While different generations of parents have expressed varied views on what good parenting looks like, researchers have been consistent in identifying the most effective parenting approach or style. The parenting style identified as the best is not simply based on recommendations from child development and parenting experts. It is based on decades of research into how children feel about themselves and how they function in the world.
The best parenting style is one that involves a consistent combination of warmth and responsiveness with clear rules and high expectations. These so-called “authoritative” parents tend to give their children regular support while still valuing and promoting independence, as well. The results of this parenting style are well documented and include higher academic performance, better self-esteem, and greater social skills. This warm but boundary-setting parent is also significantly less likely to have children with patterns of delinquency or mental illness.
In contrast, these parenting styles have been associated with much poorer outcomes:
Permissive: few rules and leniency
Authoritative: strict rules and low warmth or responsiveness
It is not possible to be a perfect parent.
There is no such thing. But you can strive to be the kind of parent researchers have found to be the most effective. Giving children anything and everything they want will not teach them to become happy and productive adults. Neither will ignoring them or trying to force them to meet an exacting set of standards that are impossible to achieve.
Instead, work to set clear boundaries and rules but be warm and responsive to your children’s needs. Pay attention to them and to their interests. Give them hugs because you love them and praise when they give their best effort. Assign them small jobs to do around the house to promote independence and responsibility and give them praise for jobs well done.