Podcast

Joining me today is my partner from our joint practice Upshur Bren Psychology Group, Dr. Emily Upshur. We’re diving into Diana Baumrind’s 4 parenting styles – Permissive, Authoritative, Authoritarian and Neglectful – in order to help guide one mom who wonders how she can break the cycle and raise her child differently from the authoritarian way she herself was raised.

 We’ll get into the characteristics of each of these styles, the middle ground where most people truly exist, the reasons why an authoritative style is considered the gold standard in child development and strategies you can use to consciously move toward this style in your day to day parenting.

 

Dr. Emily (00:00):

It’s so valuable as a parent to take a pause and say, let me have a conscious, sort of very deliberate style and approach so when I get backed into a corner, I kind of have an idea of the types of things or the type of approach I wanna take.

Dr. Sarah (00:21):

You may have heard of the concept in psychology of Baumrind’s four main parenting styles. And if you haven’t, I’m gonna explain them. But they are permissive, authoritative, authoritarian and neglectful. But the thing is, people are complex and dynamic, not static. And so with parenting styles, it’s generally not all one or another. Most people are a mixture of these styles at different moments in time. So like for example, at the end of the day, when you’re gearing up for the bedtime routine, and you’re really exhausted, if your kid is really pushing a particular boundary, you may just say, I’m not picking that battle right now. And you may end up being permissive and let it slide. Whereas on another occasion, when you have a little bit more bandwidth and your child is really trying to get you to stay longer at the park, but it’s really time to go. You may find that you can be more authoritative and validate their desire to stay, but firmly let them know it’s time to leave now. So it’s less about individual moments and more about identifying the patterns we repeat most often. Joining me again this week is my partner from our joint practice Upshur Bren Psychology Group, Dr. Emily Upshur. Today, we’re hearing from a listener who was raised in an author in environment herself, and she’s looking for help to focus less on punitive discipline with her own child, which is something I hear a lot from parents who are really consciously trying to break cycles and parent the next generation a bit differently. In this episode, we describe the metrics that psychologists use to map out these four parenting styles and if you wanna see a visual of how that works head over to my Instagram @drsarahbren and check out the post from today. That might be helpful to reference as you’re listening to this episode.

Dr. Sarah (02:17):

Hi, I’m Dr. Sarah Bren, a clinical psychologist and mom of two in this podcast. I’ve taken all of my clinical experience, current research on brain science and child psychology and the insights I’ve gained on my own parenting journey and distilled everything down into easy to understand and actionable parenting insights. So you can tune out the noise and tune into your own authentic parenting voice with confidence and calm. This is Securely Attached.

Dr. Sarah (02:51):

Hi, welcome back, Emily Upshur, our resident Q&A mastermind. So good to see you.

Dr. Emily (03:01):

Good to be here.

Dr. Sarah (03:02):

Yeah. Not like we don’t see each other all the time, but, for those of you who are not familiar, Emily and I, co-founded a group practice in Pelham, New York. So we work together very regularly. But we have Emily’s wisdom today. We’re gonna talk about a listener question. I think this one’s so relatable. As much as this is one person specific question, I feel like I get asked things adjacent to this a lot, but her question is I was raised by a strong disciplinarian parent. I’m trying to be different, but I see this come out a lot when I get mad, what can I do? And I thought that would be a really interesting, not just to answer this, but to talk in general about the different parenting styles that exist and maybe shed a little color on, like, when we talk about parenting styles, there’s actually specific researched operationalized parenting styles that we talk about in psychology and in child development. And we could talk about what those are and how people kind of understand the pros and cons of each and how to kind of move towards the ones that are the most healthy.

Dr. Emily (04:08):

Yes, definitely. I mean, I think giving a little overview might be helpful to start, cuz I think we can talk from there about our different thoughts on the different thing, a little bit of research behind it and our different thoughts on the different parenting styles and then, you know, and then the everyday practical, what ends up happening, you know? Something in between some of, all of these, you know.

Dr. Sarah (04:29):

Totally. And also I think to speak to this woman’s question that it comes out some of these parenting styles that we internalize from our own parents, we may be actively choosing to parent in a different manner, but when we are dysregulated these like sort of primitive, ancient, like deep sort of rooted memories and behaviors come back out because it’s not our frontal lobes talking, it’s like our mid and hind brain talking. It’s like our it’s like these deeper things come out in us when we’re really upset. And just to normalize that too, like when we are mad, when we have lost it, when we are at our breaking point, like we, aren’t going to always be able to parent in our most ideal way. And so maybe we could talk a little bit about repair also, cause I think that might be helpful too, for anybody who’s seen kind of an uglier side come out of them when they’re upset with their kids. Cuz I know, I have.

