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Supporting children's development
Supporting children's development

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2 Parents as partners

Parents play a crucial role in the development of their children and, in today’s society, there are as many different styles of parenting as there are types of family. If you are a parent, you may have thought long and hard over decisions you have made and the impact they have had on your child. Within families, your style of parenting may differ from that of your partner, or your own parents. If practitioners are to become reflective, it is important that they think about their own style of parenting or interacting with children.

When reading about Tomos and Mali’s early relationships in ‘The importance of the early years’ topic, you may remember that Ceri, the grandmother, had a more relaxed approach towards the children. As grandparents often do, Ceri took the ‘soft’ approach of ‘if you don’t feel like it you don’t need to do it’, whereas Siân and Dafydd tried to establish a more disciplined approach.

Developmental psychologists have long been interested in how parenting styles impact on a child’s development. Finding actual cause-effect links between specific actions of parents and later behaviour of children is very difficult. Some children raised in dramatically different environments can later grow up to have very similar personalities. Alternatively, children who share a home and are raised in the same environment can grow up to have very different personalities. Despite these challenges, researchers have uncovered convincing links between parenting styles and the effects these styles have on children.

During the early 1960s, psychologist Diana Baumrind conducted a study on more than 100 preschool-age children. She identified four important dimensions of parenting:

  • disciplinary strategies
  • warmth and nurturance
  • communication styles
  • expectations of maturity and control.
(Baumrind, 1967)

Based on these dimensions, Baumrind suggested that the majority of parents display one of three parenting styles, as shown in Table 1.

Table 1 Parenting styles based on Baumrind’s four dimensions of parenting
Parenting styleParenting behaviourPotential impact on childPhrases a parent might use

Strict discipline

Child expected to follow rules

No opportunity for child to negotiate




Rebellious (as they get older)

‘No you can’t …’

‘Because I say so, that’s why’

‘Do it – NOW!’


Issue few commands and have few rules or boundaries

May take time to explain their decisions to the child

Leave child to regulate their own behaviour

A friend rather than parent to their child

Impact can be both positive and negative


Demanding and self-centred

Lacking in personal responsibility

Better social skills

Belief in themselves

‘It’s up to you. If that’s what you really want to do then …’

‘The reason for wanting you to … is …’

‘Well, if you don’t feel like it …’


Exercise control over their child’s behaviour but also encourage them to be individuals

Listen to what the child has to say

Set clear standards and non-punitive punishments

High levels of self-esteem

Achieve better at school


Socially competent

‘This is my view … but what are your thoughts?’

‘Sorry, but we agreed …’

Activity 4

Timing: Allow about 20 minutes

Look again at Baumrind’s three parenting styles (Table 1) and then think about the parenting styles of Dafydd, Siân and grandmother Ceri. Which parenting style did each person use?

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Grandmother Ceri has a more permissive parenting style, but Dafydd and Siân are authoritative rather than authoritarian. Neither parent is a strict disciplinarian, nor are they permissive – they do not allow their children to set their own boundaries or regulate their own behaviour.

In Baumrind’s four dimensions of parenting styles, most parents today would prefer to be authoritative rather than authoritarian. In the discussion of attachment theory, you have seen how important a child’s relationship with their parents is in the early years and how this can affect the future development of the child.

As a teaching assistant, or learning support worker, you need to recognise the importance of parents as partners. Partnership can take many different forms. You will find that the relationship between parents and practitioners is not always straightforward and that some parents are tentative or professionals may be defensive when challenged.

Activity 5

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Read the following text and try to find out why working together is so important.

It seems important to ask this question. There are many reasons why parents and practitioners should work together. Researchers and practitioners often stress the benefits for children's learning when practitioners, parents and children work as an effective team. Parent-practitioner collaboration can be important to children's identity, self-esteem and psychological wellbeing. The close cooperation of parents and practitioners in providing support to children is especially important during times of change and transition. This alone is a compelling reason for a close partnership.

It is certainly desirable that the key adults in children's lives relate to them and encourage them in similar ways. To get a sense of the extent to which parents can be involved in children's education, it is helpful to distinguish three distinct roles:

  • parents are educators;
  • parents give 'background' support to practitioners;
  • many parents work alongside practitioners.
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Working collaboratively with parents is important to children’s identity, self-esteem and psychological well-being. This alone is a compelling reason for a close partnership.