How we parent will, of course, influence how we home educate.
Our children, as much as we’d like it, don’t pop out of the womb
complete with an instruction manual, and so we spend our lives
figuring out how to parent them in the context of relationship
with them. Actually, that’s probably the best thing, don’t you think?

Shadow, Reactor or Mature

Many years ago, probably when I was pregnant with Hayley, I heard someone explain that for most people, parenting is a reactionary experience. Most people either do:

  • what their parents did because they turned out all right, after all, or
  • the opposite of what their parents did because they feel it was damaging

The goal, I was told, was to aim for ‘mature parenting’ – the sort where you, as the adult (with your partner if you have one) are parenting from the position of working through what is most suitable for your child. Not always an easy call!

Recently, I was reading a book called The Faithful Parent, by Martha Peace and Stuart Scott, and I was intrigued to read that they had

listed a range of parenting styles. Reading further abroad, I discovered that there are four parenting styles that are considered a good general breakdown. Peace and Scott, however, define 15 not-so-great styles that can provoke our children, as well as providing guidelines for ‘good’ parenting.


Parent Line

Image by quirkybird via Flickr


Below, we’ll discuss generalities for both ways of thinking, in an effort to help you identify what your own parenting style may be, how it may provoke or encourage your child, and perhaps help you think through changes you might like to investigate. As always, I encourage you to do your own research, so you’re thinking things through to a conclusion that is useful for you, personally.

The Big Four

Keep in mind that children raised in dramatically different environments can mature to have similar personalities, and children who share a home and are raised in the same environment can mature to have astonishingly different personalities from one another. [1]

There are four important dimensions of parenting, identified during the 1960s by psychologist Diana Baumrind: [2][3]

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

Based on these dimensions, Baumrind suggested that the majority of parents display one of three different parenting styles. Further research by also suggested the addition of a fourth parenting style (Maccoby & Martin, 1983). [1]


  • children are expected to follow strict rules as set by parents
  • failure to follow rules results in punishment
  • parents fail to explain their reasoning behind rules
  • say, “Because I said so.”
  • parents have high demands
  • parents are unresponsive to children
  • parents are obedience- and status-oriented
  • parents expect orders to obeyed without explanation
  • generally leads to children who are obedient and proficient, but rank lower in happiness, social competence and self-esteem


  • rules and guidelines are established, which children are expected to follow
  • a more democratic parenting style
  • parents are responsive to children and willing to listen to questions
  • if children fail to meet expectations, parents are more nurturing and forgiving than punishing – disciplinary measures are supportive rather than punitive
  • parents monitor and impart clear standards for children’s conduct
  • parents are assertive but not intrusive and restrictive
  • parents want children to be assertive as well as socially responsible, self-regulated as well as co-operative
  • tend to result in children who are happy, capable and successful


  • considered indulgent parents, place very few demands on children
  • parents rarely discipline
  • parents have low expectations of maturity and self-control
  • parents are more responsive than demanding
  • parents are non-traditional and lenient, do not require mature behaviour, allow considerable self-regulation, and avoid confrontation
  • parents assume status of friend more than parent, generally adopting nurturing and communicative behaviours
  • often results in children who have problems with authority, perform poorly in school, and who rank low in happiness and self-regulation


  • parents place few demands on children, have low levels of responsiveness and little communication
  • basic needs of children are met, but parents detached from child’s life
  • in extreme cases, parents may reject or neglect needs of child
  • rank lowest across all life domains – children tend to lack self-control, have low self-esteem and are less competent than their peers

Clearly the Authoritarian Parenting Style is the most productive in terms of producing happy, confident and capable children. Parenting styles do vary, however, for reasons including culture, personality, family size, parental background, socioeconomic status, educational level and religion.

Individual parenting styles between partners, whether cohabiting or separated, combine to create a unique blend of influences in each family, too. Ideally, regardless of circumstances, parents who co-operate as they combine the various elements of their own individual parenting styles will have a more cohesive result, and thus a more positive influence on their children. [1]

The Provoking Parent

We parents can provoke our children, quite unintentionally triggering words and behaviour that were quite unlike anything we intended to elicit. We can do that with both hands tied behind our backs, blindfolded, and sometimes even with our mouths taped shut – yet somehow, despite our best intentions, it just happens.

Most often, we walk away scratching our heads and wondering what on earth we did to deserve that, and frequently assuming that the problem lies with our child. It might, but it might well lie with us, as we habitually pursue behaviours we’ve assumed were okay, and never considered even could be detrimental.