Dr. Emily (05:29):

Sure. It’s, it’s interesting. I mean, I think we like we’re this, this this woman or this parent writing in is talking about authoritarian, you know, style, which tends to have a little bit more, I think of it as kind of like the old school parenting style. Maybe that’s a little too antique, but I think it’s sort of very familiar actually to a lot of people. And I do think that it’s the parenting style that’s sort of in pop culture as well. So I think it’s important to validate that, like we see it a lot. We hear it a lot. It is a little bit of like the back of mind go-to parenting style. So it, but if we unpack it a little bit more, I think we all see the limitations of it. And I think that that’s important to note because I think there’s like a lot of shame around, you know, repeating patterns that we’ve seen that aren’t working, but we still do anyway. And we just, I just wanna sort of say like it’s not too late. Some of these things will recognize in even our own parenting styles, but that we can always be more mindful and shift. So I think, you know, this, this authoritarian style is like respect your elders. Be seen, not heard, you know, there little bit more of like, we don’t really listen to children and take their feelings into consideration. They just have to follow the rules and sort of be very, you know, like little, you know, like soldiers following what’s going on what’s top down.

Dr. Sarah (06:54):

And I think it’s rooted in again, like I don’t think truthfully any parents who parent in this way, maybe some, but the vast majority of parents who parent in this way do love their children and do this because they think it is the best outcome and it is their job to if, if I believe that it’s my job to mold and shape my child into a good kid, a well behaved kid an obedient kid, then this may be a tactic, a type of parenting that you’re going to just by default sort of embody because, and, and probably because that was the way you were parented and that’s probably the way your parents were parented and most parents were parented this way. If you go back generationally in our country, in like the fifties, the forties, certainly the generation before that, that was absolutely the way that you parented. And that was the expectation of parents. If you had a child who’s melting down at the grocery store, that child was going to get a whooping.

Dr. Emily (07:57):

Yeah, no. And I also think there is, I think we should be sensitive to, there’s a cultural element to this too. I think there’s, I know you know, a lot of different racial backgrounds or ethnic backgrounds where messing up has really high consequences, right? Like immigrant families feel like my child can’t have a meltdown at school. Like that’s not okay right, the consequences are really high. I think we have to have a lot of empathy for the reasoning behind some of those more authoritarian styles and, and in, so doing, I think that opens us up all of us up to being more flexible about our, about having different approaches or trying new things. Yeah. You know, cuz I think that that’s really important. So that authoritarian style is sort of really more this top down thing. And then I don’t, I mean, we can talk about permissive parenting, is this other half I think authoritarian parents are like, I’m not gonna be a permissive parent, right? Yeah. So I think it’s a little bit of this polarizing. And of course you and I think, okay, we don’t want those polarized ends of the spectrum anyway, but I think it’s like I think some authoritarian parents are saying, I don’t wanna be permissive. Right. I don’t wanna be that permissive parenting style. I don’t, you know, the kids don’t get to make the rules and they don’t get to rule the house, you know, and we agree, you know, that’s not something we disagree with.

Dr. Sarah (09:19):

Yeah. And I think this might be helpful too. Just if any of you are visual, I know I am, which is kind of tricky on a podcast, but if you sort of think of like a square grid with two access points and one of those axis points is warmth and one of the axis points is demanding. And so this, this clinical psychologist, this researcher, Diana Baumrind, she developed this sort of four parenting styles – authoritative authoritarian, permissive and neglectful. And so if you’re picturing sort of this squared grid or these sort of poles, warmth is one of the axis and demanding is one of the axis. So if you have low warmth and high demanding, that’s authoritarian. If you have high warmth and low demanding, that is permissive. And sort of the sweet spot, if you will, where you have high warmth and high demanding then you are authoritative. And then sort of like the kind of, we don’t wanna go here at all is low warmth, low demanding. And that’s neglectful. That’s like, I don’t even care. I’m not paying attention and I’m just not really present at all. That’s very rare. It’s not that common in like the percentages of the population who fall into that. And there tends to be trauma. There tends to be other reasons for that happening. It’s not because people are bad people it’s usually because something, some crisis is going on, that’s making it so that they can’t be present.

Dr. Emily (10:58):

Sure. And I think that, I think a lot of our parents are gonna say like, oh, but wait, I don’t fit into maybe one category exclusively. And I think that’s also really important to note, like some of us dip a little bit into the authoritarian or like, oof, we should maybe like work on that a little, but our overall authoritative. Or sometimes we might be like, Ooh, we’ve been a little too permissive. Or maybe my style on this one thing sleep for example is permissive. You know? So I think it’s really important to say, like, we don’t necessarily think everybody falls neatly into a category.

