Toddlers a Little Person Emerges : What Kind of Parent are You? Exploring parenting styles

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Q: How can we parent as a team?
A: No two people agree entirely on every parenting decision, so it’s natural that your toddler will check with each of you to see which one will let him have what he wants. Being aware of this means you can present a united front. Friction can be caused if you undermine each others’ decisions, even if this is done unintentionally. For example, your child may be in the habit of asking one of you for a treat, then, if he gets told “no,” going to the other for a different answer. To avoid this situation (called “splitting”), make a habit of checking with your partner to see if a decision has already been made. If this can’t be done easily, delay giving your answer until you’ve had a chance to talk it through. This way your child sees you as a parenting team who will back each other up. If you do disagree, and this is bound to happen sometimes, do it away from the children and then let them know your joint decision.
Q: Why does my child try to wind me up when she knows I’m tired and busy?
A: It must seem that your toddler picks her moment to have an outburst but, developmentally, she does not yet have the ability to judge whether you are stressed or not. She can pick up on basic emotions, but she simply doesn’t have the sophisticated reasoning to be calculated about when she cries or is uncooperative. Unfortunately, the times when you are most stressed tend also to be the times she is overwhelmed or tired, too.

Take a moment to see the situation from your child’s point of view. For example, difficult behavior at dinnertime, such as refusing to eat her meal, spilling a drink on the floor, and screaming, could be a result of her being tired. She might also have missed your attention when you were occupied with making the meal, or possibly she is not yet used to the food tastes and textures you’re asking her to try. Rather than being a deliberate attempt to upset you, she is simply expressing strong needs.

Seeing things from her point of view allows you to be sympathetic, and gives you ideas to remedy the situation. For example, you may decide to make her mealtime earlier so that she’s less tired, have some playtime with her beforehand so she’s had your attention, and offer her fewer new foods to try.

Parenting Getting the balance right

I was determined not to parent like my mother. She was very strict, imposing a rigid timetable of homework and chores. With my son I tried to be the opposite. I wanted to be a playmate and thought if I set limits or a routine he wouldn’t love me and would go wild later, as I had. I was surprised and hurt when he behaved badly all the time, and, at my wits’ end, I asked his pediatrician for help. She pointed out that he needed both playtime and limits to teach him that I loved him but that I was in charge. I realized then that setting a routine didn’t make me a bully.


There are patterns and habits in almost everything we do, and this includes bringing up our children

Old-school parenting Looking back to your childhood

The greatest influence on your values, aspirations, and parenting style is likely to be your own parents and upbringing. Whatever your experiences as a child, how you raise your child will be affected by how you were brought up, whether you want it to or not. It’s worth noting that most parents, when asked, would choose to go to family and friends as their first choice for parenting advice; a demonstration that much of the time the last generation got child-rearing right.

Blast from the past

How often have you heard yourself say something to your own child exactly as it was said to you, even down to the tone of voice? Depending on your experiences you may be pleased to repeat something that made your childhood special, or disappointed that the memory of a negative comment has broken through your resolve to parent differently. The powerful nature of learning through experience means that these automatic reactions will intrude unless you actively try to control them. At times of stress you’re most likely to copy the parenting you experienced as a child. If you’re anxious to avoid these reactions, then identify situations when they’re most likely to arise and practice alternative responses. Creating new patterns of behavior will help override habits from history.

Rejecting the past

One reaction to a difficult childhood can be to apply the opposite parenting style when raising your own child. For example, if your upbringing was strict or harsh, perhaps now you put in place very few rules or boundaries, or buy your child all she asks for to compensate for having had very little yourself. A common fear in these circumstances is that, if you start to use discipline, then you will lose control and go too far, repeating the patterns from the past that hurt you. Unfortunately, in rejecting everything from your childhood you may be going to a different extreme, which means your child doesn’t have the limits and regulation she needs. If you don’t have a positive role model, effective ways to establish your own style are to read parenting books, observe others, and attend parenting courses.

New challenges

Your child will face a different world and present you with new dilemmas. She’s taught to challenge your opinion rather than go along with it, she is exposed to more technology than you were, and later in life, she will face choices and pressures that weren’t present for you.

