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Exceptional parenting begins before a child is even born. Parenting classes, books about various parenting styles, talking to other parents are all extremely helpful, especially for first time parents. A “parenting style” is basically a psychological set of standards used by parents for child rearing. There are dozens of different theories and opinions on the best way to raise children. Many parents create their own style from a combination of factors, and these may evolve over time as the children develop their own personalities and move through life's different stages. Parenting style is largely influenced by one’s own parents and culture, and also affected by both the parents' and children's temperaments. Most parents learn some practices from their own parents. Some of these practices they may accept, but others they may disagree with and discard when parenting their own children. Exceptional parenting, therefore, means different things to different people, depending on culture and they way they, themselves, were reared.

Secretary of State, and former First Lady of the United States, Hillary Clinton, says “children are not rugged individualists.” She continues to say, "everywhere we look, children are under assault: from violence and neglect, from the break-up of families, from the temptation of alcohol, tobacco, sex and drug abuse, from greed, materialism and spiritual emptiness." She endorsed infant determinism (the idea that a person's life is determined by events during the first three years of their life, and therefore that parents must tread very carefully) at the White House Conference on Early Childhood Development in April 1997.

Diana Blumberg Baumrind, clinical and developmental psychologist, researched what she considered to be the four basic elements that shaped successful parenting: responsiveness vs. unresponsiveness and demanding vs. undemanding. From these, she identified three general parenting styles: authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive. Baumrind believed that parents should be neither punitive nor aloof. Rather, they should develop rules for their children and also be affectionate with them. Most parents do not fall completely into one category, but fall somewhere in the middle, showing characteristics of more than one style.

There is no single definition of exceptional parenting and it can be a “touchy” subject. What is right for one family might not be good for another. Strict, authoritarian parenting and permissive, indulgent parenting are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Most parents fall somewhere in between. One of the biggest effects on parenting is socio-economic status. For example, living in a dangerous neighborhood could make a parent more authoritarian due to fear of their environment. Parents who are more highly educated tend to have better jobs and security, and this reduction of potential stressors has a significant effect on parenting. When all is said and done, parenting is one of the most challenging jobs on Earth, and often greatly underappreciated.


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