Dr. Sarah (11:33):

Right. And we move around too. Like in general, we don’t fall neatly into a category and then from day to day, we don’t either because you know, there are gonna be those times when you have less patience and higher demands and you’re not as warm. And so you end up kind of being a little authoritarian and there are gonna be those days where you are really warm and you just don’t really feel like holding all of the rules in place. And you’re maybe a little permissive and like, maybe those are the Saturday couch days. We’re just like, we’re gonna watch movies all day long guys. Fine. You know, that’s also, okay. We we’re allowed to move around on this, but, but we always talk about on here that like parenting is done really in the aggregate. So like, what is your general,, relative consistent parenting style? How are you showing up most of the time with your kids, if your kids were like gonna describe you as adults. When your kids are adults and they’re looking back and they’re reflecting on how did my parents sort of show up? What do you think they’re gonna say? What do they remember? What impact are you having on their perception of you?

Dr. Emily (12:35):

Yeah. And I think, I think I also, I agree completely and I think it’s important to circle back to like some of this pop culture stuff too, because I think, you know, this authoritarian style that we would love to sort of talk about here, about how to shift away from, to some, at some time points. I think it can be a very knee jerk reaction, you know. You hear a lot of parents when they’re backed into a corner, trying to figure out like how to get the kid to turn off the iPad or how to get the child to stop asking for the sugar cereal in the grocery store. A lot of like very flippant you know, consequences. We’re not gonna go to Disney World, if you don’t put down that box or, you know, and I think those are just very knee jerk reactions. So I think your point is very important, which is it’s so valuable as a parent to take a pause and say, let me have a conscious sort of very deliberate style and approach. So when I get back into a corner, I kind of have an idea of the types of things or the type of approach I wanna take. And I think that that’s, you know, it’s a luxury and I think that’s what we wanna be able to sort of impart on parents. Right. Is that okay? It makes sense that your knee jerk reaction might not be exactly what you want to be implementing. So like, let’s take some time and make a broader philosophy. How do you wanna approach your kid? What does, you know, the disciplinary interactions with your child, which are absolutely developmentally appropriate and expected? We expect our kids to be disobedient sometimes it’s partly how they learn. And so I think it’s about saying like, okay, give yourself a break, but now let’s refocus. And, you know, can we think of a philosophy or some strategies? So when these inevitable things come up, you’re not super stuck. Right? And then you don’t go into this knee jerk authoritarian, I’m gonna take away your iPad for the rest of the week or the rest of the year, or, you know cause I think that that where we see a bunch of hiccups in execution and then, and also in outcome.

Dr. Sarah (14:42):

Yeah. The reason why authoritative parenting is sort of what in sort of the child development world, we believe is kind of the gold standard. This is, remember that’s high warmth, but high demanding. So we are ex we are holding, we are setting limits. We are following through on our limits. We are consistent in the way that we show up with our kids. We, we know that we are in charge. We are setting the rules confident in our authority, but we can deliver that authority with a lot of warmth, with a lot of respect for their developmental, like, you know, developmental, the appropriate behaviors, a lot of respect for their autonomy respect for their point of view and their affect their feelings. I always say like, it’s our job to set the limit, to say and no to dessert before dinner, it’s our kid’s job to share with us that they don’t like that limit. And that’s not actually part of the problem. Right. They’re doing their job. I want my kid to tell me I’m so mad at you for making me wait for my dessert. I don’t like that. I’m I’m upset. And I’m gonna meltdown on the floor and kick and scream. And I’m like, that’s okay. I’m not going to then bend and say, oh gosh, you this is so you’re so upset. Let me just give you the ice cream. I’m sorry. You know, that’s permissive that’s, I’m highly warm, but I’m not able to sort of have that level of demanding and demanding. This is a tricky word, but maybe we’re talking more about like a control. Like I’m going to hold the control here. I’m going to hold the line. I’ve said, no, it’s my job to say, no, I’m not questioning that about myself, but I don’t have to say I’ve said no, and that’s the way it’s gonna be. And I don’t wanna hear a word out of you about it. That’s an authoritarian space where you’re low warmth, high demanding.

Dr. Emily (16:38):

Yeah. I think that’s exactly. I mean, I think what you’re pointing out is you can both have a boundary and really hold that with still hearing and validating the feeling it doesn’t undermine, that holding the boundary doesn’t mean you can’t hold the feeling. Right. Doesn’t mean that will change the boundary. So like, you know, sort of your, in your analogy, it’s like, well, okay, you’re not gonna have the ice cream, but oh, that really feels bad. But you’re still not gonna have the ice cream, you know, like you still, it’s kind of okay. And I think that’s where that actually I think is precisely where authoritarian parents get tripped up because I think allowing the affect validating the feeling doesn’t mean changing the boundary. And I think that’s an assumption potentially from a lot of authoritarian parents.

