What Type of Parent Are You?
Donald A. Cadogan, Ph.D.
There are many effective ways to raise children and numerous variations in parenting practice. But people often wonder what manner is best. Here is a short quiz to help you determine your style of parenting as well as show you some effective responses to a few common family problems .
(Circle choice a, b, c, or d before looking at the answers.)
1. A neighbor comes to visit, but your five-year-old son hides behind you. You would:
a) Scold him for being shy and make him say hello.
b) Ignore his shyness and let him gradually overcome it as he gets older.
c) Apologize for his shyness and explain that he is just little.
d) Ignore his shyness, but show pleasure any time he interacts with your neighbor.
2. Your ten-year-old daughter comes to breakfast late and in her pajamas. It is now too
late for her to dress, eat, and make it to school on time. You would:
a) Scold her for being late and restrict her evening activities.
b) Let her go to school late, and let her deal with her teacher herself.
c) Dress her while she eats and get her to school on time.
d) Give her a choice of either dressing at home and eating in the car,
or eating at home and dressing in the car. But you let her decide.
3. Your son gets a D on his report cart and feels discouraged. You would:
a) Take away T.V. until he improves his grade.
b) Say nothing since his other marks are good.
c) Console him by fixing his favorite meal.
d) Tell him that you know he feels sad, but he did well in his other subjects and you
appreciate his efforts.
4. Your overweight daughter tells you boys never call her and she has no date for the
school dance. You would:
a) Tell her boys would probably call her if she wasn’t overweight, then restrict her diet.
b) Tell her not to worry because she will find another boy some day.
c) Tell her no mater what others think you will always love her, and others will love
d) Empathize with her concerns, but remind her she may have to choose between being
popular and satisfying her craving for sweets.
5. Your daughter tells you her little brother cheated her in a game. You would:
a) Scold your son for cheating and temporarily remove one of his toys.
b) Tell her not to get upset because he is only little.
c) Play with her yourself for a while and tell her you are proud of her for not cheating.
d) Tell her you know it is not fun to feel cheated, but you’re confident she can work it
out with her brother.
6. Your son tracks mud on your clean kitchen floor. You would:
a) Scold him and make him clean it up.
b) Ignore it because it was an accident.
c) Clean it up for him since boys will be boys.
d) Tell him you are annoyed, and he can either clean his muddy shoes when he comes
in, or not wear them in the house. You then discuss cleaning the floor.
7. Your son promised to come home on time for dinner, but arrives an hour late. You
a) Punish him by depriving him of dinner.
b) Say nothing since he is now safely home.
c) Tell him you were worried about him.
d) Tell him how you feel when he doesn’t keep his word, then let him eat the cold
8. Your six year old daughter refuses to eat her dinner. You would:
a) Insist she eat before letting her leave the table.
b) Disregard it and let her skip dinner.
c) Tell her how important it is for her to eat good food.
d) Feed her something else nutritious that she likes.
9. Your nine year old son comes to the dinner table dirty. You would:
a) Tell him he is filthy, and then make him wash.
b) Let him eat that way since boys always get dirty.
c) Get the wash cloth for him and help him wash.
d) Remind him of the family rule that people who wish to eat here must be clean then
remove his plate until he has washed.
10. Your twelve-year-old daughter refuses to set the table before dinner as she agreed. You
a) Make her set the table then restrict herTV that night.
b) Forget about it since no child is perfect, and remind yourself that she will set it when she
has her own place..
c) Set the table for her, but remind her how much you appreciate it when she does.
d) Delay dinner until her chore is complete. If she still refuses, go out to dinner with
All good parenting is guided by strong feelings of love and respect for the children. How these feelings are translated into day-to-day parenting varies bay the individual personalities of the parent. The interaction of parent personality and family love produces an individual parenting style. But most of us fall into recognizable styles.
In general, there are four broad styles of parenting which we will label: a) Firm, b) Relaxed, c) Nurturing, and d) Flexible.
a) FIRM. The firm style is characterized by strong parental control and is often utilized by people who like to be in be in command. These parents expect their children to respect them and to do what they are told with little explanations and no argument. The emphasis here is on proper behavior. The advantage of this mode, when successful, is that parents get well-behaved children that make them feel proud. In addition, they do not have to put up with back talk. The children get clear and consistent guidelines for conduct.
