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Parenting contributes to one of the largest portions of a child’s environment, therefore is a huge influence on development. Research has shown that genetics and environment have equal influence on the development of traits in children.


Parenting styles are the way in which parents respond to, and interact with, their child.

• Research has shown that genetics and environment have equal influence on the development of traits in children.
• Parenting contributes to one of the largest portions of a child’s environment, therefore is a huge influence on development.
• Parenting approaches have been studied for many years now and although researchers may use different terminology, four main styles have been identified.


Spoiler Alert: The most effective parenting style is a combination of high expectations AND being highly supportive and warm in your interactions.

Authoritative Parenting:
• Have age-appropriate expectations
• Help child work through emotions and problems
• Hold firm boundaries with some flexibility
• Have high expectations and adjust if needed
• Believes corporal punishment is ineffective
• Nurturing and affectionate
• Communication is valued
Effects on Children:
• Higher self-esteem & self-confidence
• Closer with parents
• Less vulnerable to peer-pressure
• High level of self-control
• Problem solvers
• Higher academic performance
• Less mental illness and delinquency
Authoritarian Parenting:
• High expectations and strict or demanding rules
• No flexibility/rigid
• Unquestioned obedience expected at all ages
• Believes affection = spoiling
• Believes punishment is the way children learn
• Emotionally distant
• Overly structured environment
Effects on Children:
• Lower Self-Esteem – value is in behavior
• Behavior not intrinsically motivated but based in the desires and expectations of others
• Fearful to make mistakes
• Higher percentage of mental illness
• Lower academic performance
• Poorer social skills
• Drug/alcohol abuse
• Higher delinquency
Permissive Parenting:
• Warm and very responsive
• Few or no rules
• Few or inconsistent boundaries
• Overly indulgent or lenient
• Low expectations for child
• Avoids confrontation – may bribe or give into child’s demands
• Discipline only used for extreme situations or not used at all
Effects on Children:
• Can have high self esteem and self worth but can be egocentric
• Lack of boundaries can create anxiety
• Has difficulty with relationships
• Poorer social skills
• Often lacks respect for authority figures
• Has difficulty handling responsibility
• Can be impulsive
Neglectful Parenting:
• Little or no parent involvement
• Either no expectations or unattainable expectations
• Children often left to their own devices
• No guidance during life’s problems
• Inconsistent boundaries, or none at all
• Uninterested in child’s life
• Passive in their response or offer little interaction
• Emotionally detached
• Self-absorbed or overwhelmed with own problems
Effects on Children:
• Low self-esteem & feels unworthy of love
• Distrustful of others
• Struggles with concentration
• May have poor nutrition of health
• Higher rate of mental illness
• Higher rates of suicide
• Higher deliquency and drug use


If you would like to learn more about evidence-based approaches to raising children in healthy, positive ways, you may want to consider researching Gentle Parenting. While this is a newer term being used, it is most closely aligned to the Authoritative Style of parenting and shares the same positive outcomes (happy, confident, kind, independent kids).

It is important to note that gentle parenting is NOT lazy or permissive parenting! Gentle parenting relies on appropriate expectations and reasonable discipline that is communicated clearly and respectfully so that children can learn to behave in age appropriate, respectful ways.

For more information… check out our Discipline Section to see how parenting styles can guide effective approaches to discipline.

Try to think of discipline more as teaching rather than punishment. The most effective discipline ensures that children understand the expectation, are capable of meeting the expectation, and can learn from the consequences when they do not follow through.


Parenting is one of the toughest jobs out there, and let’s be real, every child is different and they don’t come with directions.

Try to think of discipline more as teaching rather than punishment. The most effective discipline makes sure that children are capable of meeting the expectation, understand the expectation, and can learn from the consequences when they do not follow through.


Toddlers especially crave attention, so give your child attention and praise when they follow instructions and show positive behavior and do not give attention for defiant or negative behaviors like tantrums.

