Alfred Adler Institute of Northwestern Washngton

Most of the content in these two charts is based on the ideas developed by Hugh Misseldine in his book, Your Inner Child of the Past. Material has been added to reflect the Adlerian perspective of a democratic parenting style.

Parenting Styles - Chart I




Child is seen as equal, integrated part of family, cooperative, and doing his share. He is loved and accepted. Child is offered reasonable progressive challenges and permitted to develop at his own pace. Accepts child's uniqueness. Provides love, respect, and feeling of equality. Encourages child to correct mistakes and develop capacities. Guides child to find significance in contribution. Feels security of love and acceptance. Experiences own strength by conquering difficulties. Finds satisfaction in achievement and contribution. Not afraid to try and fail. Sees world as safe and friendly.
Over-Indulgent Child at a receiving end of a cornucopia with goods and services endlessly pouring out. Child is passive, bored and discontented in the midst of this indulgence. Showers the child with presents, privileges, and services, with little regard for the child's actual needs. Child is bored, and indifferent. He loses initiative and spontaneity. Expects everything to come to him. Sees adults as providers of pleasure and comfort.
Over-Submissive Child sitting imperiously on a throne, placed there by parents who bow low. Child is active, impulsive, and demanding. Submits to child's whims, demands, temper, and impulsiveness. Makes child the boss, and becomes a slave or servant. Cannot say no. Child insists on having his demands fulfilled. Has tantrums, ignores the rights of others, lacks any sense of limits.
Over-Coercive Child is like a trained dog or stubborn donkey. Pushing--resistance cycle. Constant direction and supervision. Endless instructions and constant reminders. Overly strict, tends to drill. a) Submission: submits to direction. Results in docile obedience.

b) Active rebellion: overt defiance. Results in verbal refusal.

c) Passive resistance: dawdling, daydreaming, forgetting. Results in covert, devious rebellion.

Perfectionistic Child is a perpetual runner, trying to go faster, but never finishing the race. The finish line keeps moving up. He is constantly trying to do better. Accepts chid only when performance is exceptional. Very high standards, impossible to please. Excessive striving and preoccupation with performance. Cannot meet standards, feels unworthy, may give up (or develop physical symptoms such as ulcers).


A giant child shouldering excessive responsibility, blind to anything but work and resposnibility. Parents may heap excessve household, childcare, or companionship responsibilites on child because of economic circumstances, personal problems, death or illness of a parent. Child may carry out burden resentfully, missing normal childhood carefree play.


Parenting Styles - Chart II

Neglecting Child outdoors on a cold night, shivering, with his nose pressed against the window of a house where there is warmth inside. He has been banished. Parents are frequently absent or busily pre-occupied. Parent may be prominent or preoccupied with work, poverty, wealth, alcoholism, divorce, or illness. No one sets limits. Neglect is usually emotional. Child lacks ability to form close relationships. Never has the feeling that someone cares about him, is on his side. Absent parent may be idealized into a superhuman saintly image.
Rejecting Human cactus plant projecting spines everywhere, yet having a soft, dependent, hidden center. He is painfully self-isolating. He is denied any acceptance, treated as a nuisance or a burden. Parents may have also been rejected as children. Could result from forced marriage or deformed child. May look upon himself as isolated and helpless. Feels deeply hurt. May develop bitter, hostile, anxious feelings, and suffer from self-devaluation.
Punitive Galley slave being mercilessly tormented by galley master. Feels injustice, helplessness, and burns for revenge. Often combined with over-coercion and perfectionism. Physical punishment often considered necessary for discipline or training. Parent may vent personal hostility and aggression on child. He longs for retaliation. May feel guilt and think of himself as bad. Hates punishing parent. May lie to avoid punishment. May fear own impulses for revenge.
Hypochondriacal The eternal patient, worrying constantly about health. Attention focused on body functions and organs. Anxious, fearful, sick-room atmosphere. Child may be kept home a lot from school for minor problems. Child is excused from chores and schoolwork. Gains sympathy and indulgence from parents. Exaggerates symptoms for benefits. May be excused from normal tasks.


Child treated like a miniature sex-object, provoking a premature preoccupation with sex. Parent may fondle the child when bathing, or bring child into bed with him. One parent may be glad to be relieved of sexual obligation when partner molests a child. Parent may be seductive. Child is forced into secrecy and made to feel guilty. Child is puzzled but frequently compliant, and may stay dependent. Often results in confusion and hostility.

Recognizing and changing a dysfunctional parenting style to a more democratic one, often requires the support and insight of an experienced Adlerian psychotherapist, since the parent's basic style of life may have to be changed as well.

For additional information about democratic parenting, read Adlerian Child Guidance Principles. Also see Adult Consequences of Childhood Parenting Styles.

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