Dr. Sarah (17:31):

Right. I hear this a lot when people come to do parenting work with me and very often the case is I have two parents coming in who have two slightly different styles. I’ve got one parent who ends up being a little bit more on that permissive end of the spectrum. And I have another parent who ends up being kind of a little bit more on that authoritarian end of the spectrum. And both are like, I don’t like the way the other person’s parenting. Sure. And so I am not coming over to that side. And so then they come to see me, right. Or, or you but I do think it’s interesting. And I think this is partly why, and I have a lot of empathy for both parents in these situations. I think if you are a parent who watches your other parent, be very permissive. For example, then you’re going to feel very compelled. And almost like, like, you must hold that. Demandingness hold that. That line of like, well, if I let go of this, no one will hold this pillar up and the house will fall down. So I can’t let go. I’m stuck in this demanding space. I’m stuck in this sort of authoritarian style because my partner is too permissive, too overprotective, too warm without the demandingness. And so if I let go of this demandingness the house will fall down. And then you have at the exact simultaneous moment, this other parent, who’s very high on that warmth scale. And who’s very protective of the child’s emotional experience. And they’re seeing the other parent and saying like, if I let go of this warmth, if I go and I have more demands of my child, no one will hold up this pillar. And so the house will fall down. And so these parents get stuck in these spots. And so I actually think the antidote to that is to come into this middle space together to say, we both have to be warm and demanding. We both have to communicate confidence that our child can handle these tough things and we’re gonna let them have struggle and we’re gonna let them feel their feelings and we’re gonna let them feel our authority and our confidence in that limit setting. And we’re also gonna be really both warm about it. We’re going to respect their perceptions of things. We’re going to hold space for their affect. We’re going to say, you know, your opinions and feelings about this matter. It’s not gonna change our decisions, but we honor that part too. And so I think that’s kind of the work I end up doing with parents is helping them be in that middle space, which it kind of maps onto this authoritative style.

Dr. Emily (20:05):

Yeah, I think that’s, I think that’s really a good point. I do think there’s a lot of polarization in parenting. It’s just sort of a natural, you know polarization is a natural reaction to, you know, when, when there are extremes, you know, or when there are two sides of a story. But I think the other thing that you’re talking about, which I think is pretty common in your scenario as well is, there really, isn’t a one size fits all model for parenting, right? And I think that’s what’s really hard for both those sides of the, you know, both those more permissive and or more authoritarian sides that you’re talking about. Right. Because it actually means it’s a harder job for us as parents, because that means in each moment, we have to think, what is the, you know, utility of this, you know, interaction from this particular child at this particular moment with their particular temperament, with the environment at place. And so it becomes a little bit, I think, daunting. And I think that’s where this, if we already have a philosophy coming, it feels less. So it feels less daunting.

Dr. Sarah (21:09):

Yeah. So if you’re a parent and you’re recognizing, okay, I know I wanna be warm and hold limits with my children. I want to be authoritative, but at moments or all the time I shift more, I skew more permissive or I skew more authoritarian. How can we shift to this authoritative? What are some strategies?

Dr. Emily (21:29):

Yeah. I mean, I always say, and we’ve talked about, we talked about this so much here, which is, you know, number one, if we do anything we self-regulate right. We don’t match the affect of the child. We don’t match the frustration. We really have to be grounded in our self-regulated emotion regulation system so that we can move forward. So if I’m, if I were to give one piece of advice, it’s always you self-regulate and don’t match what’s going on with your child, right?

Dr. Sarah (22:00):

