Dr. Rich Patterson

Parenting Styles: Which is Right?

I like to compare parenting styles to leadership because parenting is an advanced form of leadership, to be sure. Influential leaders I have worked with could shift their leadership style depending on the person, situation, and group involved.  Sometimes they were straightforward, specific, and clear, even down to the steps taken.  Other times they give a general sense of what they want and be creative and design their approach.

As an educator for over 40 years, I see three basic parenting styles from which parents’ natural style tends to operate.  The first is Autocratic Style Parenting.  This style is where the kids know what to expect, and they also know that they cannot deviate from it or else discipline will follow.  Sometimes, some kids need this depending, but it is a parental preference for sure.

The second style is what I call Permissive Parenting.  Often, the parent would instead not discipline or disagree with the child and want them to be happy.  They usually want to be their friend, and for some kids, this parenting style works. Oddly, it often does not result in happiness.  Let’s look at the third style.

The style that I recommend is Firm and Fair Parenting.  It uses a straightforward approach to non-negotiable areas and the reasons behind why they are in place—adding the “why” to this parenting style may be the best part.  The Fair amount of is says that everyone has a chance to give their opinion, and then the decision may or may not be made due to that input.  The discipline involved in this style is more helpful than punitive.  For example, if the child has done something out of character, restrict them to a part of the home or living area.  In this style, the focus is on the relationships and helping them understand their thoughts.

I often see parents arguing with kids about things that don’t matter.  If the topic doesn’t involve safety or well-being, it may be wise to say to them, “What are your thoughts on this?”  “What do you think you should do next?”  Then when they answer, if you see some flaws in their thinking, you can say, “Give that a try; you may find that some of that needs a bit of tweaking” or “I have some thoughts on that when you’re ready.”  Then they come to you for discussion and have a chance to share both ways.

The approach is that of cooperation more than obedience.    Obedience requires conformity, not thinking; it involves silence in many ways, not giving your own best thinking.

I have a series called Parenting on Purpose which has been popular, here is a link for you, Parenting on Purpose: Influence Your Kids – Dr. Rich Patterson (

Do you have a situation where you are sharing parenting responsibilities?  Here is a helpful link, Making Co-Parenting Work – FamilyEducation

Yours for Better Parenting,