Parenting Styles


Where do you Fall on the Spectrum of Parenting Styles?

Every mom and dad has a parenting style based on his or her personality type, background and experience. Experts say that there are four styles of parenting; these are:

  1. Permissive
  2. Free-reigning
  3. Authoritarian
  4. Controlling

These styles each have their strengths and weaknesses, but in general, they either build self- esteem or tear it down. The fifth style is the ideal one. It is nurturing and setting limits. It is possible to scar your child’s self-esteem if your style becomes extreme. Though most parents fall somewhere between overly permissive and controlling, you should know the strengths and weaknesses of your style as a parent and make adjustments that move you towards the ideal. Let us now provide some details about these styles so you can discover which style best describes you:

  • Permissive. A permissive father often has trouble setting boundaries. He would make comments like, “All right, you can stay up A’isha, I know you like this program.” Or he will say, “Didn’t you hear me calling you for dinner? Well, sit down; I’ll put your plate in the microwave so you won’t have to eat cold food.” You see, this father is a strong nurturer and a weak limit-setter.   
  • Free-reigning. A free-reigning mother will sometimes get too wrapped up in her own affairs to tend adequately to the needs of her son. “Ahmed, if you think I’m stupid, that’s your problem.” she’ll say. Or: “Work it out yourself, I’m busy.” This type of mother is weak in nurturing and in limit-setting.
  • Authoritarian. An authoritarian father would often fail to listen to his daughter or show respect for her ideas or opinions. He makes comments like, “It’s time for bed, and no arguments Fatima.” Or “You are late for supper, that means you don’t eat tonight. End of discussion” This father is a weak nurturer and strong limit-setter.
  • Controlling. A controlling parent nurtures and sets limits for his child, but frequently goes overboard in supervising him, a trait common among perfectionist parents. A mother of this type will make a comment like, “Asmaa’, get off the floor or you’ll get your clothes dirty.” Or “Aly, this is what I want you to wear to the mosque.” This type of mother is a strong nurturer, but she sets too many limits.
  • The right balance, nurturing and setting limits. Moderation is promoted by Islam in every aspect of life. In surat Al Baqarah Allah says:

“And thus we have made you an Ummah of moderation (justly balanced Ummah)” (Quran: Chapter 2, Verse 143). On that basis, the ideal type of parent is the one who achieves the right balance between nurturing and limit-setting. They are firm in setting limits, yet they allow their children freedom within those limits. They make comments like “Sumaiya, I wish I could let you stay up, but you have school tomorrow, and I don’t feel good about you missing out on the sleep you need.” Or “You are late again for dinner Aly. How can we work this out?” This illustrates the ideal balance between encouraging children and disciplining them.

Most parents see themselves in one or more of the above categories. Our goal as parents should be to build our strengths, work on our weaknesses and try to move towards the ideal. Here are some suggestions to help you begin this move:

  • Be honest with yourself. Circle the quotes from the above examples that sound most like you. Find out which parenting style you identify with, and which category you fall in.
  • Encourage yourself. Make a list of your parenting strengths and how they can benefit your children.
  • Encourage your children. Note one weakness in your parenting style. What message does it send to your children? What can you do this week to make this message more encouraging? Can you say to them I’m sorry for this and adjust your style to improve this weakness?
  • Talk to other learned members in your community, especially those who have some religious knowledge and practical experience in successfully raising good, well-behaved, and confident children. Have regular meetings with them and learn from their experiences.
  • Make a decision. No matter what style characterizes you, decide and promise yourself not to overprotect, humiliate or demand perfection from your children. These three are the main contributors to raising a child with low self esteem. Remember that Allah said:

لا يكلف الله نفساً إلا وسعها

“Allah does not put a burden on any soul more than what it can bear.” (Quran: Chapter 2, Verse 286).

The prophet, peace be upon him, said:

ما أمرتكم به فأتوا منه ماستطعتم

“Whatever I order you, do as much as you can.” [Agreed upon]

  • Read Parenting literature written from an Islamic perspective and use various principles and experiences detailed in the literature to modify and improve on your style.
  • Perform Salatul Hajjah ( صلاة الحاجة ) more often and make lots of dua’a to Allah to help you improve your parenting style.
  • Keep in mind that the purpose of this exercise is to help you as parents in raising happy and righteous children, with high self-esteem.
  • Monitor your progress and repeat the exercise if needed.

Remember, parenting is the noblest task that a person can assume and will be highly rewarded by Allah SWT. It is worth the effort, hardship and time that one would endure in the process.