Parenting Styles in Blended Families

by Amy  - January 9, 2022

What is a Parenting Style?

Today I’m going to talk about parenting styles, theories, strategies and methodologies including how they come together (or not)  in blended families.

There are (pretty much) four primary styles of parenting commonly talked about in the parenting space these days.  I read one thing that had 5 but let’s go with these 4 because they are the ones that I see in most places. 

I mean I think if you’ve taken any college beginning psych classes or read many parenting books these will sound familiar. I was researching them for this article but they feel very familiar to me. 

These were conceptualized by a clinical psychologist named Diana Braumrind. 

They are permissive or indulgent, authoritarian, authoritarian or disciplined, and authoritative. 

When she came up with these labels and groups I believe that  Baumrind also theorized that a child’s behavior was directly tied to the parenting style. This came from observation and interviews. 

So that pressure you feel to do a good job being a parent … it may have started with Diana Baumrind. I’m kidding. Except maybe I’m not. 

Although it is actually a pretty new idea. She published these ideas in the 1960s. That’s a while ago but then again not so long ago. 

The 1960s are synonymous with culture change

The 1960s was without a doubt an intense point of change in humanity and in the structure of families. The rise of the suburbs. The first inklings of women’s liberation and women choosing to work and be parents. A cultural shift was happening and part of that included the concept of parenting. 

Then it was enhanced into a more robust model that showed interaction between the styles in 1983 by 2 other psychologists. And these two psychologists added a style of neglectful or uninvolved. Now there are 4. 

There is a lot written about how modern parents may have a lot more pressure on them than parents in the 50s and even the 70s. 

The 4 common parenting styles categorized by Baumrind

It’s interesting to read the different categories what they represent and how they are supposed to work out for the kids. Here’s my source for these descriptions.

Authoritative parents have clear rules, are warm and responsive, supportive, have high expectations and value independence. 

Authoritarian parents are unresponsive, strict, have high expectations and expect blind obedience. 

Permissive parents are warm and responsive, have few rules, indulgent and lenient. 

Neglectful parents are cold and unresponsive, no rules, uninvolved and indifferent.

Which parenting style do you think describes you? 

Or do you think you might fall into more than one?

What about your partner or if you are in a blended family how about the ex? 

Almost half (46% is what I read so not quite half) of parents in the United States are thought to be authoritative. That holds pretty close around the world. 

I have not read anything about this with blended families. Which does not mean it’s not out there. Maybe it means that this is the book that I will write. Probably that’s it. 

Conflict of parenting style is one of the the top issues that I hear about in blended families. 

What does Conflict of Parenting Styles mean?

It means differences in parenting style between one house and the other and or between the step parent and bio parent in the same house. Some blended families even feel as if parents might have different parenting styles when it comes to their kids versus a step kid. 

If you’re in a blended family you are probably nodding your head saying, “yup.”

But Hmmm … if ½ most parents are authoritative then is it actually unlikely that it’s a complete mismatch of parenting styles … right?

Well probably yes and no. 

It’s probably not so black and white.

Maybe it’s because I’m a Gen-Xer but I push back against strict categorizations like this.

Like in anything. Anytime I see a grouping like this I’m like …hmmm  how can that be? It’s either a character flaw or my super power. 

I think these categories are interesting. I just question if they really and truly fit every person and every situation all the time. 

I did take a survey and I was told that I’m authoritative (like most parents).

Here’s what I mean when I say that I don’t think they fit. 

Sometimes I’m permissive. When we’re on vacation I let my kids eat what they want. When my kids are sick they can watch tv all day. 

Sometimes I’m not just authoritative I’m authoritarian … when we need to get to the airport on time you better be up or I’m hauling you outta bed. It’s my way or the highway. We are going to make that flight. 

On the other hand we were late to elementary school a lot because for some reason my kids frequently had to go to the bathroom right when it was time to leave. When you gotta go … you gotta go.

Sometimes I’m neglectful. You wouldn’t think I’d admit that would you but honestly when I’m on a work deadline I’m not paying attention to my kids as much. When I was training for Ironman there were 6 weeks of peak training where I was exhausted. 

There was a time where my step-daughter was really going through a tough emotional time and all 4 adults parents and step-parents were fully engaged in even the tiniest minutia of this kids life.

My point which I think I’ve pounded home perhaps more than needed is that I think in real life it’s more nuanced than a grid. 

Then again I’m not a clinical psychologist. I’m a life coach. There is a big difference.

As a life coach I don’t analyze and diagnose. I don’t run studies or write technical papers. As a life coach I help you find your solutions that work for you in your life. 