Moving forward

Looking back to previous generations can remind you that the underlying principles of caring for your child—predictable, loving parenting—still applies.

Do I have a parenting style? Elements you may recognize

There is no one correct parenting style, but some approaches are more likely than others to create the rich, loving relationship you want with your child. You may find your parenting approach is a collection of ideas accumulated through reading books, watching others, your values and experiences from childhood, and trial and error. Being able to identify and challenge how you parent allows you to cut out unhelpful ideas and stick to those that suit you and your family best.

Elements of your parenting style

This is a quality to be cherished. If you have this type of parenting style, you’ll dedicate many hours to your child’s development through play and stimulation. This style works well when you also provide the routine your toddler needs to feel safe and secure. Although you can be her playmate, avoid the temptation to be her best friend, since this makes it difficult to apply the limits she needs.


This encompasses the many ways you show your love to your child. It is in the physical affection you show, your gentle tone of voice, the softening in your expression when you see or think of her, and the unconditional love you feel. If you were raised not to show your feelings, to be embarrassed about them, or to believe that telling a child you love her will spoil her, you may feel limited in the expression of warmth that is needed in your relationship. Speak to a counselor or parenting expert if your beliefs about expressing affection are getting in the way of warm parenting.

Firm but fair

You establish a clear routine for your child but don’t apply it so rigidly that she misses out on play dates or other activities. You have a few simple house rules but don’t go overboard with a long list of do’s and don’ts. Most of the time you say “yes” to your child but you’re not afraid to impose limits when it’s for her own good—for example, you set a reasonable bedtime even though she protests.


A predictable routine and the same rules and rewards applied regularly means your child knows where she stands. She can be confident about what comes next and understands what is expected of her. What may seem repetitive to you equals security to her.


You have the confidence to make parenting decisions and stick to them. You do not fear losing your child’s love when you apply consequences for misbehavior, since the bond between you is strong. While you usually get your parenting decisions right, when you need to apologize you do so quickly and honestly and this builds your child’s confidence in you.

Team player

Whether you parent with a partner or have your own parents or friends helping you raise your child, it is helpful to discuss and agree your parenting values, discipline strategies, and rewards. If your styles are poles apart—for example if one parent is “soft” and one parent “tough,” difficulties can arise, and resentment may build between you if one feels undermined by the other. It may not be possible to reach full agreement, but discussion and negotiation bring you closer together.

Parenting styles to avoid

You try to stay calm, but there are times when you shout and fume. No parent is expected to stay perfectly calm at all times, but feelings of anger directed at your toddler can be distressing and unsettling for your child. The reasons you are angry often have little to do with her. If you already do or feel you may express your anger through shouting or unkind words, long periods of ignoring your child, or physically hurting her, seek help immediately.


A style which gives little or no routine, few limits or guidance on behavior, and no parental authority can be very frightening for a young child, since their world does not feel predictable, safe, and secure. It leads to misbehavior and, in later years, may result in lack of respect for parents or authority, which goes on to affect educational achievement and respect for the law, other people, and property. Often permissive parenting comes about as a reaction to having been strictly or harshly parented yourself and not wanting to repeat that pattern. It may also be the result of feeling so stressed, overwhelmed, or depressed that you have no motivation or energy to apply rules and routine.


You may have high aspirations for your child, but these translate into expectations of her behavior which are almost unattainable. You tend to be distant, with warmth and acknowledgment dependent on achievements rather than being an integral part of everyday family life. This style teaches your child that her self-worth is dependent on what she achieves rather than who she is in herself. She may become highly critical of herself and be vulnerable to low self-esteem if she does not reach her goals. This style should not be confused with authoritative parenting, which means being firm but fair, assertive, and warm, and has clear rules, boundaries, and expectations which match a child’s age and level of development.


A small number of parents cannot or will not recognize the physical and emotional needs of children. Not providing enough for your child to eat or drink or leaving her alone and unsupervised, can place her in immediate danger and is punishable by law.

Comparing notes

Parenting is a big job, and you may need some help to do your best. Be open to exploring new ideas with other parents.


Parenting as a team will make your child feel secure, since it will form part of her consistent and predictable routine.

Fun and games

Giving playful physical affection is an essential element of parenting.

Firm but fair

Having consistent rules and consequences is important for children.

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