Parenting Blog

Popular Posts:

What's Your Parenting Style?

Variety of shoes

Each of us has a “style of parenting."  Researchers tell us those styles run along a continuum with an authoritarian style parenting on one end and permissive on the other.  Both have their strengths and weaknesses.  In the extreme if your style is the more authoritarian parent style you probably provide a sound structure for your child.  Predictable routines are in place and rules and expectations are clear.  But you may fail to address your child’s emotions, believe that offering empathy or comfort means “giving in,” find yourself rigidly locking in and occasionally even using threats, yelling, or fear to control. 

On the other hand if your style is a more permissive you are especially effective sensitively picking up cues and responding in ways that fit.  Taken to the extreme however, you may find yourself talk, talk, talking, failing to ever follow through on what you said you would do.  This can lead to making excuses for your child’s behavior, or doing everything possible to prevent him/her from feeling unhappy – until you have reached the end of your rope. That is when, despite your best intentions you hear yourself flipping to the EXTREME authoritarian style spewing threats and recriminations at your child. 

The researchers have found that the most effective parents implement a style that puts them smack in the middle of this continuum, utilizing the strengths of BOTH the permissive and authoritarian style. 

Thus they are sensitive to children’s emotions and cues AND provide a sound, predictable structure.  We refer to that style as the “emotion coach.”

What does an emotion coach look and sound like?  Most of us have interacted with an emotion coach in our life, although we may not have realized it at the time.  Think of a person who truly has made a difference in your life?  A parent, coach, boss, teacher or other adult who believed in you and helped you.  What were his/her characteristics? 

When I ask these questions in my workshops the answers typically describe a person who is supportive, patient, flexible, dependable, gentle, encouraging, fair, funny and a good listener.  If I inquire if this person was a “pushover” there is a resounding, “no!”  In fact these emotion coaches, typically hold high expectations that lead us, their protégé, to strive for our best not out of fear but because we WANT to work with them. How do they do it? 

Emotion coaches understand that effective discipline includes BOTH Sensitivity and Structure.

  • Sensitivity includes picking up cues, responding compassionately to emotions, soothing and calming and emotion coaching. 
  • Structure provides clear expectations, predictable routines and schedules, and concrete, consistent rules, which allow the child to know what to expect.  

No one is a perfect emotion coach one hundred percent of the time, but that balance of sensitivity AND structure is what we are working toward.  Take a look at the list below.   


Authoritarian:  Clear on what will do.  Do it now.  Little talking.  May not find out what child is feeling.
Emotion Coach (Structure):  Clear on limits, routines and maintains consistent schedule.
Emotion Coach (Sensitivity):  Picks up cues, calms, responds to emotions and emotion coaches.
Permissive:  Sensitive to emotions but may talk-talk-talk, without following through.  May flip to authoritarian if frustrated and fed up.


Be honest – we all have our moments.  Place yourself on the continuum.  Do you need to add a little more sensitivity to your approach, or more structure?  If you are co-parenting what’s your partner’s style?

Often a couple finds one parent standing on the permissive end, complaining the authoritarian parent is too harsh.  While the more authoritarian partner insists the permissive parent is much too soft.

This disagreement can lead to polarizing, forcing each parent to the extreme edge of the continuum.  If however, you are willing to talk and work together you can become a perfect team providing both sensitivity AND structure.   

  • Think again about your emotion coach – that person who has made a significant difference in your life.
  • What about your style is similar?  Give yourself a pat on the back and remind yourself to implement that skill even more often. 
  • Then reflect upon your partner’s style, find something that he/she is doing that reminds you of your emotion coach.  Let your partner know how much you appreciate it.
  • Finally, what is one thing you could begin doing today, that you have not been doing, that would allow you to be more like your emotion coach?  

In our next blog we will explain how to use an understanding of your parenting style to build that relationship that makes your child WANT to work with you.  

<- Back



Child Development / Childcare for
Toddlers, Preschoolers, Schoolagers, & Kindergarten

Nurturing little ones since 1984!
Contact us!