Where did you learn to parent? If you're like most people, you learned to parent from the adults around you--your own parents and caregivers, maybe friends who had kids a little bit before you did. If you're lucky, you had great examples of how to parent effectively and compassionately. If you're less lucky, you learned a lot about what not to do.
In family therapy, we think of 4 different styles of parenting: Authoritative, Authoritarian, Permissive, and Neglectful.
Authoritarian: These are the parents who rely on punishment or threat of punishment to get their child(ren) to behave in particular ways. These parents are typically less nurturing, and their expectations are extremely high, with limited flexibility. The likely outcome of being raised by an authoritarian parent is destructive rebellion, a lack of trust in the people around them (often due to love seeming to be conditional--based on performance), poor internal modulation, or an adherence to rigid rules and a fear of trying new things.
Permissive: These are the parents who really want to be their kid(s)' friend. They do not set limits and offer limited guidance. These parents can be very warm and nurturing, but struggle with rules and applying consequences if a rule is broken. In my experience, many permissive parents grew up in authoritarian or even abusive homes. They are so intent on avoiding their own parent(s)' parenting style that they do not consider the consequences of the choices they're making. The likely outcome of being raised by a permissive parent is low achievement, poor decision-making skills (as they have not been modeled or guided), and poor executive functioning skills.
Uninvolved/Neglectful: These parents either don't know about raising children or are uninterested in raising their children. While in many ways they resemble permissive parents, the key difference is that the permissive parent has some goal in mind and provides warmth and nurturing along the way. Uninvolved or neglectful parents provide little to no nurturing or communication. The likely outcome is a fear of becoming dependent on others, emotional withdraw from relationships, increased fear, anxiety, and stress due to having to meet their own needs before they are developmentally ready, and, statistically, increased risk of substance abuse/misuse.
Authoritative: These parents are clear and consistent about rules and consequences. They are nurturing and warm, and provide appropriate boundaries that allow their kids to be kids. Communication is clear and appropriate to the child's development. The likely outcome is adults who develop independence, self-regulation, and self-control.
It's pretty clear which parenting style is most effective in creating healthy, balanced adults. But what if you have no map about how to parent? Most people worry about being a "good enough" parent, but what does that even mean? Our "parenting capacity" consists of multiple areas:
Basic care: Are you providing for your child(ren)'s basic needs of food, shelter, clothing?
Ensuring safety: Are they in an environment free of violence (domestic violence, street violence, and/or civil unrest)?
Emotional safety: Do your children feel loved? Are you dependable and reliable? Is it okay to make a mistake as part of the learning process?
Stimulation: Do you provide your children with new and educational experiences? This doesn't necessarily mean a trip to Tahiti (by all means, if you can go to Tahiti, do it, and take me with you!). It could be reading to them as part of their nighttime routine, watching educational television with them, or assisting them with homework and other educational activities.
Guidance and boundaries: Do your children know what is expected of them? Are the rules consistent? Does the "punishment fit the crime" (that is, do you use natural consequences and parenting with logic)? Do you help your children think through the potential consequences of their choices?
Stability: Do you provide consistent care, or are you in and out of your children's lives? What about the people you form relationships with--are they expected to develop relationships with your partner(s) quickly, then push them aside when your relationship is over?
Parenting is tough enough when you have good role models. If you're struggling with your own trauma and trying to parent, it becomes even more difficult. A family therapist can assist you with that.