Results are not guaranteed

When Diana Baumrind revealed her 3 parenting styles (that later became 4) she theorized that parenting style would translate to the results or success of the children. 

For example, authoritative style parents would raise children with better self-esteem, less mental illness and less delinquency. 

Where as children with permissive style parents would have poor social skills, be egocentric and impulsive. 

Talk about putting pressure to do a good job as a parent. GEEZ.  

I question that this is a direct cause and effect thing. In fact, my life experience tells me that it’s not correct that my parenting style determines my child’s future success. 

This is my opinion but I think it’s not fair to parents to say if you parent this way then your kids will have high self esteem but if you parent this way … they won’t. 

My mother was by my account not a good parent. She was unable to be that because she suffers from a mental illness. I still turned out to be honest and hard working. 

And I find the reverse is true.

I think no parent is perfect. You can be an excellent loving parent and your kids can make big mistakes that cause them big problems. Specifically addiction can to anybody and just rip a family apart.

I’ll be honest that I think that some of this is that it was very trendy thinking in the 1960s to think that behavior could be lined up as cause an effect. If you do this then that will happen. A lot of those ideas have actually been updated to be a little different. The very famous marshmallow study which tied delayed gratification to success was updated in the 1990s. That’s fascinating. But my google research shows that these are pretty much still considered the primary types of parenting styles.

My last thing on this is that Baumrind conceived of this in the 1960s and then in the 2000s we have had a wave of issues with parents being branded as helicopter parents and snowplow parents (these are parents who hover over their kids and parents who clear the pathway for their kids so they don’t face hard things). Is it possible that this path of change is related … well anything is possible but I do actually think that it’s a chance that one trend may have influenced the rise of the other. 

Parenting methodologies and strategies

In addition to these styles there are many many methodologies of parenting. 

These are like instructions or manuals for how to correctly or better parent our kids.

I think these also started in the 1960s with the very famous Dr. Spock. 

I wonder if you can still buy his book. I also wonder what it says. Has anybody who reads this ever read it? Let me know.

Here are a few that I’ve heard of.

  • Peaceful Parenting taught by the Jai Institute
  • Conscious Parenting Dr. Shefali Tsabary
  • Attachment Parenting – Dr. Sears
  • Positive Discipline Parenting Strategy
  • Peaceful Parenting – Dr. Laura Markham
  • The Whole Brained Child – Daniel Siegel
  • Empowered Parenting – this is a bit of a catch all phrase I’m not sure it describes a single method or theory
  • Gentle Parenting — this is also not just a book it’s a concept or an idea that many books and coaches will follow.

Parenting methodologies can be very specific. There are books and courses for a wide variety of very specific situations. The first parenting book I think I read which was suggested by a therapist was the Explosive Child. 

And I am a parent who refers to experts and gets ideas from others. This is one reason my book of parenting tricks is so big. 

Parenting methodologies can be for new babies or teenagers or specific to one situation or another. 

I find that they can be very helpful. I cannot count the number of times reading a book by a parenting expert or doctor gave me a tip that was highly helpful. 

This may not be you might instead have a community around you that you go to with your questions. But I jumped into being a step parent and then later when I became a mom I did not know what I was doing and I didn’t always trust myself. 

I read parenting books and recommend them all the darn time. What I have learned in books has really been helpful. And also I find that they are not always helpful which is more to say that what works for one person just may not work for everybody. Or maybe one bit works and not another. 

Some people read books and then they think this is the way I’m doing things. All these steps – no exceptions. I’m not like that. I tend to read and think and try things and figure out what works and what doesn’t. And also I’m the type of person who’s willing to admit that things sometimes work for a while and then stop working. 

The good news here is that I read a lot of the books and so if we work together you get the benefit of all the things I read without having to read all these books yourself. I’m always happy to share where I pick things up. 

What’s a person in a blended family to do?

I think there are two things that a people in blended families can do. 

It’s a good idea to think about what your parenting style and ideas are or might be. 

The most important thing is to talk to the other parents in your family and your extended family and communicate. This is pretty much almost always how conflicts are resolved. 

If you want some help with this reach out because I’m happy to offer my help. If your blended family has some struggle working through a difference in parenting strategies or methods let me know.

Training for You

Grab my Steps for Happiness as a Stepparent


Amy Stone (she/her/hers) is a life coach who helps adults in blended families. She is a mom, step-mom and a step-grandma. Other random fun facts include that She is a 7-time Ironman triathlon finisher and many many marathons and shorter races. She created

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