The Most Effective Parenting Styles For Surviving The Toddler & Preschool Years

How will you parent? Here's how to decide.

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As a new parent, you may wonder what parenting styles contribute to an environment conducive to appropriate adjustment and healthy functioning for your children.

There is an abundance of parenting styles, and when you've got a toddler or even a preschooler, deciding which one works best for you is an important part of keeping the harmony in your home.

Finding the right parenting style for you and your family is key to keeping your kids in a safe, properly-disciplined environment so they can grow in the healthiest way possible.


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Considering parenting styles and finding the best approach for you and your child is key.

You make adjustments within your romantic relationships to accommodate the necessary changes needed to include a child. The love, support, and nurturance needed to raise happy, healthy children are unlike anyone other love you'd previously known.

Most parents hope the guidance and structure they provide to their children will help them face and overcome the challenges they're sure to encounter in their journey to adulthood.

Parental discipline can have a significant impact on the way in which children see the world, engage with the world, and who they become as adults.


Parenting styles consist of three main approaches.

The distinction between the different parental styles depends on the amount of structure, the kind of structure provided, family involvement, the targeted behavior it is used to address.

These parenting styles range from loose to rigid. However, some parents may inadvertently alter between the two extremes, creating confusion for children.

Most families are blends of all three strategies, shifting between styles to meet the needs of the individual child and circumstance, with one approach being dominant.

When your child is young, it's important to establish a firm way of dealing with issues. This sets your kids up for life with firm values they can rely on.


Here are the 3 most effective parenting styles for surviving the toddler and preschool years.

1. Permissive or "loose" parenting.

Permissive parents are indulgent, not wanting to impose their will on their child's developing personality.

Permissive parents are often overly worried about being liked by their child (or children), rather than setting healthy boundaries. Often, the children are not held accountable for their behavior with this parenting style. 

2. Assertive parenting.

Assertive parents typically encompass firm, loving, and kind parental styles. They set boundaries and expect their children to abide by them.

Neither overly strict nor overly indulgent, authoritative parents strike a good balance between expectations that are too high and expectations that are too low.


3. Aggressive or authoritative parenting.

These parents are strict, unbending, and inflexible. They may attempt to control every aspect of their child's life and do not allow the child to make choices.

Aggressive and authoritarian parents expect obedience without questioning.

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Surviving the toddler and preschool years can be difficult for many parents.

Adjustments in parenting need to occur to address the child’s growing autonomy. Toddlers and preschool-aged children need consistent structure.

During this developmental stage in a child’s life, simplicity and consistency are key. Anything less can create confusion and behavioral challenges.


When both parents utilize the same structure, use corrective action for negative behaviors, and issue rewards for positive behavior, children develop a healthier understanding of what is expected of them.

Modeling is an important part of any parenting style.

Children learn most of the things they incorporate into their personality through a process called "modeling." Parents are encouraged during this stage of a child’s development to model effective problem-solving skills. 

Seeing both parents work through their differences can help a toddler learn that people may see things differently. It also teaches them how important it is to be flexible.

Both parents need to respect each other and remain on the same "team."

However, parents who rarely agree or who live in different households and do not utilize the same parenting style can create confusion for a toddler.


It can also give a child unhealthy power in the family, allowing them to take sides and play one parent against the other. This is especially likely if parents argue in front of a child without coming to any resolution.

As parents you will have disagreements, however, even in your disagreements make sure that if your child is present you display behaviors that suggest even if you don't agree, you can still talk and work on challenges in a healthy manner.

Children benefit from a parenting approach that includes love, support, structure, accountability, and kindness.


Parenting approaches that are too loose or too rigid can negatively impact how the child sees the world and how they respond to it.

Loose parenting styles do not provide structure or hold the child accountable for negative behaviors. This creates a false belief there are no consequences for negative actions.

Rigid parenting styles create fear, low self-esteem, and a low tolerance for failure. Children that are raised using this style learn to doubt themselves, fear challenges, and typically seek the approval of others to validate themselves.

Assertiveness and confidence are key to healthy, effective parenting.

Therefore, the healthiest parenting style to raise healthy well-adjusted children requires a blend of all, with the dominant style of assertiveness.


Assertive parenting style allows a child to receive structure, feel listened to and understood (without negative reprisal), develop basic feelings of trust in relationships, learn to be kind to others, appropriately manage challenges and other frustrations, take responsibility for their actions, consider another person’s point of view, and learn to make independent decisions.

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Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford is a psychologist who focuses on relationships, dating, and personality issues, as well as a certified relationship specialist with diplomate status and an expert with the American Psychotherapy Association.