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Parenting in Canada

Parenting styles play an important role to help children develop emotional and social skills to succeed in Canada. While basic tenets such as love, support, and encouragement are common around the world, you might find being a parent in Canada different than in your country of origin. For example, in Canada, many parents encourage individuality in their children. Parents raise and support their children up to the age when they are legal adults (usually 18). After age 18, it’s common for children to move away to college and find part-time work.

This independence helps young adults to learn how to manage money and build strong personal and professional connections early on. In many community-based cultures, there is a tradition to live with all family members under one roof. This is unlike the culture in Canada where people in their 20s like to assert their independence.


Along the same lines, children are taught to respect themselves as individuals from a young age. So children learn that physical or mental abuse is not appropriate. While in some countries spanking might be acceptable, it’s not accepted in Canada. Rather, being a parent in Canada is based on mutual respect and treating your child with dignity. So it’s important to foster strong relationships by listening to their children’s thoughts and ideas. Parents influence rather than simply dictate to their children. This approach also translates for children later in life, when they are in school or in the workforce.


It’s important that parents foster self-esteem, confidence, and social skills in their children to help them succeed in Canada.

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Challenges for Newcomer Parents

While many immigrant parents face more challenges than they expected, they take comfort in knowing they are giving their children a great start in life. As all parents do, immigrant parents have many hopes and dreams for their children. And you want them to be happy, healthy, and successful.

You may find that you have to adapt your cultural expectations and parenting style to fall within new norms. Adapting to a different style can help you to deal with issues you may face.

In this context, here are some of the issues you may face:

1. Finding the balance between your traditional culture and the Canadian way of life.

2. Helping your kids adapt to school in terms of their studies and day-to-day activities.

3. Helping your kids make friends and deal with discrimination or bullies.

4. Dealing with kids who want to wear clothes and do things you don’t approve of.

5. Ensuring your kids don’t get involved in violence or drugs.

4 Parenting Styles

After living in Canada, many immigrant parents admit that they have changed their methods, styles, and behaviours since coming to Canada. The style you use to raise your children can have different effects on them. Researchers have identified four main styles and their characteristics.

1. Permissive Style

In a permissive style, parents are often warm, accepting, and avoid confronting their children.  Parents make few demands of their kids and allow them to regulate their own behaviour as much as possible.

Typically, permissive parents do not enforce rules on their children. Research suggests that children of permissive parents have difficulty regulating their emotions and controlling their impulses. Children of permissive parents are more likely to show signs of depression and anxiety and tend to struggle in school. And children may also make poor decisions when their parents provide few guidelines which can affect their decision-making skills.

Permissive Parent Characteristics:

  • are nurturing and loving
  • act more like a friend than a parent
  • enforce few rules or standards
  • provide little structure.

Parents with this style can develop a more authoritative habit by introducing and enforcing rules.

2. Uninvolved Style

Like permissive parents, uninvolved parents make few demands of their children. However, they show little warmth or responsiveness toward their kids. As you might expect, children of uninvolved parents tend to be the least well-adjusted. Researchers identify that children with uninvolved parents tend to display low social skills and academic performance.

Uninvolved Parent Characteristics:

  • provide little or no supervision and rarely set rules
  • are emotionally distant from their children
  • set few expectations
  • have little involvement with school events such as parent-teacher meetings.

This style can be quite damaging for children. With little support, love, and structure, children with dismissive parents are less emotionally healthy.

3. Authoritarian Style

Authoritarian parents have high demands on their children and they tend to be controlling. Strict parents provide highly structured and well-ordered environments for their children. They emphasize values such as respect for:

  • authority
  • work, and 
  • order and tradition.

Authoritarian Parent Characteristics:

  • have very strict rules
  • punish rather than discipline their children
  • provide little feedback or negative feedback
  • are impatient with misbehaviour.

With this style parents expect their children to obey strict standards and rules. They believe that their children should accept their decisions without question or dissent. This may sound familiar to your own upbringing. Or, there may even be some form of corporal punishment such as spanking to make children comply. But, this is not acceptable in Canada. In fact, you could even find yourself in legal trouble, if you punish your children physically.

It’s not surprising that children of strict parents have been found to be more anxious and withdrawn than other children. They tend to have relatively low levels of self-esteem and high levels of depression. However, these children are less likely to engage in problematic or antisocial behaviour and tend to perform well in school.

If this is your style, you can consider how to adopt a more authoritative style.

4. Authoritative Style

Authoritative parents expect their children to respect authority and follow strict standards and rules of conduct. With this style, parents prefer to reason or negotiate with their children when resolving conflict. Authoritative parents encourage their children to be both assertive and self-controlled. And, it’s no surprise that children of authoritative parents appear to be the best adjusted and tend to have better social skills. They effectively regulate their emotions and impulses and are less likely to engage in problematic or antisocial behaviour. These children have relatively high levels of self-esteem and happy disposition.

Authoritative Parent Characteristics:

  • set limits and expectations on their children’s behaviour
  • provide fair and consistent discipline
  • allow children to express opinions
  • show warmth and nurture their children
  • encourage independence
  • listen to their children.

Whatever your style, it’s important to recognize how it can affect your child’s development and success in Canada. So, be strong, impart your values, but allow your children some flexibility to discover themselves, determine their futures and shape their own beliefs. With your love and support, you’ll raise healthy and resilient children who will succeed in Canada.

For more information, tools, and free webinars about living in Canada visit our Settling in Canada resource page. We’ll help you to settle in Canada successfully!