Yes. I have two strategies that I tell parents when it comes to self-regulation because I actually think, sure, yeah. Self-Regulate I wanna do that. I wanna be regulated, but how, because when they’re doing something that’s driving me bonkers, it’s really hard. And so I kind of break it into two pieces, there’s thoughts or cognitions, and then there’s our, our body or our nervous system. So like, if you are, if your child is doing something that is really upsetting you usually my guess is it’s affect or a behavior, right? So they’re either doing something after the 50th time, you told them not to do it, or they’re expressing something in a way that is just overstimulating to you and really unpleasant. In that moment, I think it’s helpful to have thoughts, mindset shifts like this is developmentally appropriate. My child needs to be able to let these feelings out. My child is having a hard time in this moment. And they’re asking me to help them. That’s what, this is a communication of, right? This is not a provocation, it’s a communication, they’re asking for help. They just can’t say it verbally. So just having those kind of mindset shift and that sort of cognitive stance interpretation of this behavior can help you to regulate in the moment versus for example, thoughts like, oh my God, here they doing it again, or, oh, why is my kid always the one melting down? Or if I hear that one more time, I’m gonna lose my, like, you know what I’m saying? Like we had, we can have thoughts that move us further away from a regulated state. And we can have thoughts that move us closer to a regulated state. So making sure we’re paying attention to our thinking and then also the body, right? So we can calm our nervous system volitionally. We can turn our parasympathetic nervous system response on by like taking deep diaphragmatic breaths with like a long, slow exhale, by putting a bare hand on our chest because that skin to skin contact is actually really regulating for the nervous system. Like remember when we all had our babies and they told us to do skin to skin contact all the time with our babies because our skin, there’s so many nerve nerve endings in that, in that organ. And they communicate, they activate the parasympathetic nervous system, it’s regulating. So even just putting a hand on your chest can be calming in that moment. You know, other, you know, so just trying to calm your body down own from like the body level that also can help you to self-regulate. So when your child is melting down or your child is doing something that is very upsetting or frustrating to you, you can still try to say like, okay, I’m, I’m creating a little space here. I’m taking a break I’m I’m telling myself what I need to tell myself to still stay connected to my child with some empathy here, that’s gonna help us stay in our frontal lobes. Which you need to have access to your frontal lobes to parent authoritatively, because you need to be strategic. You need to be able to hold multiple things at once. You need to be able to use language, all these things, you need to be able to problem solve. Like you have to have access to that part of your brain. And you can’t if you’re dysregulated, which is why I think people when they’re really dysregulated slip into that authoritarian space, because that’s more like a amygdala talking.

Dr. Emily (25:15):

Oh, definitely. I mean, I think the self-talk that I like to use, and that is, this is an unmet skill. This is a skill my child doesn’t have this. Isn’t an offense my child is trying to throw this is just an undeveloped skill. Right. So saying my kid doesn’t know how to do this better right now, essentially.

Dr. Sarah (25:33):

Right now. Yeah. Cause they can sometimes have the skill, but they can’t access the skill. And I think that’s what throws parents off. They’re like, I’ve seen you do this. I know you can do this. Why are you not doing this? And it’s like, in this moment that door is locked for them cuz their frontal lobes are offline.

Dr. Emily (25:50):

Correct. I mean, we have to really remember that their frontal lobes are so neophyte right now. Right. They’re really being developed. So their skill acquisition is very inconsistent. Just like when you have a beginning walker, they fall, they get up, they, you know, like the skill isn’t linear, all these developmental skills, aren’t just a one linear path without hiccups. And so I think that is really important. And, and I agree. The other thing I would say, so like the one is the self talk, the cognitive self talk is what you’re talking about. I think in the other point is the, you know, physiological self-regulation which I also totally agree with. And I think that I would just add that one of the things I can do, and this is one of the things I often recommend. And sometimes this is for a little bit of the older set, but I think this is appropriate also for toddlers is I think it’s also okay to do a little parental process. Self-Talk saying I’m gonna take a few deep breaths because I’m feeling like this is really tough and I’m feeling a little, Ugh, like, so I’m gonna have to like stretch a little, take a deep breath, have a sip of water, you know, I think it’s okay to model self regulation.

Dr. Sarah (27:01):

Yeah. I love that. I think that’s very helpful. I don’t, I think people sometimes feel like they’re not allowed to do that. Like we’re not supposed to tell our kids we’re angry or having a hard time. And it’s like, no, you can, it, we don’t wanna make it so that they have to fix our frustration or our hard time or soothe us. But we can say like, I’m soothing myself. I’m just sharing with you that this is my experience. And watch me, this is what I do. I take a break, I take a breath cuz I am getting frustrated. Like I will say to my kids, sometimes I’m getting frustrated. I need to take a minute.

Dr. Emily (27:36):

A hundred. And I think that’s completely okay. Right. Because you’re, you’re saying that to help yourself, self-regulate you’re modeling of regulation and in so doing yourself soothing yourself. Right. And I think that’s also really important.

Dr. Sarah (27:49):

And I think going back to this, like trying to share a lot of examples of like, that’s a very authoritative statement, but it could be tweaked ever so slightly to be very authoritarian. So if you were to say, I’m really frustrated, you are making me really frustrated and why you doing this to me, that would be authoritarian. That’s using shame to shift a child’s behavior. It’s placing the onus on the child to manage our feelings and be responsible for our feelings. Then you’re shifting and moving into that authoritarian space. And again, I’m not saying that to shame anyone who’s done that because we’ve all said things like that, cuz again, usually because we’re dysregulated and that’s that happens. And we will talk about ways to like back that back up and repair from that. But yeah, if you notice that that tends to be the place you go, this would be the shift, right. To stay, to just shift it, to say I’m having a feeling and I’m gonna take care of that. And let me show you how I do that, but I am, I’m frustrated. I’m frustrated that you keep screaming.

