According to dictionary definition child rearing is the act of bringing up or caring for a child to maturity (Procter, 1978). Families, by nature, have been vested with the task of bringing up and caring for children whenever they (families) are blessed with them. Ezewu (1983) identified child rearing as the next most important function of the family after child bearing.
For many adults, the parental role is well planned and co-ordinated with other roles in life and is developed with the individual’s economic situation in mind. For others, the discovery that they are about to become parents is a startling surprise. In either event, the prospective parents may have mixed emotions and romantic ideas about having a child. Parenting consists of a number of inter-personal skills and emotional demands, yet there is little in the way of formal education on this task. Most parents learn parenting practices from their own parents, some of which they continue to practice while discarding others. Husbands and wives may bring different viewpoints of parenting practices to the marriage. Unfortunately, when methods of parents are passed on from one generation to the next, both desirable and undesirable practices are also transferred (Santrock 2001).
Parents want their children to grow into socially mature individuals, and they may feel frustrated in trying to discover the best way to accomplish this. Developmentalists have long searched for the ingredients of parenting that promote competent social development in children. For example, in the 1930s, John Watson argued that parents were too affectionate with their children. In the 1950s, a distinction was made between physical and psychological discipline, with psychological discipline, especially reasoning, emphasized as the best way to rear a child. In the 1970s and beyond, the dimensions of competent parenting have become more precise and varying.
Especially widespread is the view of Diana Baumrind, who believes that parents should be neither punitive nor aloof, but should develop rules for their children and be affectionate towards them. She emphasized four types of parenting which are associated with different aspects of the child’s socio-emotional development that is authoritarian, authoritative, neglectful, and indulgent (Baumirind 1971).
a) Authoritarian parenting is a restrictive, punitive style in which parents exhort the child to follow their directions and to respect work and effort. The authoritarian parent places firm limits and controls on the child and allows little verbal exchange. Authoritarian parenting is associated with children’s social incompetence. For example an authoritarian parent might say, “You do it my way or else….” there will be no discussion! Authoritarian parents also might spank the child frequently, enforce rules rigidly but not explain them, and show rage toward the child (Baumirind 1971). Children of authoritarian parents are found to be often unhappy, fearful, and anxious and constantly compare themselves with others, fail to initiate activity, and have weak communication skills (Baumirind 1971).
b) Authoritative parenting on the other hand, encourages children to be independent but still places limits and controls on their actions. Extensive verbal give and take is allowed, and parents are warm and nurturant toward the child. Authoritative parenting is associated with children’s social competence. An authoritative parent might put his arm around the child in a comforting way and say, “You know you should not have done that. Let’s talk about how you can handle the situation better next time” (Baumirind 1971). Authoritative parents show pleasure and support to children's constructive behaviors. They also expect mature, independent, and age-appropriate behaviors. Children whose parents are authoritative have been reported to be often cheerful, self-controlled, and self-reliant, maintain friendly relations with peers, cooperate with adults, and cope well with stress (Baumirind 1971)).
c) Neglectful parenting is a style in which the parent is much uninvolved in the child’s life. It is associated with children’s social incompetence, especially a lack of self-control. Children whose parents are neglectful develop the feeling that they are not important and there are other aspects of the parents’ lives that are more important. These children tend to be socially incompetent. Many have poor self-control and don’t handle independence well. They frequently have low self-esteem and are also immature, and may be alienated from the family. In adolescence, they may show patterns of truancy and delinquency (Baumirind 1971).
d) Indulgent Parenting the fourth style of Parenting is the “Indulgent parenting”. This is a style of parenting in which parents are highly involved with their children but place few demands or controls on them. Indulgent parenting is associated with children’s social incompetence, especially a lack of self control. Such parents let their children do what they want. The result is that children never learn to control their own behavior and always expect to get their way. Some parents deliberately rear their children in this way because they believe that the combination of warm involvement and few restraints will produce a creative, confident child. Children whose parents are indulgent rarely learn respect for others and have difficulty controlling their behavior. They may be aggressive, domineering, and noncompliant (Baumirind 1971).
Parents have always been fascinated by their children’s development, but it is high time adults began to look objectively at themselves to examine the systematic changes in their own physical, mental and emotional qualities as they pass through the life span, and get acquainted with the limitations and assets they share with so many others of their age (Sears & Feldman, 1973). The life -span perspective sees development as lifelong multidimensional, multidirectional, plastics, historically embedded, contextual, and multidisciplinary, and as involving growth, maintenance and regulation.
There is yet another parenting style known as “Libertarian child rearing”. It is said that the Libertarian rearing is meant for ‘free’ children. It is the means by which the individuality of the child is respected and children developed. Moreover, the role of parental example is very important to raising, as the latter often learn by mimicking their parents. If their mother and father lie to each other, scream, fight and so on, then the child will probably do so as well. Children's behavior does not come out of the thin air, but they are a product of the environment in which they are brought up. Children can only be encouraged by example, not by threats and commands. How parents act can be an obstacle to the development of a free child. Parents must, therefore, be aware that they must do more than just say the right things, but also act as anarchists in order to develop children with clear concept of freedom (Baumirind 1971).
In sum the old model of parent-adolescent relationships suggested that, as adolescents mature, they detach themselves from parents and move into a world of autonomy away from the parents. The old model also suggested that parent adolescent conflict is intense and stressful throughout adolescence. The new model (Santrock 2001) emphasizes that parents serve as important attachment figures, resources, and support systems as adolescents explore a wider, more complex social world. The new model (Santrock 2001) emphasizes that, in the majority of families, parent-adolescent conflict is moderate rather than severe and that everyday negotiations and minor disputes are normal, serving the positive developmental function of promoting independence and identify.