Patient, Passionate, And Proud: How To Be A Good Parent

Medically reviewed by Nikki Ciletti, M.Ed, LPC
Updated June 20, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include suicide, substance use, or abuse which could be triggering to the reader.
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Being a parent can come with a number of challenges and ensuring that you are doing the best job possible is often stressful. While many people strive to be “good parents,” there may not be a single way to define what makes a parent good or bad. However, certain parenting styles can be more effective than others, especially those that focus on positive communication, clear guidance, and a sense of respect. A licensed therapist can help you hone your parenting skills with in-person or online sessions.

A mother teaches her daughter houw to make cookies whilein their kitchen and wearing aprons.
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Being a good parent isn’t always easy

The four parenting styles

Your parenting style can be defined by how you behave toward and around your child, as well as the developmental environment you create. While the approach you use may not fall into a particular category, psychological researchers believe there are generally four primary parenting styles: authoritarian, permissive, uninvolved, and authoritative. Each of these styles tends to be associated with its own set of behaviors. In addition, each style can have varying potential effects on well-being and child development.

Authoritarian

Authoritarian parents are often strict, set unreasonable expectations, and establish restrictive rules with harsh consequences. These parents may not be patient or empathetic with their children, and most communication tends to be one-way. 

The children of authoritarian parents may appear well-behaved, but later in life, they may display higher levels of aggression, social ineptitude, and an inability to make their own decisions. Left unaddressed, these challenges can contribute to anger management issues, poor self-esteem, and a rebellious attitude toward authority figures. 

Permissive

The permissive parenting style can be characterized by a lack of structure and a relationship that displays the traits of a friendship, rather than those of a traditional parent-child relationship. Permissive parents may fail to create or enforce rules, hold low expectations for a child’s behavior, and overindulge their desires. 

As a result, children of permissive parents may have low levels of persistence and dedication, potentially making it difficult for them to achieve in the face of adversity. In some cases, they may also be more prone to sources of instant gratification, such as substance use. Children of permissive parents may struggle with life management and emotional stability, which could cause problems in their personal and professional lives as adults. 

Uninvolved

Sometimes referred to as neglectful parenting, an uninvolved parent often fails to supervise their children or meet even their most basic needs. These parents typically won’t show their children love and affection, refuse to communicate with them, and do little to encourage their passions or interests. 

Children with uninvolved parents may have trouble controlling their emotions and coping with certain challenges, including those that relate to school and work. They may also have difficulty maintaining social relationships as they age, which could affect everything from their romantic partnerships to their relationships with their own children. 

Authoritative

Research suggests that the authoritative parenting style may result in the most favorable development outcomes, meaning it could be considered by some to be the “best” approach to parenting. Authoritative parents often establish reasonable rules and enforce consequences while remaining nurturing and supportive. They usually encourage their children's passions and listen to their opinions, having discussions when they believe their child is misguided. 

Children of authoritative parents may have a stronger ability to regulate their emotions while also maintaining a sense of responsibility for their actions. In addition, they can grow up to be confident and have a high level of academic and career achievement. 

Of the four styles identified, authoritative parenting may be the most beneficial to emulate to ensure the most favorable outcomes for your children. If you are looking to be a more effective parent, you may consider looking into ways to match this style and introducing elements of authoritative parenting into your household.
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3 methods that may make you a better parent

Again, what one defines as a “good” or “better” parent may vary. With research suggesting that authoritative parents may raise children with better developmental outcomes, understanding this style and utilizing authoritative techniques may be beneficial. To start, it may be helpful to look at the boundaries you establish for your children's behavior and how you react when your children cross those boundaries. 

Establish rules and consequences

Authoritative parents may set clear boundaries and rules, so their children understand what is expected of them. To ensure the rules you create are understood and easy to follow, it may be beneficial to explain the reasoning behind them. For example, if you want your child to check in with you when they go out, you may want to explain that it helps you feel more secure when you know they are safe rather than framing it as though you are trying to control their actions. 

Have a respectful discussion with your child concerning the rules you wish to establish and listen to their input. If they feel like a part of the process, they may be more likely to adhere to the boundaries you set. 

If your children break these rules, it can be equally important to enforce appropriate consequences. Authoritative parents don’t typically use physical punishment or verbal abuse* to enforce consequences. Instead, they may remove certain privileges for set periods of time. For example, you may “ground” your child so they cannot go out with friends for a week. 

These types of punishments may underscore the importance of rules without harming the child physically or emotionally. In addition, reasonable consequences can preserve the parent-child relationship and set your child up to have a sense of self-control and responsibility as an adult. 

Maintain open communication

Another hallmark of the authoritative parenting style may be open communication, which typically involves dialoguing with your children about various important subjects. By having positive and informative discussions with your kids, you may help them build up strong conversational skills while also encouraging them to share their thoughts and feelings. You can also encourage them to be curious by asking questions and exploring the world around them. While you may not have all the answers, you can still help your children find solutions and develop their investigative abilities. 

This can be a significantly different and far more beneficial situation than one sees with other parenting types. Authoritarian parents, for example, usually prefer one-way communication, where they may tell their children what they expect of them. Uninvolved parents, on the other hand, may ignore their children entirely, while permissive parents may listen to demands but only provide positive feedback or avoid conversations of any substance. 

How you maintain open communication may vary depending on the age of your children. If you have younger kids or children who otherwise have a simple understanding of language, getting them to understand you may be difficult. However, it can be important to remain patient and show that you are focused on the conversation, as this can help young kids learn what it means to respectfully listen to others. If your children are older, you’ll generally want to avoid talking down to them or making it seem like you are criticizing them without purpose. If an older child believes you are being disrespectful, it may damage your connection and make communication more difficult in the future. 

Get professional support 

In many cases, talking to a therapist about the challenges you are facing as a parent can be helpful. A therapist may help you identify the source of specific struggles, find ways to be a more authoritative parent, or assist you with challenges outside of parenthood. For some individuals, the struggles they are experiencing as a parent may be related to something besides their immediate situation, such as childhood events, stress at work, or interpersonal conflicts. 

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Being a good parent isn’t always easy

Benefits of online therapy

Many parents struggle to find the time to research therapists in their area or commute to in-person sessions. In addition, some individuals may be living with conditions that affect their mobility or prevent them from leaving their homes. In these situations, or for those who prefer a more convenient approach to mental health support, it may be beneficial to try online therapy through platforms like BetterHelp

Effectiveness of online therapy

In general, online therapy tends to be just as effective as in-person therapy. One 2023 study that investigated the efficacy of an online parenting intervention found that it could produce positive outcomes for children, caretakers, and families.

Takeaway

Raising a child is usually no small task, and it can be understandable to find the process challenging. While there may not be one definitive way to be a “good parent,” it could be helpful to emulate effective styles, such as authoritative parenting. To do so, you could start by looking at the rules and consequences set for your children, as well as the ways you communicate. If you are struggling with the challenges of parenting or anything else in your life, it may also be helpful to talk to a therapist. Therapy sessions, including those delivered through BetterHelp or other online platforms, may be a helpful way to learn effective parenting techniques and create a better developmental environment for your children.
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