The Four Styles of Parenting

Dismissing Parent-Disapproving Parent
Permissive Parent-Conscious Parent



  • treats child's feelings as unimportant, trivial
  • disengages from or ignores the child's feelings
  • wants the child's negative emotions to disappear quickly
  • characteristically uses distraction to shut down child's emotions
  • may ridicule or make light of a child's emotions
  • believes child's feelings are irrational and therefore don't count
  • shows little interest in what the child is trying to communicate
  • may lack awareness of emotions in self and others
  • feels uncomfortable, fearful, anxious, annoyed, hurt or overwhelmed by the child's emotions
  • fears being out-of-control emotionally
  • focuses more on how to get over emotion than on the meaning
  • of the emotion itself
  • believes negative emotions are harmful or toxic
  • believes focusing on negative emotions will "just make matters worse"
  • feels uncertain about what to do with the child's emotions
  • sees the child's emotions as a demand to fix things
  • believes negative emotions mean the child is not well adjusted
  • believes the child's negative emotions reflect badly on their parents
  • believes negative emotions reflect badly on the parents
  • minimizes the child's feelings, downplaying the events that led to the emotion
  • does not problem solve with the child; believes that the passage of time will resolve most problems


Children learn that their feelings are wrong, inappropriate or invalid. The may learn that there is something inherently wrong with them because of the way they feel. A child cannot understand why the emotions she is feeling are not recognized by the parent as valid. A child may have difficulty regulating her own emotions and the emotional connection with the parent is lost in favor of glossing over tough feelings.

A Self-Test: What Style of Parent Are You?
The Heart of Parenting: Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child

p.43-48, John Gottman Ph.D., ©1997 Simon & Schuster

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