(Written by Marcela De Vivo and edited by Elle Yi) Talking to your child from infancy is an excellent way to enhance their language capabilities and improve performance in school. Young children who are exposed to an enriched language environment often have an increased ability to read as well. Overall, conversing with your child is a great way to give them an excellent base to further develop language and communication skills.
But how you speak to your child not only influences how well they grasp the language and perform in school later on, but also how they develop their social skills. The way you instruct, discipline and reason with your child has a long-term psychological impact that can affect his or her future relationships.
Here’s how to tell what category of parenting style based upon psychologist Diana Baumrind’s parenting styles your conversations with your child fall into:
- Indulgent Parenting
The indulgent, or permissive, parenting style is characterized by baby talk being used when normal conversation should take place between parent and child. You may be using indulgent parenting style if you find yourself referring to your own feelings as a reason for a child to behave in a certain way.
Permissive parents often talk a great deal more to their children than other parenting styles, but they make few demands on their children and usually do not reason with their children. When a child is asked to do something, the request is often not directly give, and if the child does not respond appropriately, discipline rarely occurs.
For example, in a situation in which a child is hurt because they disobeyed their parent by jumping on the bed:
Parent: “Oh no! What happened?”
Child: “I fell!”
Parent: “I wish you hadn’t done that! But don’t worry, come here, I’ll make it better.”
While these parents are very responsive to their children’s needs, they sometimes fail to teach them how to regulate their behavior or emotions. This often results in the child not having an accurate understanding of rules and consequences.
In some cases, children of completely permissive parents may be more like to engage in riskier behaviors as young adults as they are not accustomed to having standards and rules set for them. They may also have problems socializing due to frequently getting their way.
- Authoritarian Parenting
If you frequently employ the phrase “because I said so” or “it’s my way or the highway,” then you might be closer to an authoritarian style of parenting. Also known as strict parenting, there is little discussion or room for debate between parent and child. These parents are more likely to lecture than have a conversation, and more likely to employ punishment for discipline without discussing the infraction.
When taken to the extreme, authoritarian parents are likely to use harsh language to punish, demand, or coerce their child into compliance.
An authoritarian parent’s reaction in the same situation as above:
Parent: “Why are you crying?”
Child: “I fell!”
Parent: “That’s your fault then, isn’t it? I told you that would happen. Don’t do it again.”
They expect obedience without discussion or explanation, especially to rules and directions. Considered a restrictive, punitive parenting style, authoritarian parents expect much of their child without providing a great deal of support.
Children of authoritarian parents are generally model students, but have poor social standing due to an unwillingness to speak up and concern over their parents’ reactions.
- Authoritative Parenting
If you are the most likely to sit and reason with a child, especially in the case of discipline, then you are closer to an authoritative parent. This is a parent who will share personal stories of success and failure, offer options, and discuss alternatives, allowing the child to make choices (and possibly mistakes). If punishing a child, an authoritative parent is more likely to take the time to explain the rationale behind the reprimand.
Authoritative parents are engaged in their children’s lives, but leave room for their children to make mistakes so that they can learn and grow from those experiences. They will assist in the children in problem resolution, but encourage independent thought.
An example interaction:
Parent: “Uh-oh, what happened?”
Child: “I fell!”
Parent: “I’m sorry that happened. Why did you fall?
Child: “I was jumping on the bed.”
Parent: “That’s right. I told you not to jump on the bed because I was worried this might happen. Would you have fallen if you had listened?”
Parent: “I make the rules to keep you safe. So you should listen next time, ok?”
With this style of parenting, extensive conversations are normal, and parents try to be supportive of the children while encouraging them to stand on their own two feet.
According to Baumrind, this is the ideal style of parenting. It is a model used by many parenting and early education foundations, including RIE. The cognitive development of children seems to be enhanced by an authoritative environment. Children’s social development is also improved through this style as they have learned to regulate their emotions and to reason.
It’s not just the quantity of conversations you have your children, but also the quality of those discussion. The social and cognitive effects of how you talk to and raise your children can last their entire lifetime.
About the author: Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer in the Los Angeles area. She has written on everything from health & wellness, marketing, real estate, technology, and manufacturing.