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When you got in trouble as a child, how did your parents react? This lesson covers four different parenting styles identified in educational psychology, including authoritarian, authoritative, indulgent, and neglecting.

Typical results from each parenting style are discussed in terms of children’s behaviors, as well as application of the styles in a classroom environment.

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Parenting Style

Think back to when you were a little kid and you got in trouble. How did your parents react? Did they punish you? What kind of punishment was it? Did they calmly explain why your behavior was not okay? Or did they even pay attention at all? Maybe they let you do whatever you wanted and smothered you with love and attention, spoiling you!

Parenting styles are based on levels of control as well as warmth and support
Parenting Styles Chart

This lesson focuses on different types of parents and how parenting styles affect children, both at home and in a classroom environment. As we talk about each style, try to relate that to your own experiences. Which style of parents did you have? If you have children, which style do you think will fit you as a parent yourself?

Four Types of Parents

Different parenting styles have been studied by child psychologists for many years but really got attention in the 1970s and 80s.

There have been a few psychologists who have come up with names and theories for different parenting styles, but in general, psychologists have agreed on four basic styles of parenting. For each of the four styles, we can plot the style along two basic dimensions, which are level of control from the parents (either high or low) and level of warmth and support from the parents (again, either high or low).


The first style is called authoritarian. Authoritarian parents are extremely strict, controlling, demanding, and unforgiving. If you think about our two basic parenting dimensions, authoritarian parents are high on control and low on warmth and support.

Let’s think of an example. Imagine John breaks a simple rule at home, such as coming home 30 minutes after curfew one night. Authoritarian parents will give the child a swift and severe punishment without even trying to listen for John’s explanation for being late. In a single word, the best description for authoritarian parents might be ‘obedience.’ In extreme cases, authoritarian parents might even become abusive. Children of authoritarian parents tend to have low self-esteem and make moral decisions based on rules instead of on internalized beliefs about what is right and wrong.

Children of authoritarian parents are more likely to have low self-esteem
Authoritarian Parenting Style


The second parenting style is called authoritative. Authoritative parents are high on control and rules but also high in warmth and support.

So, when we graph our two dimensions, authoritative parents fall here. If John came home late for curfew, authoritative parents would be waiting up, ready to punish him if there’s no good excuse. However, they would also be willing to listen to an explanation and be understanding if there was a good reason for being late, such as a flat tire in the car. While authoritarian parents (the first style we covered) might display mostly anger when a child breaks the rules, authoritative parents might instead display concern or disappointment. Most psychologists believe that the children of authoritative parents have the highest self-esteem, success with peers, and do well in academic and professional settings. So, basically, many psychologists believe that authoritative parenting is the best style for most kids.


The third parenting style is called indulgent, or sometimes permissive. These parents fail to set any standards for behavior, are tolerant of all behaviors, and give in to their child’s desires. In other words, these parents are low in the control dimension but high in the warmth and support dimension. They let their kids do whatever they want, such as eat ice cream and cookies for dinner or go to bed at 2:00 am after watching scary movies all night. If we think about our example of John coming home late, we can’t even imagine what his parents might do because they never would have set a curfew in the first place! Children with indulgent parents tend to be aggressive, impulsive, and selfish.

Authoritative parents are willing to consider input from their children
Children of neglectful parents tend to be less trusting of others
Neglectful Parenting Style

In addition, you can see how these four types of parenting styles could also apply to different styles of teaching. Did you have some teachers who were extremely controlling and who would not listen to explanations for why an assignment might be turned in late? Or did you have other teachers who didn’t really seem to care what was happening in their classroom, and the students could do whatever they wanted to do?Educational psychologists have studied how these different styles in both parents and in teachers might combine to give children either the structure and love they need or how they might be lacking in providing the best possible environment for children. When you think about your own parents and teachers, do you think you received the best possible combination of control and loving support?


In summary, educational psychologists have identified four basic parenting styles, which vary on two dimensions.

The dimensions are level of control versus level of warmth and support. This graph shows both dimensions. The four styles are authoritarian, authoritative, indulgent, and neglecting. Each style results in different types of children.

While these styles are usually discussed in terms of parenting, they can easily be applied to classrooms as each teacher might embody one of these styles. What kind of parents and teachers did you have?

Lesson Objectives

After watching this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Identify the four parenting styles and characteristics of each
  • Interpret child behaviors from each in terms of classroom application

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