which I will place an emphasis on as I learn to become a parent in the future. Ultimately, I will learn the social psychological principles of authoritative parenting, creating a secure attachment, and decreasing stress in order to be the best parent I can be.