Dr. Emily (28:51):

Yeah, no, I think that that’s very valid and I think that, you know, the other, one of the other things that I think having this philosophy or this background of like how I want to approach these parenting thing, you know, challenges or these natural developmental challenge is what do I wanna do in this moment? And I think one of the other sort of self-talk or cognitive things you could say to yourself is, what is my goal here? What do I wanna teach my child in this moment? We know, I think we focus a lot on the consequence, but I think we don’t really wanna do that. Right. We wanna focus on the growth and the teaching moment of discipline, right. Discipline is really technically how to teach somebody. And I think we lose sight of that a little. So I think if we remind ourselves even just cognitively in that same sort of self talk way saying, what do I wanna teach you in this moment? You know? And I think, you know, that can really help us slow down, instead of getting very authoritarian, right. Going to like, you know, the back of the mind, you’re gonna lose this or you’re gonna, you know, that this or that. I think that’s like one of the next things that we can do as a little bit of a self talk piece, you know. I think the other that, you know, I think that we talk a lot about is I always try with my own kids to think, why is this happening? You know? So I think that’s really the other shift you can do when you’re moving, if you’re trying to move into this more authoritative style is to say, okay, something is going on. Why? You know, and I think, you know, I always give the example of the physiological state, like, is my kid hungry? Are they tired? You can move into interpersonal. Did they have a bad day at school? Did they have an argument? You know, what, is there something more behind this external behavior? I’m not gonna buy just this external behavior. You know, I think that’s sort of the next first step, I think. In terms of trying to think, how to shift into that more authoritative place.

Dr. Sarah (30:53):

Yeah. And I think if you really kind of peel the layers back on that, there’s this inferred goodness of your child, right? Like if I, if a child does something and I’m like, God, they’re so bad. And then that’s going to compel me to say, I’ve gotta make them better. But if my child does something and I’m like, huh, they’re a good kid. Why are they doing this? There must be a reason there must be some there’s this inherent goodness, this unconditional positive regard, we’re bestowing on our child. And that’s really part of the core of that warmth of that authoritative style, that pairs with that. Demandingness because you, the basic idea is like I have a role here, it’s my responsibility to help guide them. And the best way to guide them is to be curious about what’s going on for them. So I can really understand the whole picture. I don’t look at a behavior and judge it as good or bad. I look at a behavior and say, there’s information in this. What is this telling me?

Dr. Emily (31:47):

Yes. That curiosity is really important. I think that’s exactly right, because again, moving out of those dynamics of, you know, good, bad, you know. And that we, again, this sort of a pop culture thing, right. I have a good kid. They’re a good kid. They never do anything bad. You know, like that’s really a dangerous sort of (dangerous, lower d, dangerous) sort of assumption. Right? Cause I think what you’re saying is we approach our kids with thinking no child, I say this a million times a day, no child wants to be “bad.” No child is seeking to ruin your day or seeking to, you know, ruin your dinner out, you know, cuz they’re having a hard time at the table. So I think that…

Dr. Sarah (32:29):

That literally goes against their biological hard wiring. They are, every fiber of their being is motivated by connection with you. So if they’re doing something that is destructive to that connection is a very good chance that that is a byproduct of something else. They’re not trying to do that. And we wanna help get them back on track to connection.

Dr. Emily (32:51):

Yep. I think that’s exactly right. So that goes, that sort of circles back to our why like what is going on with curiosity, why, you know, and I think, you know, we won’t always get that, you know, it’s misguided to think the kid’s gonna be like, well I had a really bad day, you know. But I think, you know, our part of our job as parents and something we talk a lot about is sort of being mindful of throwing a little spaghetti on the wall. Like I wonder if you had a really bad day? I wonder if you were a little tired? You know, like you can, as a parent, be the mentalization for the child, helping them sort of to understand their own reactions in a more empathetic way. Right. As opposed to just, you know, challenging them on the external behavior. So that’s, that’s like a, I think another shift.

Dr. Sarah (33:36):

Yeah. And I think too, like maybe we could talk about like consequence and discipline with authoritative parenting because there is. Like permissive parenting, there’s a struggle to kind of have that discipline. I think an authoritarian parenting discipline is very central and it can become more shame based and punitive. Punishment and discipline are not the same thing. Like we should really make that clear. But in authoritative parenting, discipline plays a large role. But what does that look like?