As the adult in the situation, we have the greater responsibility to identify the problem and seek a solution. Ain’t parenting fun? 😉

The Proud Parent

  • never admits to being wrong, and will punish a child who dares to correct them
  • assumes that any ‘answering back’ is disrespectful
  • lives a hypocritical life, saying loud and clear, “Do as I say, not as I do.”
  • will humiliate the child, either in private or public
  • unconcerned about and insensitive toward the child
  • cannot admit to being wrong
  • will not listen to even the kindest or wisest of counsel
  • everything is someone else’s fault
  • primary concern is what others think of them
  • humility needed

The Despairing Parent

  • constantly feels sorry for self
  • often plays regrets over and over in the mind
  • all doom and gloom – everything’s hopeless, it’s always too late, there’s never hope for recovery
  • kindles sympathetic friends who ask, “What’s the matter> What’s wrong now?”
  • glass half empty attitude
  • thankfulness needed

The Controlling Parent

  • overly authoritarian
  • use angry words and harsh angry tones
  • bully children into desired behaviours
  • will lord it over their children
  • will not put up with differences from anybody
  • has an “It’s my way or the highway” attitude
  • very self-centred
  • create a lot of drama
  • children afraid of parents reaction to everything
  • child never knows what will or won’t set parent off
  • grace needed

The Chameleon Parent

  • rules and consequences frequently change
  • changes happen according to the whim or mood of the parent
  • can be too many rules for anybody to keep track of
  • rules may be enforced (or not) quite randomly and unpredictably
  • can be more influenced by selfishness, laziness or weariness than a certainty of the reason for the standard
  • “When (and if) I say jump, you only ask ‘how high?” kind of attitude
  • conviction needed

The Exaggerating Parent

  • think and talk in terms of ‘always, never, everyone, a million times,’ etc.
  • do not deal with each matter separately, confusing issues and distracting focus from the real issue
  • feel justified that a dramatic point is better understood, but miss the mark
  • can throw as good a tantrum as the child
  • truthfulness and focus needed

The Perfectionist Parent

  • promotes standards that are impossible to achieve
  • nit-picks and is often driven to despair because child’s efforts are never good enough
  • place too-heavy burdens on their children, which they are not willing to bear themselves
  • miss opportunities for encouragement because focus is too intent on minor imperfections
  • child is at risk of rebellion, becoming performance driven, and also too judgemental of others
  • refocus onto excellence needed (rather than perfectionism)

The Paralysed Parent

  • fear of what the child or others may think paralyses from making appropriate decisions
  • thoughts tend towards: “If I do that, he won’t love me,” or “What will others think of me?”
  • easily intimidated
  • easily swayed by apparent confidence from anybody else
  • easily distracted from necessary standards
  • self-confidence needed

The Bottom-Rung Parent

  • gives into child’s tantrums or persistence
  • considers the child of higher value than themselves
  • confused or embarrassed by child’s reactions, especially in public
  • take the easy way out, and give in “for the sake of peace”
  • doesn’t know how to lovingly enforce standards, so back’s away
  • does not see child’s manipulativeness as a correctable problem
  • courage needed

The Comparative Parent

  • hold up a sibling as the desirable standard of behaviour
  • unwittingly denigrate child with comparisons
  • do not differentiate between person and behaviour/attitude as the example
  • the criticised child’s uniqueness can get lost in the comparison
  • individual regard needed

The Voyeuristic Parent

  • attitude proclaims, “Let me live the life I always wanted through you”
  • interests and aptitudes of the child are secondary to the parent’s heart-set
  • live vicariously through child – ignore or have no interest in child’s preferences
  • drive practice and skills development far beyond child’s interest (and sometimes ability, too)
  • far too hands-on
  • reality-check needed

The Hands Off Parent

  • overly concerned with the child’s will in every matter
  • rarely, if ever, discipline or instruct the child
  • may be lazy or unaware of parental responsibility
  • allow a child to make decisions a parent should make
  • unconcerned with child’s immaturity, unawareness, deceptiveness or prejudice in decision-making
  • do not understand the difference between listening to the child’s concerns/opinion, and allowing the child to do the adult job of making family decisions
  • responsibility needed

The Tradition/Culture-Driven Parent

  • elevate cultural or family traditions to a sacred level
  • have no regard for other’s traditions
  • do not care for personal freedom or individuality
  • cannot understand anyone’s desire or right to lovingly exercise freedom or personal choice
  • consider the keeping of traditions as a mark of spirituality
  • flexibility needed

The Omniscient Parent

  • assume they know what their children are thinking
  • judge motives and assume the worst
  • do not bother to gather data to defend their position, so can appear foolish
  • will tell the child, “You did that deliberately to hurt my feelings,” when child was simply acting out of foolishness
  • take things personally
  • highly presumptuous and don’t care to hear a matter fully
  • security needed

The Love-Secret Parent

  • keeps whatever love they may feel for the child a secret
  • do not show affection
  • do not say “I love you”
  • selfish, impatient, unkind, self-absorbed, cold, aloof
  • appreciation needed

The Preoccupied Parent

  • does love the child, but is overly busy
  • may be doing many good things, but leaving little time for the children
  • may be so busy that any down time is spent nurturing self rather than focused on children
  • no time to share children’s lives or listen to their joys and sorrows
  • always on the phone or computer, saying, “Give me a moment” which never becomes available
  • getting off the treadmill needed

Peace and Scott, at the end of their chapter on parenting styles, ask some questions designed to help you think through what might be working for you or against you in your own parenting style, as well as what you might be able to do better in future. These questions include:

  1. What traits did you recognise as being potential problems in your own parenting?
  2. What specific words or actions do you need to stop doing, in order to provoke your child less?
  3. What specific words or actions could you use as helpful alternatives?
  4. What specific thoughts or desires might contribute to each of your wrong actions?
  5. What alternative thoughts or desires could you adopt to replace those you intend to forsake?

