The four educational styles: democratic, authoritarian, permissive and indifferent

Being a parent is one of the most important and difficult tasks of our life. It is a stage full of joys and satisfactions, but also of worries, uncertainties and fear of not knowing if what we are doing is the best.

Put limits on children

What should we allow and what should we prohibit children? Education often follows an irregular course between these two extremes. The task as parents can be much simpler if from the beginning we agree on firm rules that are respected by all the members of the family, starting with us.

All parents are different from each other and we hardly find two parents exactly the same: some are more affectionate, others are more strict, controllers, negligent … etc. The combination between affection, communication and control is what will define the “educational styles”.

We can differentiate four styles or ways of behaving with our children-daughters, but that does not mean that “always” a father or a mother behaves in the same way, but we speak of a ” habitual tendency “.

Today we will address these four educational styles here.

Democratic style

This educational style is characterized because the father or mother listens to the child in their needs, adapts the demands according to the stage of the corresponding development, sets limits and norms , giving positive reinforcements when the child or adolescent complies and providing punishments when he does not respect them. He is emotional and highly demanding .

Parents with a democratic style are characterized by:

  • Be very affectionate
  • They maintain high levels of communication with their children.
  • The rules and limits are clear and are usually explained and justified to their children in a reasonable way at different ages and needs.
  • They control and restrict the behavior of their children with clear rules and limits.

Parents who manifest themselves in this style, apart from being warm and affectionate, setting clear and coherent rules, supervising and guiding behaviors, also foster autonomy, encouraging the child to be more independent, thus stimulating development.

If the children feel loved and supported they will know that they can always count on the parents when they need it , but at the same time, they have to be clear that they can not do what they want, that there are limits that can not be transferred and that they should be fulfilled for your well-being and the well-being of others. This will make them have good self-esteem , good behavior and a responsible attitude towards others. Being loving mothers and fathers, it facilitates the transmission of values and forms of behavior with which one wants to educate, since children are more receptive if they are taught in an atmosphere of affection and mutual respect .


  • Children who tend to have high levels of self-control and self-esteem.
  • They are better able to face new situations with confidence.
  • They are persistent in the beginning tasks.
  • They are interactive and skilled in relationships between equals, independent and affective.
  • They tend to have social and moral values inside.
  • They internalize norms and their social competence is very developed.

Authoritarian style

In this case the educator dictates how things should be done, imposes rules and does not accept to question them . He does not conceive another way of doing things differently from his. It applies punishments that are often disproportionate to the child’s behavior. Shows low affection and high demand.

Some characteristics of parents with this educational style are:

  • They are not very affectionate.
  • They maintain low levels of communication with their children.
  • Impose rules and limits.
  • They control in a rigid and severe way the behavior of their children.

They are fathers and mothers with high values of demand and control, while they do not show affection to their children and there is no communication with them. They usually do not take into account the interests and needs of their children , usually imposing what they have to do. Only what they say is valid, they do not listen to their children and they do coercive practices.


  • Boys and girls with low self-esteem.
  • Difficulty controlling your impulses.
  • Immaturity.
  • Little persistent in the tasks.

Permissive indulgent style

The father or mother with a permissive style, shows an attitude of overprotection towards the child, believes that he helps when he does things for him. It often curtails freedom when the child demands independence. Shows a lot of affection and little demand .

  • They are very affectionate.
  • They maintain high levels of communication with their children.
  • They do not usually put limits on their children.
  • There is little control in their behavior.

Within this group we can also find parents who, in addition to being excessively permissive, also present behaviors that are too lenient . In this case they will show:

  • Indifference towards the positive or negative attitudes of the child.
  • They easily access the wishes of their children.
  • They have little control over their children, that is, they leave their children total freedom.
  • They support their children, but when setting limits they do not know how to do it or do not want to do it because they do not have a conflict with their child, therefore, they use few punishments.
  • Faced with the difficulties of life that your children may have, they will always remove obstacles instead of teaching how to overcome them and, in case of doubt, your child will always be right and will always win.
  • They do not establish any norm within the education of their children, they grow without any pattern of behavior which can bring problems within the school.
  • They are not demanding with their children so that they fulfill their responsibilities.

