Psychologists have pondered since long about the causes of many disruptive and maladaptive behaviors in children. They have seen the causes in their biological constitution (temperaments), genetic structure, and their environments. Since a child is nurtured by the parents since birth (except in few cases), psychologists are compelled to think that the cause of many of the child's unhealthy behaviors lies in the ways parents handle their child. Some parents are strict and follow rules, some are emotional and worry a lot, some are friendly with kids and spend a lot of time with them, some are aloof and spend less time with kids. It is rational to assume that these different ways of managing kids will affect their behaviors in immediate or distant future.
Psychologists call these ways as parenting styles. These are strategies that parents use in child rearing. Famous psychologist, Diana Baumrind, has described three different parenting styles that are commonly found in parents. These are - Authoritative, Permissive, Authoritarian.
Authoritarian parenting is a restrictive, punishment-heavy parenting style in which parents make their children follow their directions with little to no explanation or feedback and focus on the child's and family's perception and status. Corporal punishment, such as spanking, and shouting are forms of discipline frequently preferred by authoritarian parents. The goal of this style, at least when well-intentioned, is to teach the child to behave, survive, and thrive as an adult in a harsh and unforgiving society by preparing the child for negative responses such as anger and aggression that the child will face if his/her behavior is inappropriate. In addition, advocates of this style often believe that the shock of aggression from someone from the outside world will be less for a child accustomed to enduring both acute and chronic stress imposed by parents.
Permissive parents try to be "friends" with their child and do not play a parental role. The expectations of the child are very low, and there is little discipline. Permissive parents also allow children to make their own decisions, giving them advice as a friend would. This type of parenting is very lax, with few punishments or rules. Permissive parents also tend to give their children whatever they want and hope that they are appreciated for their accommodating style. Other permissive parents compensate for what they missed as children, and as a result, give their children both the freedom and materials that they lacked in their childhood. Baumrind's research on pre-school children with permissive parents found that the children were immature, lacked impulsive control and were irresponsible.
Authoritative parents will set clear standards for their children, monitor the limits that they set, and also allow children to develop autonomy. They also expect mature, independent, and age-appropriate behavior of children. Punishments for misbehavior are measured and consistent, not arbitrary or violent. Often behaviors are not punished but the natural consequences of the child's actions are explored and discussed -allowing the child to see that the behavior is inappropriate and not to be repeated, rather than not repeated to merely avoid adverse consequences. Authoritative parents set limits and demand maturity, and when punishing a child, authoritative parents are more likely to explain their reason for punishment. In some cases, this may lead to more understanding and complying behavior from the child. A child knows why they are being punished because an authoritative parent makes the reasons known. As a result, children of authoritative parents are more likely to be successful, well liked by those around them, generous and capable of self-determination.
Maccoby and Martin added another parenting style and made the total of four such styles. It was neglectful style. Neglectful parents do not set firm boundaries or high standards. They are indifferent to their children’s needs and uninvolved in their lives. These uninvolved parents tend to have issues themselves such as maternal depression, physical abuse or child neglect when they were kids.
As we can see, parents may show any of the four types of parenting style. Mother and father may differ in their parenting styles. This creates many complications sometimes, though differing styles in parents is preferable. Because the child may learn different set of behaviors which are otherwise not possible if both parents use the same style or if one parent is living with the child. Psychologists have observed that some parenting styles make a child prone to develop some emotional problems like aggression, sadness, anxiety, phobia, etc. Till date, the evidence suggests that permissive and authoritarian styles are responsible for many problematics behaviors, with neglectful style being sometimes the most harmful. This implies that authoritative style is, amongst all, the most helpful style for the parents.
Recently, studies have focused on effects of parenting styles on gaming addiction in children. There are two aspects to this. Few psychologists say that permissiveness style leads to higher chances of developing gaming addiction. And another group of psychologists say that parents change their parenting styles from permissive to authoritarian (or vice versa) during the course of excessive gaming by children, which in turn leads to more severe addictive behaviors in children (including aggression, truancy, theft etc.). These results are quite troublesome to many parents and may give them an alarm to think about their strategies with the children. In the latter case, parents generally give the explanation that once he will change his habits, parents will return to previous styles. However, this rarely happens and matters keep getting worse.
Permissive parents generally try to convince the child by teaching him moral thoughts. They give in to his demands by allowing him more time to play with the game. The child threatens them and they accept his demands. Such a child seems manipulative with the parents. Many disruptive behaviors may develop. The child is bribed to change his habits but he knows what the parents are trying to do and is not easily convinced. This child may take control of the parents because he knows that parents can't do anything and would submit to his needs. So he becomes stubborn and rigid. These parents may either let the relationships run their course like this or some of them become authoritarian in their style in order to control the child. They break his game or mobile, restrict him from playing the mobile or tablet, they do not give him money, and do not let him go out with friends. Many such changes are made that would restrict the child from doing what he wants to approach games.
Some parents succeed in this strategy, but majority of them fail to reach any healthy outcome. Such a child may become even more stubborn and aggressive. Though the reasons for such failures to change the child may be manifold but a simplistic explanation in the present context would be that parents are generally not able to create a balance between these two parenting styles. From outside they may appear to be strict, but are still to manipulate by the child. And child also develops new strategies to manipulate the parents. For example, child would stay unaffected and would avoid parents when they take away his laptop, but sooner he expresses his helplessness in dealing with his some other problems (like completing homework, or study for exams) which would melt the parents and the same permissive pattern would continue. In some cases the child would steal the mobile or laptop from the 'secret place' where parents have kept it after taking from him. So parents become equally helpless. An authoritative parent knows how to maintain balance because he/she has lot of experience in implementation of that style. But to an inexperienced parent who was permissive throughout the formative years of childrearing, this balance is difficult to develop in a short time accompanied by distress caused by the child's gaming habits.
Parents mistake strictness with control. Controlling the child and restricting his use out of force or compulsion is not helpful. Since the child is young and powerless, so initially he may submit to parental demands. But sooner he will express his loss through aggression. A child develops attachment with the gaming devices and games with which he spends a lot of time. These days video games are taking place of conventional board games and toys. If parents may recall, they also had their favorite toys and games when they were young. They would like to keep them at a safer place always. All children are possessive for their toys. But those games were not a distraction for parents generally, and did not interfere with their studies because of their lack of addictive potential. Moreover, those games were played in 'real' world, unlike virtual games of internet which provide an artificial social network. Similarly, children have attachment to these video games and taking them away from children through force would be unbearable to them. They would feel a great emotional loss. So an alternative strategy is required that would motivate the child to leave games on his own. Not through control or force or restrictions but through guidance and direction provided by counselors or psychologists. Not only the child but parents may also need training to manage the child and they should take counseling for themselves. A family system is composed of many people, and behaviors of all of them affect one another. So a mutual responsibility to bring changes in one's self is crucial and is needed to help the child in changing this habit. Small changes brought over a period of time would help the family in dealing with this difficult time of stress and pain.