Navigate / search

The Four Parenting Styles in Passive, Aggressive, and Assertive Behavior

Here’s the most common parenting question I get asked, which is a major parenting misconception: Is there one correct way to raise a child? The answer is there is no one right way to raise a child. Like buying a car, becoming friends with your neighbors, or hanging out your clothes to dry, there is no single way to raise a healthy-minded, love-filled, successful child.

Having said that, there are four parenting styles you need to be aware of when raising a child, which explain the best parenting styles for a child. How you use a parenting style is up to your judgment. No single correct way to use the styles exists because there are too many variables in parenting and your child.

The four parenting styles based on research in parenting are:

  1. Low love and low limits
  2. Low love and high limits
  3. High love and low limits
  4. High love and high limits

The love and limit parenting variables describes how a parent disciplines their child. Rarely does a parent remain in one category because the parenting style changes with time due to aspects like parental experience, moods, and maturity of the child. Parenting skills also evolve over time. The model helps you find the balance of love and limits to suit you and your child’s situation.

Firstly, love is not how much the parent loves the child, but the visibility of love in the discipline process. A dad yelling at his son shows a low love parenting style even though he may greatly love his son. If you have a high love parenting style, you will reason, talk, and spend more time with your child.

The second variable, limits, describes the boundaries placed around a child and how these boundaries are enforced. A low limits style involves little control and few limits for a child, while a high limits style involves clear boundaries and limits.

Limits describe whether a parent uses passive, assertive, or aggressive discipline. Passive discipline tends to be hands off parenting; assertive discipline is self-assured and shows respect for others creating a win-win outcome for the parent and child; while aggressive discipline is said to be “old school” with techniques such as smacking, using a wooden space, and yelling.

Of the four parenting styles, you use the one that feels right.

Of the four parenting styles, you use the one that feels right. If your parents used a high limit style and you feel this put you in-line, you will likely adopt similar disciplining techniques. On the contrary, if you felt your parents’ high limit style was distasteful because you hate how they told you what you can and cannot do, you may use a low limit style. It is common to copy your parents’ style or swing to the opposite extreme. However way you were raised, your parents’ style will influence the style that feels right to you.

There’s a problem with what feels right. What feels right may not be what’s best for you and your child. Letting your child do as he or she pleases (a low love and low limit style) may feel good, but it does harm. Research concludes that a low love and high limit parenting style is better than a low love and low limit style because children develop poor behavioral patterns from the low discipline parenting style.

It’s easy as a parent to use the low love and low limit style. You avoid any action and dodge possible counteractions when disciplining a child by doing nothing. The low/low parenting style has you play a passive role in shaping your child’s behavior and future. If you adopt a passive style of parenting, many factors like culture and the child’s peer group – which influences every child to varying degrees – will determine the child’s mental and emotional growth.

In one popular episode of Dr. Phil, Phil McGraw was trying to solve a family’s discipline problems. The mother he talked to on the show avoided disciplining her children because she was afraid they could perceive her as a “bad mother”. She had a low/low parenting style. Dr. Phil got through to the mother by saying something along these lines: “That is an extremely selfish act not disciplining your children when they behave poorly. You are only caring about yourself.” The mum completely agreed and began to change her parenting style.

Parenting Tips for All Styles

Follow these parentings tips from the United States Department of Education, regardless of your parenting style, to better your parenting skills:

  1. Set a positive example for your child because you are a role model
  2. Show respect, avoid humiliation, and be polite
  3. Say “I love you” on a regular basis with pats, hugs, and kisses
  4. Praise your child while avoiding criticism as much as possible

Avoid the low love and low limits parenting style in passive parenting for your child’s benefit – and not selfishly use the parenting style because it is easy on you. It is your responsibility as a parent to set boundaries and be involved in your child’s life.

With regards to the high limit style, be careful because it is controlling and not recommended if more assertive and loving styles are available. No one likes to be put on a psychological collar, dragged around, and poked by the person controlling them. Refrain from unnecessary control when effective communication skills can be used otherwise you erect a barrier to communication that makes the person shut you out.

What are you to do then? Researchers and therapists have found the best parenting style that suits various children is a high love style with the right limit style (something you need to figure out). In a situation where the child is under physical danger, you need to be aggressive and set high limits. There are times when aggressive communication is important. I thoroughly explain when and how to be aggressive, passive, and assertive in the sixth chapter of my Communication Secrets of Powerful People program.