Communication in this educational style is unidirectional, parents take into account the initiatives and arguments of their children, they also provide the child with great autonomy. They are parents concerned about their children, both for academic training and for any other aspect, but their children always end up dominating the situation .

They do not emphasize the paternal authority and therefore, they do not know how to establish clear rules for example when doing homework, when it comes to getting home, etc. They use punishments very little, as they are fathers and mothers who accept all kinds of behaviors of their children, including expressions of anger or aggression.


Children educated with this educational style acquire good social behaviors, such as:

  • They have a good image of themselves.
  • They have confidence in their possibilities.
  • They are spontaneous.
  • They are original and creative.
  • They acquire a high social competence.

But on the other hand, on the negative side, we can see that they are children who do not usually have references and, therefore, do not know where to hang on . On the one hand, they lack habits of effort, they do not recognize or respect authority figures , they are not used to receiving a “no” for an answer. They are usually:

  • Children demanding or disrespectful.
  • Insecure
  • They send the parents.
  • Selfish, egocentric.
  • They have no sense of discipline.
  • They do not take care of your health and safety.
  • Little control over their own behavior, since they do not have a marked code of behavior.

There are also negative consequences for the parents themselves, since, in many cases, their self-esteem drops when they see the behavior of their children . He does not have a communication or dialogue with his father, he does not respect him. On the other hand, they feel frustrated by the education given.

It may interest you: the Emperor Syndrome: when the child imposes his law


Indifferent style

When the educational style is indifferent, what happens is that the father, mother or educator is not too involved in the education of the child. It gives him complete freedom to make his own decisions . It does not usually resort to punishment as an educational tool and the rules are very lax or practically nonexistent . Shows low affection and low level of demand for the child.

Parents with indifferent style are those who:

  • They are not very affectionate.
  • They maintain low levels of communication with their children.
  • They do not usually put limits on their children
  • There is little control of their behavior.
  • Low availability and low demand.
  • They are not involved in the education of their children, nor do they affect emotionally.
  • To make up for their educational role they give them gifts, since it is the fastest and most comfortable way to keep their children happy.
  • They are obsessed or simply prefer other obligations, for example, friendships or work and their parental responsibilities are minimal.
  • They let their children do everything they want, since it is the best way for children not to bother them.


  • They have low self-esteem and self-control.
  • They have very school failure.
  • They are more likely to fall into alcoholism or drug addiction .
  • Obedience and submission to external control.
  • Aggressive behavior
  • They do not have confidence in themselves.
  • They have no responsibility
  • They do not value personal effort.
  • Psychological disorders.

These children, finding no sign of affection on the part of their parents, look for her in peer groups .


Affection is necessary to transmit security to any child . Feeling loved and accepted contributes to the formation of a good self-concept and adequate self-esteem . On the other hand, communication makes frequent dialogues easier to get to know the concerns and interests of their children. This also makes it easier for parents to know what their children are and what they do, as well as to help reach agreements. At the same time, children can also get to know their parents better and better, creating a climate of trust where they feel more freedom to communicate openly and sincerely.

All this helps children learn to relate and put themselves in the place of others, developing important skills for life in society: expression and understanding of feelings, empathy , social skills … etc.

Although the democratic style clearly has the most advantages, both for the well-being of the children, as well as for the parents and family relationships, it is also true that it is not always easy to be democratic at all times and in all situations , That is the most important thing will be to strive to adapt and integrate the aspects that we have just mentioned: affection, control and promotion of autonomy, with the personal characteristics of each one and in the different situations that are lived.


Juntunen, Cindy Lee; Atkinson, Donald R. Counseling across the lifespan: prevention and treatment . SAGE, 2001

Maccoby, EE; Martin, JA Socialization in the context of the family: parent-child interactions . Wiley, 1983.

Emperor Syndrome: when the child imposes his law

What is the difference between neurologist, neuropsychologist and psychiatrist?