Dr. Emily (34:08):

Yeah, I totally agree. I think where we fall, all of us, you know, fall short is again, if our “discipline” doesn’t match in intensity or in natural consequence, the thing, the behavior. So, you know, I always think, okay, my son ran outside and got on his skateboard and oh my gosh, he forgot all, all the pads I make him wear. Right. Or something like that. And so you know, an authoritarian consequence would be like, you’re never riding that skateboard again, forget it’s going in the trash. Right. And, you know, look, I’m, I’m sure I’ve said that to him at some point, right. The more authoritative parenting style would say, okay, you know, like, look, it’s a little dangerous to ride your skateboard without your gear. Right. Like you could, your body could get hurt. You could get injured. So the next time now, unfortunately, instead of running out the door and you know, jumping on your skateboard, you’re gonna have to come do a safety check with me, you know. Or you’re gonna have to have someone make sure check that box that you have, you lost a little autonomy, which you know, is a natural, an okay natural consequence, but it’s also a learning experience. So it both matches the intensity of the event. It wasn’t a five alarm offense. Right. You don’t get your skateboard thrown away. That’s kind of a big offense. So that intensity is there. And then the consequence makes sense to the “crime,” right?

Dr. Sarah (35:33):

And the goal. Right? If the goal is, I want you to learn how to be safe on your skateboard, then this consequence teaches the, it scaffolds that learning, right. It actually promotes learning about safety and learning how to be a safe skateboarder versus if I take your skateboard away for a week, even that child’s not really learning in that moment, anything about safe skateboarding, they’re just kind of angry and potentially resentful and will make sure that they don’t get caught messing up again, but they don’t have any new skills.

Dr. Emily (36:10):

Sure. Yep. I think that’s exactly, like, what do I wanna teach? Right. It goes back to this discipline is really ultimately about teaching. And I think, you know, you know, you, and I see in a more clinical population, sometimes kids that really don’t have a skill set that potentially even meets their age, right. Or developmental level. Like if you have a child that has, you know, maybe a little bit of an underdeveloped executive functioning system, which is like an organizational system and they forget to, you know, bring up their water bottle, their lunchbox and their, you know, homework folder every day from school, instead of punishing them and saying, you don’t wanna do that. What’s wrong with, you know, like all those sort of more authoritarian things, which is sort of, I always say it’s like banging your head against the wall. Cause you’re saying the same things over and over again. Right. You find yourself catching yourself, even if it’s not particularly authoritarian, I think there there’s room for wiggle room or change when we find ourselves doing the same thing over and over again and not feeling any traction. And so looking at that child and saying, okay, let’s collaborate. Let’s figure out a way that you can be more successful at this. Right. And then you coregulate with them or you, co-collaborate is what I always say. Right? So you create a checklist with them and you post it on the, you know, on the basement door or, you know, or in their cubby or wherever that is that makes sense for them to give them a little bit of extra help. And I think authoritarian parents tend to say, no, I want them to do this, they have to learn, you know, I wanna do this. They have to do this on their own. And I think it’s our job to scaffold them when needed. And then to your point, it’s not permissive and it’s not, you know, lacking independence. We wanna scaffold them when needed. And then slowly give them more and more independence. But we really can’t throw ’em off the deep end if they don’t have the skill.

Dr. Sarah (38:01):

Yeah. So I’m curious, I think we should talk a little bit about repair because we all are gonna have, no matter how much you strive for authoritative parenting and how successful you are, you are gonna have moments where you slide into that authoritarian space or maybe you’ve been somewhat authoritarian. And you’re like, I would really like to try to move more towards center, but I’ve, I feel like I’m learning now that I did something that might be, have led to feelings of shame or resentment or hurt or anger in my child. Like, is there, what do you recommend? How do we repair for that?

Dr. Emily (38:37):

Yeah, look, I think always it’s okay to admit our mistakes as parents. Right. We want to model that, you know, so whether that’s, you know, sort of more in the near term more immediately, like you yell at your child or you are very punitive and then 10 minutes later, you’re like, okay, that was a little too much, you know, and you go back and say, Hey, I, I overreacted a little to that. Or if it’s the next day we’ve talked about this in, you know, in these podcasts, like I think it’s very important in, when everybody’s more regulated to revisit, right? What happened?

Dr. Sarah (39:14):

Yes. The debrief. Love a good debrief.

Dr. Emily (39:16):

The debrief. Right. I think that’s really, that’s really important. And I also think the repair is also another great technique for repair is collaborative problem solving. Right. That didn’t go so well. How do you, like, what do you think, what do you think about different ways to make that better? And the, the important piece of collaborative problem solving is that it really does have to be mutually beneficial, right? It can’t be lopsided, you know, but and I think that’s where it falls short a little bit, but I think if we really say like, this works for me as a parent and this works for you as a kid, and we’re gonna try this new strategy instead of the one we just didn’t do so good at, you know? Yeah. So how can we collaboratively think through things I think is another technique to get repair.

