Kurt Lewin distinguished between three basic styles of education, namely the authoritarian style of education, the democratic style of education and the laissez-faire style of education.
The authoritarian style of education is a behavior in which the educator is the authority figure, where authoritarian means bossy and commanding. The educator has the say over the child, gives orders and determines what the child has to do and not do, whereby the educator does not act personally, but rather in a distant manner. Due to the authority of the educator, the child’s freedom of action and creativity is severely restricted. Often, children are only guided by what they are told and do nothing spontaneously or on their own initiative. It can also happen that children who grow up under such a style of education behave more aggressively and emphasize their own person as more positive by deliberately drawing attention to the weaknesses of other children. In most cases, however, children learn to behave in a disciplined manner, may be better able to adapt to their environment, and are taught clear values and rules.
The democratic style of education contrasts with the authoritarian style and is therefore often referred to as anti-authoritarian. Here, the educator is not the determining person, but involves the child in all decisions. The goal is to work together and to talk openly with the child about future tasks and activities. In particular, it is discussed which goals are being pursued with the respective actions, whereby the children are encouraged to make their own decisions and to find new solutions. The educators give reasons for their actions and statements, praise objectively and also criticize, whereby co-decision-making is made dependent on the respective age of the child. In most cases, children who are raised democratically are very creative and can express themselves constructively on issues. They are also able to solve problems themselves and act on their own responsibility. They usually have a high self-esteem and self-confidence. A problem with this form of education can be that children like to discuss everything and this often requires a lot of patience and time from the parents. In addition, children may not be willing to accept rules or boundaries in everyday life.
Laissez-faire means as much as letting do, i.e., under this requirement, the educator remains largely withdrawn and passive. The children are free to express themselves, and the educator’s task is to provide the child with situations and materials and, if necessary, to offer assistance. However, they tend to act in a neutral and reserved manner, because the goal is to let the child be a child. Some children who grow up with this style of parenting may seem somewhat lost, but gradually take on a productive and active role and increase their sense of responsibility. However, it can also happen that children perceive this style as excessive demands and do not overcome them positively, but react bored, frustrated or irritated.
These three parenting styles basically never occur in pure form, but there are always mixed forms and overlaps.