Family Life Parents — 10 October 2014
The 3 Top Parenting Styles. Which is yours?

When it comes to parenting, is there one style that is superior to others? Maybe so.

According to Barbara Coloroso, parent educator and author of Kid’s Are Worth It, there are three types of families that reflect three ways of parenting children. One is what she likes to call t the “Jellyfish” family, where anything goes. The other is the “Brick Wall” family where there’s a rule for everything, and the third is the “Backbone” family.  The “Backbone” family works the best because it mixes flexibility with limit setting.

1. The Brick Wall or Authoritarian Style

Do you have a rule for everything and expect your children to follow those rules without fail? Is punishment your number one way of ensuring those rules are carried out?  Then your parenting style is known as authoritarian, a parenting style that often backfires.  Certainly when kids are young, they’ll adhere to the rules to please mom or dad, but as they grow and mature they will naturally question those rules. If there isn’t a little give and take the result can be negative, even disastrous. Coloroso calls this style the “Brick Wall”, and urges parents who are inflexible to consider finding ways to soften their approach.

2. The Jellyfish or Permissive style

The opposite of authoritarian parenting is permissive parenting, where kids have few, if any rules. Children are often over-indulged, they can come and go as they please, eat what they like, head to bed when it suits them.  You could say, in this family, kids are the boss! While it may seems like a dream come true to children, in fact it can create a sense of uncertainty.  Children need some boundaries and limitations to keep them safe and to assure them that someone older and wiser is looking out for them. Coloroso refers to this as the “Jellyfish” family, where anything goes.

3.  Authoritative or The Backbone Style

Authoritative parenting keeps the doors of communication open, is willing to consider what is right or each child and situation, but is willing to lay down a few rules, not for the sake of having them but to keep children safe and cared for. Coloroso calls this “The Backbone family”.  Parents with this style say to kids, “mistakes are okay. Mistakes are for learning. A Backbone family also invites kids at a very young age to make responsible choices, and when they make unwise choices, they (the parents) stick with them and say, ‘kid you can fix this’. They say ‘kid you have a problem, I know you can handle it.’ And in the end the child knows how to think, not just what to think. And within himself, he’s developing a backbone for his own moral sense of what’s right, what’s wrong.”

Changing Your Parenting Style

If you find that you are unhappy with your own parenting style don’t be afraid to change. Coloroso says that when it comes to improving your parenting skills, you can always teach an old parent new tricks. “If you are still alive and kicking and your kid is still alive and kicking, it’s never too late to change what you’re doing in your parenting style.”

Fortunately there are many books and courses available for parents, which is good because Coloroso says these are some of the best ways to discover new approaches to raising kids. “One of the beauties of taking the opportunity to either read, or to attend parenting sessions, or to talk to your neighbor, is to explore what you’ve done that you don’t feel good about and how you can do it differently. It’s more than just feeling bad about what you did, it’s asking what can I do differently next time?”

For related pieces check out:

Styles of Discipline

Inner Discipline 

Democracy in Families

Adapted from The Parent Report Radio Show. Any advice or information contained herein should never be a substitute for professional and/or medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. For more information please review Terms of Service.

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