Keep in mind that every parent, even the very best ones, will recognise themselves in at least a few of the above traits. It doesn’t have to be soul-destroying for us to recognise and acknowledge that there are areas where we can improve. There might even be areas where we need to ask our children to forgive us, or ask our partner to help us devise a strategy for the next time a certain situation may arise. We’ve got a long way to go on our parenting journey yet, and we can all be better today than we were yesterday, in one way or another.

The Good Parent

So, what does a “good” parent look like? I asked my lovely mother that question in the years before her death, at almost 84 years of age. She’d been parenting for over fifty years by then, but when I asked my question, she just gave a little laugh and said, “Oh darling! I’m still figuring it out!”

Of course there are countless lists online, and some will make more sense than others. Dr Phil has his list of 5; The Royal College of Psychiatrists have their list of 8; Dr Laurence Steinberg, author of The Ten Basic Principles of Good Parenting, has his list of 10. You can read volumes, peruse lists, but ultimately, the only proof is in the pudding, and that only becomes obvious as your child’s life matures through their own adulthood.

Here are a few ideas:
[5], [6], [7], [8]

  • give unconditional Acceptance of them as a person (behaviour is a different issue)
  • Adapt your parenting to fit your child – keep pace with your child’s development
  • show appropriate Affection – it’s just not possible to spoil a child with too much love
  • Appreciate your child and the good things they do
  • be Available to your child – it often involves rearranging and rethinking your priorities
  • the Big Picture matters – it’s important to make sure that children feel secure, loved and valued, as well as being aware of their development, concerns, needs, etc.
  • be Calm – yes, you can be. When you blow your cool, you blow your credibility, too
  • be Clear – children respond much better to a series of simple instructions than they do to a large, ill-defined or overly-general instruction
  • be Consistent – it’s easier for both you and your child
  • Discipline fairly – as appropriate for the child and the circumstances. Avoid lack of explanation and extremes
  • Engage with your child’s world – be there mentally as well as physically
  • Foster Independence – Setting limits helps your child develop a sense of self-control. Encouraging independence helps develop a sense of self-direction
  • Involve your child – if they are part of the solution, they’re more likely to stop being part of the problem. With honest discussion, you can often by surprised by how much you agree on.
  • You’re the Parent – children need parents: an authority figure who lets them know where the boundaries of acceptable behaviour are
  • be Realistic – exaggeration, whether positive or negative, rarely sits right with children. Offer realistic rewards, and punishments you will follow through with
  • Relationship is key – make that the priority always. That doesn’t mean being weak or backing down, it means fighting with (not against) your child for your ongoing mutually enjoyable relationship
  • Respect yourself and your child – listen, pay attention, and expect reciprocation
  • Rules matter – those your child has learned from you are going to shape the rules he applies to himself. Any time of the day or night, you should always be able to answer: Where is my child? Who is with my child? What is my child doing?
  • Talk – about things that matter and about things that don’t, and spread out your logic so they can see why you’re saying what you’re saying
  • Value what you do – how you treat and respond to your child should come from a knowledgeable, deliberate sense of what you want to accomplish

Do your best, love your kids, have fun with them, enjoy them, and engage with them. Walk beside them always, and be willing to stand in front of them when you have to.

It’s not only children who grow.  Parents do too.
As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives,
they are watching us to see what we do with ours.
I can’t tell my children to reach for the sun.
All I can do is reach for it, myself.
~Joyce Maynard

[1] The Four Styles of Parenting, Kendra Cherry:, Developmental Psychology
[2] Baumrind, D. (1967). Child-care practices anteceding three patterns of preschool behaviour. Genetic Psychology Monographs, 75, 43-88.
[3] Baumrind, D. (1991). The influence of parenting style on adolescent competence and substance use. Journal of Early Adolescence, 11(1), 56-95.
[4] The Faithful Parent, Martha Peace & Stuart Scott: Chapter 8
[5] Good Parenting Skills Can Be Learned: Ezine article
[6] Five Core Steps to Good Parening: Dr Phil
[7] Royal Collect of Psychiatrists: Good Parenting
[8] Ten Basic Principles of Good Parenting: The Science of Raising Children