Parenting styles for the future

By Laura Lyles Reagan

The Teen & Parent Relationship Whisperer

Between helicopter parents afraid to relinquish control and permissive parents afraid to exert authority, there is a respectful middle ground which is not fear-based. But what does it look like? How do you find that elusive balance in parenting?

Social psychologists generally tell us there are at least three parenting styles which mirror leadership styles according to some sociologists. They are, laissez faire, authoritarian and assertive parenting sometimes called relational or democratic parenting.

Laissez faire parenting is misperceived as permissive parenting. It is an effort to not interfere with what is perceived to be the normal development of a child. It is based on the belief that there is an ideal childhood in which children learn through discovery and experience the natural consequences their behavior brings.

• Authoritarian parenting invokes parental authority without negotiation on the child’s part. The parent’s authority is not questioned by the children. Correcting behavior is the focus.

• Assertive Parenting or Relational Parenting as it is sometimes called, sets rules and structures but models the use of democratic principles and communication skills. Children are encouraged to express themselves within respectful boundaries.

Despite a modern psychological opinion that values assertive or relational parenting over the other parenting styles, we don’t have much social scientific research that demonstrates one parenting style is better than the other. If the child feels loved and rules are applied consistently, children tend to grow up to be contributing, adult members of society, the world over.

The real question isn’t, will my child grow up to be a responsible citizen? The real question is, are we preparing our children for the future, with the skills they need to negotiate a world we can’t even begin to imagine?

We don’t know what the workforce will look like. We don’t know what the political economy will be like. We don’t know how family structure will change. Futurists speculate and even point to biological realities such as brain growth and our ability to colonize the moon or Mars as indicators of how the future unfolds. But no one “knows” the future. Therefore, how can we know if our parenting and education system is adequate for a future?

What we do know is this “next” generation will not tolerate anything less than co-creation, according to Dr. Sheftali, author of Conscious Parenting.

Co-creation is a sociological term describing how each party in a relationship interacts to define the relationship, share power and influence to fulfill the purpose of the relationship. Traditional sociology views the role of children and teens as passive recipients of social learning where the institutions of society such as family, school and church teach children about our culture’s beliefs and behaviors. In a new sociology of childhood, children are co-creators of culture and relationships. Their role is obviously different than that of adults but their influence as “social actors” is powerful according to researchers, Prout and James.

The key to co-creating a satisfying relationship is less about directing and correcting behavior and more about working together to solve problems. Co-creation communication skills such as active listening, I-Messaging and other problem-solving skills are the soft skills that employers are seeking today. Practicing respectful communication skills in the parent – child relationship prepares and empowers kids for a successful future.

Laura Lyles Reagan, MS is a sociologist, parent coach and author of How to Raise Respectful Parents, and a reporter for the Port Isabel-South Padre Press, covering education. She can be reached for comment or questions through her website,

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