Review with your child acceptable ways to show that they are upset. Remember, don’t just catch them being bad, try to catch them being good too.


Communication is key! Talk to your child about friendships, working/talking out disagreements with friends, school likes and dislikes, respecting others, consequences of actions etc.

Make clear rules and boundaries and stick to them, such as how long your child can watch TV, play a video game or what their bedtime is. Be clear about what behavior is acceptable and not acceptable.


Teens want to be heard, take the time and listen. Be honest and respect their opinions. This doesn’t mean you agree with everything they say, but let them voice their opinions and discuss it.

When there is a conflict, be clear about goals and expectations (clean room, showing respect and getting acceptable grades), but allow your teen input on how to reach those goals.

Effective parenting fully recognizes that toddlers, children, and even teens are NOT mini-adults; their bodies and their brains have different abilities and reactions. It also capitalizes on the fact that children are much more likely to model the behaviors and actions they see than what they are told, which can be one of the most difficult aspects of parenting.

“Tell me and I forget;
Teach me and I remember;
Involve me and I learn.”

– Benjamin Franklin

It takes courage to be a parent and be open to help. A calm parent can help model calmness to a child so reach out for help if you need it (friends, family or our hotline).

One of the most important things we can do is to remember to take care of ourselves. It’s natural to want to take care of your child first but as the old saying goes, we must first secure our own oxygen mask and mental wellness before being able to help others.

No parent is perfect and uses the perfect words and phrases all of the time. It is to be expected that parents will experience frustration, anger and disappointment over behavior challenges or emotional outbursts in children.

Words Matter:
The Power of Encouragement

Childhood is an incredible time of growth, development and learning; it is to be expected that parents will experience frustration, anger and disappointment over behavior challenges or emotional outbursts in children. No parent is perfect and uses the perfect words and phrases all of the time.

But hopefully this can be an encouraging reminder of strategies that can help during those challenging times. Research has shown that a parenting style that is a combination of warmth and affection along with clear, consistent expectations has the most positive outcomes on a child’s growth and development. Ways to build warmth in a relationship include giving positive reinforcement and connecting to a child.

Using Words to Positively Influence Your Child

It can be helpful to make a distinction between not approving WHAT they are doing versus not liking WHO they are. WHO they are is not a sum of WHAT they do. Sometimes they are just acting out trying to figure out how to understand and navigate the world they live in and how to relate to it. A child that feels safe and loved is motivated to learn and improve.

• You are special
• I care about you and want the best for you
• Even though I might not like what you did, I still love you
• I love spending time with you
• I know you did not mean to ____
• Nothing can stop me from loving you
• Do you want/need a hug?
• I am angry-frustrated-disappointed in your behavior but I know we can work this out
• I know you can learn from this to improve and make better choices
• What is the best way that I can help you right now?

Studies have shown that a ratio of 5 positive interactions to every 1 negative interaction can have a powerful effect on connected relationships. Encouraging words that are honest and specific can increase the desired behavior in a child, and it is especially helpful to focus on the effort versus the ability.

• Wow, you worked really hard on that!
• I am so impressed with your effort-dedication-focus!
• Thank you for paying attention to the directions
• I love seeing you be kind to others
• I am so proud of you for not giving up
• You did a great job on ______
• I really appreciate how helpful you are
• Thank you for responding so quickly to my request
• That shows alot of responsibility-creativity-courage
• Your ideas are great

Sometimes kids don’t know how to do something or struggle with impulsivity or overwhelming emotions. Teach them that there is always opportunity to learn from mistakes.

• Let’s rewind and try that again
• Can you think of another way to do that?
• Instead of _____ try ______
• I can see you are upset-sad-angry, do you need a few minutes to feel calmer?
• I see you are struggling – how can I help?
• What can you do next time to improve and/or make a better decision?
• I am really frustrated and/or angry at the moment so I need a few minutes before we talk
• You can do hard things – I have faith in you
• Please use kind-appropriate-softer words when you speak to me
• It’s okay to be upset; let’s take a deep breath and then think about possible solutions

“Parents, choose your words wisely, carefully, thoughtfully. In the same way that violence begets violence and anger begets anger, kindness begets kindness and peace begets peace. Sow words of peace, words that build, words that show respect and belief and support.”

