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Parenting Styles

Mark Huttenlocker

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I have a 14-year-old son, and we always seem to be angry with each other. I try to be patient, but whatever I do seems to annoy him and vice versa. My husband takes a different approach than me, and this also causes conflict between us as he lets our son get away with bad behaviour by ignoring it. If our son is rude to me, my husband doesn't say anything. He just says that I should deal with it. What can I do?



I believe you have mentioned 2 issues here: (1) father uses an indulgent parenting style, and (2) husband and wife are not united and bonded on some major issues. Let’s look at each one in turn:

Re: Indulgent parenting style – Parenting style has two elements: sensitivity and strictness. Sensitivity refers to the extent to which parents provide warmth and supportiveness. Strictness refers to the extent to which parents provide supervision and discipline. Categorizing parents according to whether they are high or low on strictness and sensitivity creates four parenting styles:

  • Indulgent
  • Authoritarian
  • Uninvolved
  • Assertive

    Indulgent parents are more sensitive than they are strict. Children of these parents tend to have high self-esteem, but low motivation (e. g. , perform poorly at school, do few if any chores). Also, they are more likely to have behavioral problems at home and school.

    Authoritarian parents are very strict, but not very sensitive. Children of these parents tend to have high motivation (e. g. , do well in school, do chores at home), but have very low self-esteem. They also have poorer social skills and higher levels of depression.

    Uninvolved parents are low in both sensitivity and strictness. Children of these parents tend to have both low motivation and low self-esteem.

    Assertive parents are both strict and sensitive. Children of these parents tend to have both high motivation and high self-esteem.

    Thus, it might be in your husband’s best interest to adopt a more assertive parenting style - for his son’s benefit!!

    Re: Not being united and bonded – When mom and dad are not on the same page with their parenting strategies, several negative outcomes result:

    1. One parent is forced into playing the role of the “bad guy” (this is probably you mom).

    2. The child is always able to play one parent against the other (e. g. , if he gets a “no” from the more assertive parent, he will go to the indulgent parent to get a “yes”).

    3. The child is always able to convince the indulgent parent that the more assertive parent is “mistreating” him.

    4. Due to the above outcomes, resentment builds in the more assertive parent, thus creating tension between husband and wife.

    Thus, it will be important for you and your husband to sit down together and come up with a united plan. A weaker plan supported by both parents is much better than a stronger plan supported by only one. When husband and wife do not develop a united front, it is often the kiss of failure (i. e. , the child continues to suffer emotional and behavioral problems).

    Mark Huttenlocker, M. A. , is a family therapist who works with teens and pre-teens experiencing emotional/behavioral problems associated with ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Conduct Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Autism, etc. He works with these children and their parents – in their homes. You may visit his website here:

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