Leadership and parenting


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.

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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.



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  1. Teresita Tanhueco-Tumapon on

    Hallo, Thanks very much. That was great of you filling up the gaps. I AGREE. Full time in my career, bringing up six — indeed is in itself a career; all sensible and independent by themselves in advancing their respective careers, in suppoting one another without sibling rivalry but excited and happy when anyone of them reaps an award, ready to share or guide when any of them need help, and with the sustained influence of a wonderful better-half (gone passed fifteen years ago) and supportive kins and loyal friends – thank the good Lord for what they are now. Again, muchos gratias! TTTumapon

  2. “Laissez faire” is best leadership to give Pinoys of Pilipinas. Also to Pinays of Pilipinas. That, and money.

  3. Thank you for an enlightening article. Good parenting is the best gift we can give to a child.

    Although you have alluded to it, my experience is that we need all three leadership styles to do a good job at parenting. Up to two to three years old, the child need authoritarian parenting and as she grows up and matures, we need to transition to the democratic style but retaining some authoritarian aspects. The transition to laissez-faire parenting comes when the child, in this case, she is now an adult, goes out to college, out of the home and out of sight, and into the world. Hopefully, at this stage, she has the maturity and understanding to make the right decisions – most of the time.

    But in all stages, communication should be open and two-way. Even two-year olds know how to express themselves and are very receptive to other people’s comments especially their parents.

    At the same time, it is not just which management style you want to utilize in bringing up your child at the various stages. There is also the greater responsibility that parents must be honest to their child and be a true role model for them. You cannot tell them to do one thing and you do not apply that same rule to yourself as a parent. In fact, my experience is that children are very good observer of their parents, among others, in shaping their own behavior.

    The other important aspect of parenting is to promote and develop good habits when they are very young like politeness, brushing one’s teeth after breakfast and supper, proper hygiene, sleeping at the regular time, taking a nap at the right time, playing well with other children, sharing toys and spaces with other children, etc. And when they start growing up: good study habits, time management and choosing priorities, regular physical activities particularly sports and structured activities, music lessons if the child is so inclined, exposure to different events and happenings,etc.

    Parenting is a full time job and it’s invariably also an on-the-job training. There will be mistakes made but learning from them is a good education.

    I hope we will continue the conversation since this is very important to the future of our children, our people and our country. There are others aspects in my parenting experience that I did not touch upon above but I believe are very important. Like religious education when the child is about six or seven years old is a critical part of her development and growth.