Parenting Styles Decoded

by Kerry Hart

There are many different parenting styles that shape a child’s sense of self and future success. Parent-centered parenting and child-centered parenting both discuss the balance between the parent’s life as well as the child’s. Finding that balance while keeping in tune to your values can help determine which parenting style is right for you.

Child-Centered Parenting

Child-centered parenting is organized around the needs of the child rather than those of the parent. This style can be beneficial to a child in that it fosters a child’s autonomy and independence by guiding them to make their own choices. This type of parenting also boosts a child’s ability to foster their own creativity while boosting their self-esteem.

In contrary, this type of parenting can be tricky because the parent must distinguish between the child’s needs and wants. This tends to be easier said than done when a child is screaming because they want an ice cream cone, for example. Child-centered parenting makes an effort to avoid upsetting the child and can become difficult when a child is pushing for their wants as opposed to their needs.

Some professionals criticize child-centered parenting largely due to the style’s long-term effects; some children come out as entitled, narcissistic adults because they lack the capacity to understand why their wants are not met by the rest of the world. This decreases their ability to cope with disappointment and the child may be unhappier as an adult. Although some parents feel this type of parenting protects their children from experiencing the negative effects of criticism, it can prohibit them from learning how to be humble and successfully interact with others in non-confrontational ways.

Parent-Centered Parenting

Parent-centered parenting means adults make the rules and the child is expected to follow them, making it so parents do not sacrifice their needs for the wants of their child. By responding to their own needs, parents show the child that their personal feelings do not always come before the needs of others. As a result, the child gains a sense of humility, patience and respect.

Teaching the child to function within the family unit as a participant instead of being waited on can have positive long-term effects by teaching them to be self-sufficient and responsible during daily tasks. The child may not be happy to hear that they need to clear their plates after dinner, but it may create good habits to ensure they can become functioning adults.

The child learns how to deal with negative emotions in a healthy way, and this style allows parents to teach the child that while they are entitled to their emotions, they are not entitled to make a scene and take out their negative feelings on other people. Parents can use this opportunity to teach the child self-calming techniques to deal with disappointment in a healthy manner

Parent-centered parenting can also be tricky because it is up to the parent to decide which of the child’s needs are important. Should a parent not want to sacrifice their weekends for their child’s demanding soccer team schedule, that child may not get to participate in the activity, which would be detrimental to their developmental needs. The same applies if a parent decides their work schedule needs to come before having a family meal together each evening.

Making the Choice

Both parenting styles depend heavily on the parent’s ability to decide which needs are most important to the child and the family as a whole. I recommend discussing parenting styles with your partner before deciding to have children. When parents have different perspectives on parenting, the child may grow up confused on what their own priorities need to be. Discussing the pros and cons of each style is beneficial as each parent shares their views and explains why they feel that way. Using positive communication skills becomes a must here, so make time to hear each other’s view point and consider both sides.

If there is trouble making the final decision, calling in a parenting expert or a family therapist is good to provide guidance on what might work best for your family. Putting your family first is key, regardless of which parenting style you choose. Be sure to know your priorities and do your research!

Kerry Hart, LLMFT is a couple and family therapist in private practice. She is located in both East Lansing and Grand Rapids. 



Parenting Styles Decoded



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