I’m Sticking To My Own Parenting Style, Thank You Very Much

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Here’s one for the ‘thanks for comin’ out!’ files. A new study published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology shows that a mother’s parenting style should match the personality of her child. So, for example, kids with high levels of self-control do well with moms who take a laid-back approach to parenting, whereas kids who lack self control will feel more anxious and depressed if their moms give them too much autonomy. You don’t say?!

This study states the obvious: that a good parent knows her child best. And that mothers need to use common sense and go with their gut when it comes to raising happy children. (Do we really need an official study to tell us that?)

Here’s the thing: I have an anxious child and, for years, friends and family with more mellow (read: low-maintenance) kids would offer advice that, however well-intentioned, was beyond condescending. For example, one friend with two super easygoing girls who you could drop anywhere (play dates, birthday parties, sleepovers) – any time – would say to me, “Just tell your kid he has to sleep at his grandparents’ house and not to be such a wuss. He’ll be fine!” (In my gut, I knew he wasn’t ready – he needed the security of home.)

It’s never a case of being a neurotic parent vs. a laissez-faire one but more about knowing your child and what he or she is capable of handling. In fact, I know lots of laid-back people who run a tight ship at home, just as I know more uptight and OCD parents who let their kids run free and don’t believe in a set bedtime. It all comes down to the type of child you’re raising. In my own household, for instance, you’d see two totally different parenting styles depending on which one of my sons I happen to be with at the moment.

And that’s exactly what study co-author Liliana Lengua, a University of Washington psychology professor and mother of three, told “The main take-home message [is that] it’s not one size fits all. The same parenting might not work with each child.” To determine what your own parenting style should be, Lengua suggest looking at your children and asking, “Can they stop themselves from doing things on an impulse? Can they power through things they don’t want to do?” She says if the answers are yes, your child might do better for more hands-off parenting. If the answers are no, make sure to wield authority.

Okay, really, last I checked, this was simply called parenting. It seems crazy to me that we need books and studies such as this one to tell us something so obvious. At the same time, it will be somewhat validating to be able to quote a study like this next time I’m feeling judged in the parenting department.

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