Parenting is like trying to balance a multi-dimensional see-saw. On one end of the see-saw sits discipline and structure. On the other end is warmth and affection. How we balance these two ingredients contributes to four possible types of parenting:
- Neglectful parenting, which is low in both discipline and warmth,
- Permissive parenting, which is high in warmth but low in discipline,
- Authoritarian parenting, which is high in discipline but low in warmth, and
- Authoritative parenting, which is high in both discipline and warmth.
The Human Flourishing Program at Harvard University published two studies in early 2019 that explored these parenting styles and their impact on flourishing later in life. Not surprisingly, parenting high in both warmth and discipline (authoritative parenting) proved most beneficial in promoting a flourishing life, even as a person matured into adulthood. Somewhat surprising, permissive parenting—low in discipline but high in warmth—proved the second most beneficial parenting style for promoting a flourishing life. Falling to a distant third was authoritarian (low in warmth but high in discipline). Of course, a neglectful style of parenting was least effective.
With further study, it appears that warmth (which authoritative and permissive parenting exhibit) is the most important aspect of parenting when it comes to helping our children flourish later in life. Specifically, parental warmth and affection was associated with the following benefits in later life:
- A 46% reduction in depression
- A 39% reduction in anxiety
- A 68% reduction in eating disorders
- Higher levels of emotional processing and expression
- Lower levels of cigarette and marijuana use.
Providing warmth and affection to our children tops the list of important ingredients in parenting. When we provide an environment of warmth and affection to our children, they have a better chance of flourishing later in life. With that in mind, here are six simple ways to show your children warmth and affection…and promote their ability to flourish.
- Share appropriate physical affection.
- Speak to one another with kindness. Encourage. Compliment. Acknowledge effort.
- Spend time with your children. Converse over family meals. Play family games. Go on family outings and vacations.
- Listen intently.
- Learn about your children’s interests. Get to know their friends, their fears, and their dreams. Remember their birthday and acknowledge it. Learn the details of their life.
- Tell them you love them…and tell them often.