Parenting Styles: Guidance vs Control

In today’s unpredictable world, the route to raising kids who are kind, cooperative and happy can be hard to navigate.

For parents, there’s an underlying pressure to bring up well-behaved children that meet societal expectations, while also providing them the space to become who they are meant to be. At times, these two concepts seem to be at odds.

While doing research on the subject, I discovered a method to parenting that emphasizes guidance over control.

As a positive parenting advocate, I have to say the distinction is a game changer, and I’m a huge fan of the guiding approach. It was a real eye opener to discover that most of my parenting was done via control!

Guiding a child (rather than controlling) encourages their autonomy and agency as an individual, while allowing the parent to be in control of the situation. 

Guidance can improve relationships and offer kids the room to explore their own choices within clearly defined boundaries.

Guidance vs Control Parenting Styles Defined:

Guidance: Encouraging a child to be their best self, while allowing them to make choices and decisions, with parental support and love.

Control: Can be coercive, authoritative, manipulative or critical. Controlling a child may hinder their ability to build important decision making skills and impede self identity.

A critical aspect of guiding a child is respect. Remember, your child is an individual with their own thoughts, feelings and ideas. Respecting their autonomy will instill trust in your relationship.

It’s also important to have discussions with empathy. Get down on your child’s level to better understand their behavior, before immediately reacting and inflicting consequence. Follow the positive parenting mantra, to share calm, without contributing to escalation.

Let’s break it down via conversation styles.

Ordering vs Explaining:


Order: Clean your room right now.

Instead, try this:

Explain: When your room is clean, it’s easier to find things when you need them. It also sets the tone for a good day, to wake up in an organized bedroom. Want to give it a try?

Cooperation vs Coercion:


Coercion: Clean your room or I’m going to take your tablet away.

Instead, try this:

Cooperation: Let’s clean your room together, and get it done faster.

Criticism vs Feedback:


Criticism: Your room is a disaster. You’re messy.

Instead, try this:

Feedback: I’ve noticed that your room is a little messy. You may find that you feel more organized if you keep your room clean.

Dictate vs Discuss


Dictate: You better have your room cleaned by the time I get home.

Instead, try this:

Discuss: Let’s come up with ways to organize your room so it is easier to keep clean.

Notice the difference?

Talk to kids about the “why” of what you are requesting. Help them understand, for example, why having a clean room will positively affect them, without criticizing for being messy.

It’s important to note that yes, while controlling a child, temporary results are possible. For example, most children will act swiftly when a parent threatens removal of a favorite toy or game.

However, if we place emphasis on raising kids with a growth mindset, control no longer fits in the equation.

Children with a growth mindset know they can overcome challenges and learn new ways to accomplish things. It is resilience that we want to build, not concession. Ask yourself, do you want your child to comply out of fear? Or because it is the right thing to do?

If guidance is the key, kids will come to their own conclusions about making good choices, as it is what they’ve been trained to do.

positive parenting

Lastly, use your best judgement to determine when control is absolutely necessary. In dangerous situations control over a child becomes paramount. If the behavior is risky or malicious, guidance may not be the correct approach. 

There are times when controlling a child is the natural parental reaction, and that’s okay too! It’s not practical to assume guidance will always be the go-to method. These tools are meant to guide, not to guilt us into feeling like bad parents.

And remember, we’re all in this together. 

For more positive parenting techniques, read up on Positive Language Alternatives


You may also like

Leave a Reply