Dr. Sarah (40:03):

Which both, I mean, I think even apologizing or taking responsibility, acknowledging how tricky something felt, collaborative problem solving, scaffolding, all this has to happen after the fact, it can’t happen in the heat of the moment. Like we everybody’s frontal lobes have to be online to have these kinds of conversations. So it is okay. You have permission to revisit this later and it could be a couple hours later. It could be a day later. It could be, you know, if you’re saying to your kids, you know, I feel like I’ve been learning little bit about parenting styles. And I’m realizing that sometimes I approach teaching you things in a way that maybe doesn’t feel like it’s doesn’t land that well, or doesn’t feel that good to you. And I’m wanna try something different. And you know, my goal here is always to just love you and support you. And I’m always felt that. And now I’m gonna try a different strategy to show you those things and to share with you whatever, like you can go on and on find authentic language for yourself. But this idea that like this could be something bigger that you talk to your child about. If you are going to really shift a, like a shift in the, a way that you approach parenting from the ground up, you can acknowledge that with your kids.

Dr. Emily (41:24):

Oh, I think it’s great to, I think transparency is key, you know, like I don’t think, you know, I think you can say to your kids, like, I’m gonna try something a little different, you know, this, I think it’s been a little rough around here or I don’t love the way I’ve been, you know, interacting. I think that’s okay to say that too. Right. Or, you know, I’ve learned something new and I wanna try a new thing. I think that’s okay as well. And the transparency cause you will, you and I both, I think when we start working with families, the kids are often like what’s going on, you know? And so I think that transparency and giving a little bit of foreshadowing of like, we’re gonna try something different. Doesn’t have to be a secret. It’s not a secret, you know?

Dr. Sarah (42:02):

And I think it shouldn’t be. I think helping and again, this is, that’s very authoritative right to say, Hey, you know what? I did something a certain way. And I’m learning that’s not the way I’d like to keep doing it. I’m gonna try something different. Not only is that taking ownership, but it’s also helping prepare your child for a transition, helping, like you’re thinking about their perception and the way that they are experiencing the change in your showing up with them, that you’re thinking about that, like you’re holding space for their world and reflecting that back to them that you care enough about that there’s that warmth, right? That like I’m bringing you into this conversation. You are a part of this. We’re a dynamic team. We’re an interpersonal dyad. So I don’t just make unilateral changes. I tell you about them. And I acknowledge that you might have feelings about them. It’s funny, cuz I usually, when I work with parents who change, really change a way they parent you’ll get like an older sibling who gets really upset. Who will be like, why are you not punishing them the way you punished me? This doesn’t feel fair. And that’s something we talk a lot about of like, how do you address that with families? Like how do you address that with kids? How do you acknowledge that? And I think I do, I encourage parents to talk about that. Be like, yeah, we did. We punished you for these things and we’re not punishing your sibling for them. And that must be hard to see. And we’re really learning about a different way of parenting that we think is more effective that we think feels better for everybody. And I imagine that’s hard for you to see, and we are going to bestow that same shift to the way we parent you from here on out. But yeah, you’re gonna see things that probably didn’t feel the same. And that might, you might have feelings about that.

Dr. Emily (43:40):

Yeah. I mean, I think that the other piece goes back to some, you know, something I mentioned earlier, which is it’s gonna be very individualized too, right? Each child, this fairness concept. I know we’ve talked about another podcast, but particularly in parenting these different parenting styles finding the style that makes sense for that child in that moment, in that time might be, might feel unfair, you know, in the aggregate of the family. But I think to your point, I think the transparency of saying, Hey, we’re gonna try something different and it might feel different for everybody. And that’s expected. We expect it. Like I, you know, it’s not gonna be a one size fits all. We’re not gonna have a blanket strategy. You know, we have to sort of be, we’re trying to meet your needs the best that we can, you know, we’re doing that a little bit differently.

Dr. Sarah (44:30):

Yeah. So if you guys have any questions about this, you can always reach out to us and DM us on Instagram @securelyattachedpodcast or @drsarahbren – I’ll probably respond more on the @drsarahbren one. I’m on that more. So if you have questions about this type of parenting DM us there but yeah, thank you so much, Emily for being here. This was, I hope, very helpful to all the parents out there who know that they move around this type, this spectrum, and wanna one feel validated that that’s okay to move around and also have some strategies for kind of coming down to coming back to center.

Dr. Emily (45:10):

Yep. This was a really valuable one. So I’m glad to be here.

Dr. Sarah (45:13):Thank you. Okay. So I wanna hear from you, what parenting style do you tend to fall into? Go ahead and comment on today’s Instagram post @drsarahbren on Instagram and let me know. And if you have a parenting question you want Emily and me to answer on the show, send me a DM or submit a request by going to drsarahbren.com/podcast. That’s drsarahbren.com/podcast. Thanks for listening. And until next week don’t be a stranger.


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39. Understanding parenting styles and the benefits of an authoritative approach: Q&A with Dr. Emily Upshur

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