In it extreme, however, these parents put more vigor into disciplining their children than the do into developing loving relationships. Too often, they show little regard for the rights and feelings of their children. As a result, the excessively firm parent is usually only effective with little children who are more readily controlled, or with those adolescents who lack self-confidence and are easily intimidated.
Nevertheless, the firm style, through its clarity and consistency, can instill feelings of security in children. However, when excessive, it does little to foster a mature, self-directed, and responsible attitude towards life. Instead, it tends to produce either rebelliousness or passive-conformity in children.
The “a” responses in the quiz represent this method. Eight “a” choices indicate you may be a firm parent.
b) RELAXED. The relaxed style is characterized by an easygoing attitude toward the children. These parents respect their children’s ability to master their own problems and allow them develop at their own pace. In these families, children seldom feel controlled, pressured, or guilty. Because they are permitted more time to explore, experiment, and play the children develop a greater capacity for creative behavior. The advantage of this style, when it works, is that the home atmosphere is more fun-loving and relaxed, and members feel friendlier to each other
In its exaggerated form, however, these parents are more passive with a lazie faire attitude toward their children. They go from relaxed and easygoing to passive and indifferent. Basically, they let their children grow up on their own. They put little energy into discipline, but often little effort into establishing close family relationships. Thus, excessively relaxed parents do little to teach their children responsible behavior and are poor models for intimacy. The advantage for these parents is that they are able spend most of their time engaged in their own adult activities, Unfortunately, their children often grow up lacking in social skills and have difficulty developing and maintaining close relationships.
The “b” choices represent this mode. Eight “b” answers suggest you may be a Relaxed parent.
c) NURTURING. The Nurturing style is parenting in its most maternal form. Here children are given an abundance of love and affection with little, other then love, expected in return. With this style, children clearly feel protected and cared about. The advantage is that both parents and children get to experience close and affectionate love bonds. And children, because they are loved without demands or conditions, feel inherently valuable and important. This style does the most toward building self-esteem in children.
In its extreme form, however, these parents are too involved with their children, do thing for them to excess, and can be smothering. Their children are pampered and coddled, but learn little independent behavior. Excessively nurturing parents tend to be overly protective and seek perpetual appreciation from their children. Unfortunately, because they selfdom do things on their own, their children tend to lack self-confidence or a sense of mastery. They often grow up feeling insecure and dependent as adults.
The “c” choices are indicative of this style. Eight or more “c” choices suggest you may be a Nurturing parent.
d) FLEXIBLE. The flexible style is usually seen in the families of happy children. This mode consists of a combination of the Firm, Relaxed, and Nurturing styles utilized somewhat evenly and usually in a democratic fashion. The flexible style tends not to go to extremes in any mode. It is characterized by fairness. mutual respect, and openness to ideas from all family members. The natural consequences of one’s behavior are usually stressed as the reason for making choices. Family rules are developed thorough discussion whenever possible. Although there are limits on what behavior is acceptable, and parents do have the ultimate say, nevertheless these parents do listen to their children and, within reason, try to meet their needs. Flexible parents endeavor to avoid strongly imposing their authority on their children. But when they do, because it is so infrequent, their children more readily comply.
The disadvantage of the Flexible manner of parenting is that it takes time, patience, and the willingness to attend to childhood needs. Also, since the flexible parent has no single mode or guiding principle to follow, and since individual situations frequently differ, decisions about how to respond must often be made. This can produce feelings of uncertainty. However since these parents are not stuck with any one style of response to family situations, they can react more rationally and be guided by the demands of the circumstance.
All this obviously takes more time. But in the long run time is usually saved, for the children from these families are generally better behaved and, thus, typically require less correction.
The “d” answers represent this style. Eight “d” responses suggest you are most likely a Flexible parent.
It should also be noted, however, that the truly flexible parent would also choose answers in the “a,” “b,” or “c” groups. This is because the "d" choices are not the only effective or appropriate responses to the situations presented. Thus, a choice pattern that is somewhat evenly divided also indicates flexibility. And, of course, many other responses could easily be made and still foster a home atmosphere conducive to healthy emotional growth.
This article has been previously published in Brides Magazine, but has been expanded and edited for this site.
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