In Co-Parenting: Matching Parenting Styles with Children’s Temperaments

Parents influence, teach and socialize their children. Often times, in divorce, differing parental styles can become a major conflict between co-parents. The trick is to work together for the benefit of your children. This can be challenging, but well worth the effort.

The identification of parenting styles was the result of the work of Diana Baumrind and other researchers in child development. The researchers matched elements of parenting that resulted in children having the positive qualities of: independence, maturity, self-reliance, self-control, curiosity, friendliness and achievement orientation. The result identified two important ingredients:

1. responsiveness, or warmth and supportiveness;

2. behavioral control.

Based on these elements, the below parenting styles were described.

Authoritative, or a moderate style where parents set limits, but rely on children learning from their own mistakes. Parents explain why rules are important to follow and reason with their children. They set high standards for their children and place a value on independence of their children. In so doing, parents are firm, but with kindness, warmth and love.

Authoritarian, or extremely strict, parents are highly controlling. They dictate how their children should behave and stress obedience to authority and discourage discussion. In being demanding and directive, they expect their orders to be obeyed without any give-and-take.

Permissive, or indulgent, parents are accepting and warm, but do not set limits, and allow children to set their own rules, schedules and activities. They do not set limits on behavior as authoritarian or authoritative parents do.

Uninvolved parents are sometimes described as caring more about themselves than their children and demand little and respond minimally. Taken to an extreme, this parenting style might entail neglect and rejection.

How does parenting style affect children?

In terms of social competence, research has found that the best adjusted children have parents with an authoritative or moderate parenting style. These parents have high expectations for their children and use control, but respect their child's autonomy. By so doing, the child has enough freedom of expression so he/she can development a sense of independence. On the other hand, authoritarian or overly strict parents allow the child little freedom of expression resulting in children that lack spontaneity and tend to be reliant on the voice of authority. Permissive parents make few demands and their children may have difficulty controlling their impulses, and can be immature and reluctant to accept responsibility.

What about children's styles?

Parenting is an interactive situation. Children have temperaments that may affect their parents' style, or put another way, each may affect the other. Temperament is the preferred way of responding toward people and events. Children in the same family often have different temperaments. Parents, in response, may respond differently to an overly active, impulsive child than to a shy, timid kid--discourage impulsive behavior in the overly active child but encourage assertive behavior in the shy child.

Differences in children's temperament can be seen even in infancy.

· Easy children are described as: calm, happy, adaptable, regular in sleeping/eating habits, positive in mood and interested in new experiences.

· Difficult children are often fussy, irregular in feeding and sleeping habits, low in adaptability, fearful of new people and situations, easily upset, high strung, and intense in their reactions.

· Slow to warm up children are relatively inactive, reflective, tend to withdraw or to react negatively to novelty, but their reactions gradually become more positive with experience.

It's the mix or the "best fit" between parent and child that matters most. The match or mismatch between a child and parent determines the harmony between them. Temperament is not set in stone and family environment and life experiences can make a difference. All parents and children are unique. Situations differ. Parenting styles may overlap, but below are some things to keep in mind.

· Does your temperament style mesh with your child's temperament style?

· Do you respect each child's individual strengths and don't compare children?

· Do you make expectations clear?

· Do you encourage children to work with you on generating solutions to problems?

· Do you make communication a priority and are open to discussion; take time to explain your decisions and motives and listen to your children's point of view?

· Do you make them aware that their opinions are respected, but remain firm in your decisions?

· Do you work with your co-parent partner effectively and with conflict held at a minimum?

Making co-parenting work effectively in two separate households is challenging, but the result is well worth the investment.

If you are facing divorce, Stange Law Firm, PC can help. We focus exclusively on family law in the primary areas of divorce, child custody, child support, paternity and other domestic relations issues. We care about families, especially those who are struggling. Our goal is to help put peace and stability back into the lives of families, especially those with children.

Stange Law Firm, PC offers a confidential half-hour consultation to meet with an attorney. You may call 855-805-0595 or visit us online.

Source: The Child Study Center, Parenting Styles/Children's Temperaments: The Match, by Anita Gurian, PhD