The Annual

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6+ Popular Parenting Styles You Should Know About

parenting styles

We all have different approaches to how we parent our kids, but no matter how we operate, we almost certainly fall into one of four clinical approaches. Read on to learn more about the base parenting styles and their more common, modern-day offshoots.

In the 1960s, renowned clinical and developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind identified three main parenting styles—authoritarian, authoritative and permissive. In practice, they are just as they sound: Authoritarian parents are often overbearing and imperious; authoritative parents provide a balance between structure and independence; permissive parents provide little in the way of boundaries and guidance. In the 1980s, a fourth style—neglectful—was added by Stanford researchers Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin. In this last style, parents don’t interact much with their children at all.

But these days, you rarely hear about parenting approaches in these scientific terms. Instead, you hear about parenting styles that come up in pop culture. Of course, every one of these modern-day approaches fits into the researched psychology of years gone by, but no one refers to themselves or other parents on the playground as “authoritative” or “permissive.” You will almost certainly, however, meet proud tiger moms and anxious helicopter dads. So, we’ve decided to give you a rundown on the most common buzzword parenting styles, to help you better understand all of the parents you’ll meet in the wild.

Free-range parenting

The term  free-range parenting was coined by writer Lenore Skenanzy in 2008. Skenanzy wrote an article entitled, “Why I Let My Nine-Year-Old Son Take the Subway Alone” and received national attention, both good and bad, for her decision. Free-range parenting is focused on raising independent, self-reliant kids who explore, take risks and make decisions for themselves from a young age. Allowing kids to make and learn from mistakes is also a hallmark of this approach.

Helicopter parenting

It could be argued that helicopter parenting is the exact opposite of free-range. The term “helicopter parent” was first used by Dr. Haim Ginott, in his 1969 book Between Parent and Teenager. Helicopter parents are extremely overprotective and involved (sometimes too involved!). They monitor their child closely, from their relationships to their activities. Though the parent’s behaviour comes from a desire for their child to be safe and to succeed, kids can feel smothered and stunted.

Mindful parenting

This concept was first introduced in 1997 by professor and meditation and stress expert Jon Kabat-Zinn. Parents who practice the mindful approach focus on being fully present in their child’s life, prioritizing understanding and communication. Mindful parents aim to promote a calm and emotionally intelligent family environment. It does require a high level of self-awareness, though, which isn’t always possible depending on how parents were raised themselves.

Attachment parenting

Attachment parenting as a term was first introduced in 1985 but many of its tenets date back decades before. Those who follow this approach believe that secure attachments in infancy can lead to strong bonds between parents and children as they grow, and that these kids will develop into confident and empathetic individuals. This style often involves things like co-sleeping, baby-wearing and responsive caregiving. 

Lighthouse parenting

This term was introduced in 2015, by pediatrician Kenneth Ginsburg, in his book Raising Kids to Thrive: Balancing Love with Expectations and Protection with Trust. Lighthouse parenting is a balanced approach that merges independence with guidance. Parents act as a beacon (hence the name) offering support and advice, but ultimately kids are given the freedom to navigate their own paths and make their own decisions.  

Tiger parenting

Perhaps the most famous of the modern parenting styles, this idea was introduced in 2011 by Yale professor Amy Chua in her book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Tiger parents are extremely invested in the success of their children, setting strict standards and rigorous routines. Children raised by tiger parents are often pushed to excel academically, as well as in high-status extracurricular activities.

Other notable parenting styles include gender-neutral parenting (where children are raised to look beyond gender stereotypes as they explore the world); eco-conscious parenting (where families place a high value on being eco-friendly, as well as teaching kids about environmental impact); and tech-savvy parents (those who embrace that their children are digital natives and use technology to enhance their child’s upbringing).  

It can be argued that many parents don’t fall into one, definitive category and instead take bits and pieces from different philosophies. And you don’t have to stay in one lane, either. If you find yourself veering too much into a negative approach, change course. Or if your kids need a new approach to thrive, take their cue. It’s all trial and error, and no has all the answers.

Originally published in October 2023. Updated in February 2024.

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