– L.R. Knost

“At the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to a child’s success is the positive involvement of parents.”

– Jane D. Hull

“Behind every young child who believes in himself is a parent who believed first.”

– Matthew L. Jacobson

“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.”

– Maya Angelou

“Parents are the ultimate role models for children. Every word, movement and action has an effect. No other person or outside force has a greater influence on a child than the parent.”

– Bob Keeshan

“All kids need is a little help, a little hope and somebody who believes in them”

– Magic Johnson

“Children learn more from what you are than what you teach.”

– W.E.B. Dubois

“The way we speak to our children becomes their inner voice.”

– Peggy O’Mara

“There is no single effort more radical in its potential for saving the world than a transformation of the way we raise our children.”

– Marianne Williamson

“Affirming words from moms and dads are like light switches. Speak a word of affirmation at the right moment in a child’s life and it’s like lighting up a whole roomful of possibilities.”

– Gary Smalley


We’ve compiled a list of FAQ’s based on the interactions we have with parents just like you. We have found that the questions parents have for us are mutli-faceted and often more complex than a simple FAQ section can offer. We encourage you to reach out to us for more in-depth information and answers to your toughest questions.

Who do I report child abuse to?

Every state has an agency that investigates child abuse and neglect that occurs within the home. Sometimes, they are called Child Protective Services (CPS) or Department of Child Safety (DCS) but their main job is to provide help to families and keep children safe. You can find the reporting number for your state HERE or contact the Childhelp Hotline to talk through a situation.

If I report my partner for abusing our children, will Child Protective Services (CPS) take my kids away from me?

When Child Protective Services (CPS) investigates abuse, they will take into consideration each person’s involvement in order to assess safety of the child. We cannot say definitively what Child Protective Services (CPS) may or may not do, but typically the goal of child welfare agencies is to step in and support families that reach out for help.

Is spanking considered abuse?

This is a difficult question to answer. Spanking that does not cause a physical injury to the child is typically not considered abuse under state laws/guidelines. However, research indicates that the use of physical discipline often has more negative outcomes than positive ones which is why the American Academy of Pediatrics and Childhelp advocate for healthy forms of discipline over punishments that are physically and emotionally harmful. Some great ways to learn effective discipline techniques are to enroll in local parenting classes or find educational books that are based in child development and brain science.

How can I keep my children safe from sexual abuse?

Teaching your child healthy and safe boundaries is an effective way to prevent abuse. These boundaries include areas of their body that are private, the right to say “no” to anyone, and encouragement that they always tell a safe adult if they ever feel uncomfortable/unsafe. There are many books and guides to help with these conversations! Reach out to the hotline and a counselor can help you find additional resources.

My child just told me they were touched by someone - now what do I do?

First step is to believe your child. Then you can begin to plan how to keep your child safe and the proper agencies to contact. This can be a scary, upsetting, and overwhelming experience. We can help you with this process – reach out anytime to connect with a Childhelp counselor.


Click on each of the 3rd party resources tabs below to see some of the additional resources we are happy to share.


If you’re here chances are you have a lot of hard questions.

Perhaps your child has been a victim of abuse. Or perhaps you’re a parent with a generational history of parenting habits that you want to change. Learning, changing, and growing can be hard. Facing the difficult road ahead with knowledge and a desire to help your child be the best human they can be is a huge step in a positive direction. We can help.

This page has topics to explore and resources for you to find your way forward.

You are not alone.

Mental Health Apps
Other Hotlines
Parental Book List
Parental Support Websites






This project is supported by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) of the United States (U.S.) Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $6 million with 100 percent funded by ACF/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACF/HHS, or the U.S. Government. For more information, please visit the ACF website, Administrative and National Policy Requirements.