In a situation where your child is inappropriately noisy, an assertive approach is recommended because aggression is unwarranted and you need to quieten him or her down. There are many assertive skills and techniques you can use. One simple technique is to provide two options. You can say, “Children, be quiet or go outside, please.” Presenting options prevents a child from feeling controlled while giving you what you want.

Another assertive technique is to state the behavior, effect, and feeling. You could say, “Your squealing (the behavior) is making noise in the house (effect) and has made me distressed (the feeling, which should be a tangible effect for children).”

Lastly a passive or low limit approach where you do nothing could be used when the child spills a drink – provided it was an accident. Clean the mess, but do not yell or punish the child for a simple accident. Sometimes you need to compromise your own needs to create a win-win result. (To discover more about using love and limits, in addition to my program, you may also want to purchase Ronald Huxley’s Love & Limits: Achieving a Balance in Parenting.)

Vary your use of limits with the situation. No single style exists to raise a great child. Be loving and be ready to adjust your limiting style to use passive, assertive, or aggressive behavioral discipline. Follow this advice on the four parenting styles to raise a happy, confident child ready for the world.

Enjoyed this article?
Never miss a tip
Instantly get new articles and bonus tips for free (about once a month) by signing up to the newsletter:

Joshua Uebergang aka "Tower of Power"

Joshua Uebergang, aka "Tower of Power", teaches social skills to help shy guys build friends and influence people. Visit his blog and sign-up free to get communication techniques, relationship-boosting strategies, and life-building tips by email, along with blog updates, and more! Go now to



This is great info to know for any parent.


Dear Joshua

you are young and therefore I say, you are a pocketsize powerhouse of knowledge. Great to read you!


Emmanuel Kihaule


You’re such a great communicator and I tell you my life in the communications field has never been the same since I joined your blog. I also get positive response to all that I shared the articles with.

Please keep up the good spirit.

Emmanuel, Tanzania

sheik abdullah

dear josh,

it’s a vital information for parenting.
any person’s personal life success completes, when they given a successful & good moral child to the society.

shiek abdullah


Josh, a real eye opener on how to live with a child. Thanks for the practical tips. hope I will succeed.


I want to comment on Dr. Phil’s comment on having low discipline being a selfish act. That’s untrue because the whole reason a person will choose that way is that they don’t want to be selfish or mean. I also believe that authoritarian type parenting is along the lines being controlling. You are defining the child instead of giving the child room to define who it is. I think setting healthy boundaries are good, but I dissagree with you that low love and high limits is better than high love and low limits. First off low love is never good in any situation, and depending on the child’s personality and temperament it could damage the person emotionally. I also think that if you are a healthy person generally you children will have something to model. Because of who I was my parents were no love and high limits crushed me. It was similar to the article about Alisha and Randy in the article about the controlling person. I didn’t know who I was. It took a very long time to feel safe enough to even feel comfortable with figuring that out.


I also want to add allowing the child to do what it pleases is only harmful when they are doing things that could be bad for them or others. You would want to find out why they feel compelled or attracted to thinks like drug or underage drinking.

You wouldn’t want to stop a child from doing what it pleases if what pleased it was doing well in school and eating healthy.

Depending on the child’s personality and temperment you would want to find out why they are drawn to that?

Do they have a learning disability? Are they experiencing stress? Is what they want not avaliable from you so they are settling for these other behaviors? Are there self esteem issues that you have failed to discover and address?

You would want to figure out why they would chose drugs and alcohol over doing well in school and eating healthy?

There personality may feel challenged with making bonds and connections. They may feel like they can’t ask for what they want or need from you. They gave up on what they wanted because you didn’t allow the freedom to the child to express itself as who it was. What they wanted wasn’t possible from you so they took another direction.

If you look at kids who grow up in low income neighborhoods, they don’t have the same possibilities as children who do. They may want to do something creative or not know why they have issues focusing or paying attention in school, but because what they want isn’t a available, they have no choice but to choose another path. Setting high limits and or being authoritative won’t change the real issue. Attempting o define who the child should be won’t either. They will just hide it from you.