Having taught for some time courses on leadership, I realized that parenting styles are similar to the classic styles of leadership which are omnipresent in management books. Such styles may not be appropriate always but are the more appropriate under certain circumstances. These three decision-making styles are: authoritarian, democratic and laissez-faire.
Authoritarian leaders are domineering, distant and unapproachable. They make all the rules; communication is a one-way traffic. Their followers are characterized by great dissatisfaction, absenteeism and high turnover. But with limited resources, need for emergency decision-making and coordination on a large scale, this kind of leadership is appropriate.
Applied to parenting, such a parent makes all decisions in the family, dictates what courses the off-springs would take up in college, what school to go to and even what kind of dress to wear, what social activity the daughter or son could attend, etc. Every decision in the children’s lives comes from the parent with no input from anyone, much less from the children who even at a mature age are still dictated upon on what to do with their lives. If one remembers that behavior can be overt or covert, it is possible that there are children who resent this authoritarian style of parenting. Overtly, the child may seem to like and seem to even be happy at this fastidious attention from the parent. Covertly, who knows, the child is full of resentment! Come to think of it, such parenting may be the cause of some of the young who choose to jump from the window to escape the gestapo-like life that they have to endure with authoritarian parenting.
As in organizations, there are times when authoritarian parenting is beneficial. But there are more problematic consequences than good ones. Children become either rebellious or too dependent on their parents such that as grown-ups, they are unable to make decisions on their own.
In the traditional Filipino family even after World War II, children were seen but not heard. There were historical reasons for this kind of regard to the young. But let’s not have history this time. What could be pointed out is during those times, the context of life is far different from that of the 21st century. Today’s environmental forces make it necessary for the young to be taught how to arrive at thoughtful decisions, particularly, how to survive in a highly competitive world and be happy. Grown-ups should learn to make decisions that do not breed future problems where such problems could have been avoided.
Another style of leadership is democratic also known as authoritative leadership, characterized by collegial and facilitative decision-making, tempered criticism, fairness, willingness to listen, consider suggestions and are follower supportive. Supportive means that such leaders take time to provide coaching or mentorship and other forms of continuing professional development. Policies and guidelines drawn from inputs of followers are clearly set, understood and accepted.
Similarly, parenting can be democratic. Parents who have this style set house rules and pros and cons of which are explained to the children. Depending on the maturity of children, they are allowed to help set rules for themselves such as on curfew time, when eligible to go out for a date, etc. Consequences of violating such rules are understood and accepted by the children. If mistakes are committed, parents do not punish them but nurture their children to learn from their mistakes. Decision-making on matters proper to their age and maturity is collegial. Parents set aside enough time for healthy exchange of ideas and children are taught to make decisions on their own. Children reared in a democratic atmosphere develop the habit of self-regulation. They tend to show more initiative while growing up and, consequently, have better chances of success.
Then there is the laizzes-faire leadership. Laizzes-faire comes from the French “leave alone.” Having no hard and fast rules in the organization, decisions are left to members.
Leaders of this style make no policies. Instead, group members are responsible for all goals, decisions, and problem-solving. Laissez-faire leaders have very little or no authority in their organizations. However, when followers are highly qualified and well-motivated, a laissez-faire style is called for. When members are novices, an authoritarian developing to an authoritative style may be more appropriate.
Similarly, there is the uninvolved parenting. Parents are minimally involved in the lives of their children. Anything goes. Such parents just sit back whatever their children choose to do. To my mind, this is the most dangerous kind of parenting especially to minors.
Laizzes-faire parenting provides very little guidance and hardly leaves room for discipline. Children are given freedom to make their own decisions. This kind of parenting is similar to what psychologists term as indulgent or permissive parenting.
Similar to organizations, laizzes faire parenting is not totally a bad style. Laizzes faire parenting is applicable and effective when the children have been well reared and are already grown-up. Parents may give them minimal guidance and be supportive of their decisions. As in organizations, when the members are highly skilled, highly motivated and capable of working alone on their tasks, leaders can leave them minimum supervision. So also with children who now are grown up, who have developed their own expertise and demonstrate sustained enthusiasm for their work brought upon by their satisfaction of their respective careers.
* * *
Teresita Tanhueco-Tumapon, Ph.D., is one of the Philippines most accomplished educators and experts on institutional management in colleges and universities. Her studies have included not only education and pedagogy but also literature. She has studied not only in the topmost universities in the Philippines but also in Germany, Britain and Japan. She is now the Vice-President for External Relations and Internationalization of the Liceo de Cagayan University (in Cagayan de Oro) after serving as its VP for Academic Affairs for six and a half years concurrent to her ten years as dean in the Graduate Studies of the same university. She holds a Lifetime Professional Achievement Award from the Commission on Higher Education.