With the publication of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua, the topic of parenting styles has become very popular. Ms. Chua believes that the "Chinese" way in which she raised her two daughters produced excellent outcomes. Although not allowed to have sleepovers, play dates, or even earn less than an A in school, she claims they turned out to be productive, happy members of society.
Is this the best parenting style, or should parents adopt a less strict, more loving approach? According to researchers in the field of child development, there are generally four ways to parent: authoritarian (the Tiger Mom way), authoritative (a balanced approach), permissive (anything goes), and uninvolved (emotionally detached).
The Authoritative Parent — A Balanced Approach
While pressured students can perform well, overall they tend to not be as academically and socially successful as children raised in authoritative homes. The presence of an authoritative parent is one of the most consistent predictors of a child's future competence from early childhood through adolescence.
All parents can adopt an authoritative approach when it comes to academics. Take a look at the following scenarios to learn how the authoritative parent deals with homework.
Providing A Choice
It is Friday and Stephanie has a homework assignment due on Monday. Her family has a banquet to attend on Sunday at 5 pm; therefore, it must be done beforehand. Stephanie is determined on going to the movies with her friends on Saturday night. Her parents request that the work be done before she ventures off to the movie theatre, however, they allow her to determine when she'll do it.
This authoritative approach gives both parties some control and it gives Stephanie a chance to practice her time management skills. Stephanie's parents trust that she'll have the work done before leaving, but they verify her claim by asking to see it. If she doesn't have it done, her parents will not allow her to leave — no negotiation. A critical authoritative skill that Stephanie's parents exhibit is the ability to provide a choice (when she does the assignment) balanced by a reward (going to the movies) and a consequence (not going to the movies).
Trust but Verify
Lately, Matt has been claiming that he has finished his homework at school, so there is nothing to bring home. His mother is rightfully suspicious, so she went online to check his grades. Lo and behold, he has missing assignments. Mom does three things:
- She asks to see Matt's planner. Although she trusts that her son has recorded his schoolwork accurately, she verifies this periodically by asking him to pull up the teacher's assignments that are posted online.
- She and Matt agree that this will be done for three weeks. If Matt has been diligent during that time, his mom will back off, only checking in once or twice per week.
- Mom gives her son choices about homework completion. She insists that it be finished before he goes outside to play, but allows him to choose the time at which he'll start his work. By giving Matt options, she puts the ball in his court.
Matt's mother is a pro at utilizing "trust, but verify," a skill that authoritative parents possess. By not micromanaging Matt, she let's Matt know that she trusts him, but that she expects him to get his work done. By verifying a few times each week that he is completing his assignments, Matt stays on track.
Change Your Parenting Role Depending On Your Child's Age
Young children need much more parental involvement than older students. Authoritative parents feel it is their role to lay the foundation early on, so that their children will be independent learners as they age. During the middle and high school years, students continue to need guidance. Authoritative parents do not dictate when, where, and how their children do their homework, instead they have a general expectation of work before play. In these households, parents see their role as the occasional coach, not as the tutor or friend.
Leaders Are Raised Not Born
Parenting style is not only important for school success, but for lifetime achievement. The researchers found that a firm parenting approach that allowed children to test the rules and learn from their mistakes correlated with leadership as adults.
Ann K. Dolin, M.Ed., is the founder and president of Educational Connections, Inc., a tutoring, test prep, and consulting company in Fairfax, VA and Bethesda, MD. In her award-winning book, Homework Made Simple: Tips, Tools and Solutions for Stress-Free Homework, Dolin offers proven solutions to help the six key types of students who struggle with homework. Numerous examples and easy-to-implement, fun tips will help make homework less of a chore for the whole family. Learn more at anndolin.ectutoring.com or ectutoring.com.