The 6 Main Parenting Styles And Their Pros And Cons

By Nadia Khan|Updated July 21, 2022

Are you wondering where to start when it comes to parenting styles? There are many parenting styles out there, but the main ones include attachment parenting, permissive parenting, helicopter parenting, free-range parenting, authoritarian parenting, and authoritative parenting. Most parents don’t fit neatly into one parenting style. Parenting practices and family environments are very personal and tend to depend on many factors.

Still, looking at the different parenting styles that have been studied can give you some insight into what research shows are best parenting practices. Each parenting style may have its pros and cons, so it is best to choose what is right for your family while keeping in mind best, researched-based practices for healthy child development. Also, maintaining a healthy, supportive relationship with your children can result in positive outcomes for both parents and kids. This relationship can be aided and strengthened through online counseling services.

The Main Parenting Styles

helicopter parenting mom mad

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Each parenting style has different characteristics, and the personalities of your children and their stage of child development can affect how children respond to each style. Some people decide on a preferred parenting style before their child is born, while others decide later in their child’s life. Either way, it is important to recognize the different parenting styles and decide what is best to help your child develop into a successful adult.

As your child grows, it is a good idea to reevaluate the parenting style you are using and how it is working for your child. By being able to recognize and understand the different styles, you will be better able to adapt to the child’s needs and your child’s temperament. If you are parenting children with a partner, discussing your parenting styles may help you be on the same page as you’re raising kids.

Attachment Parenting

Attachment parenting tends to be focused on the infant stage of child development. Attachment parenting encourages empathy and responsiveness between the parent and the infant. Furthermore, this parenting style encourages bodily closeness to parents or caregivers to enhance the attachment between the adult and infant.

The eight principles of attachment parenting include:

  • Feed the infant/child with love and respect
  • Respond to their needs with sensitivity
  • Practice nurturing touch
  • Ensure safe sleep, both emotionally and physically
  • Provide loving care consistently
  • Use positive discipline
  • Aim for balance in your personal and family life

Feeding

Feeding with love and respect includes breast and bottle feeding infants. The goal of feeding is for the parent to follow the cues for infants and children to ensure they eat when they are hungry, and stop eating once they are full. It is important to remember your children will model their eating habits after you, so be sure to choose healthy foods. This can be part of your individual parenting style.

Listening

Responding with sensitivity to your infant and child builds trust while strengthening the bond. Since babies cannot communicate with words, they communicate with different cries or cues. Listen to the nuances of each cry and then respond appropriately. They may need assistance in soothing themselves, help to sleep, or guide them in regulating emotions.

Touch

Babies and children need nurturing touch just as adults do, but it is even more important for skin to skin contact at a young age. A few ways to use nurturing touch is with bathing, massage, and breastfeeding. Babywearing is also a big theme in attachment parenting. Special babywearing clothes and clothes can be purchased, so you never have to set the infant down. For older children, cuddling, massage, and back rubs are a good way to meet the needs of nurturing touch.

Children and babies respond well to the physical presence of a caregiver who provides them with loving care. With the attachment parenting style, the caregiver should ideally be a parent, but it can also be a grandparent or daycare provider. The important thing to remember is the caregiver practices the same attachment relationship techniques just as you do. Talk to your family members or caregiver about what is expected of them when caring for your child.

Positive Discipline

Positive discipline for children helps them develop compassion for others as well as their internal discipline. Positive discipline is an approach that can be used in different parenting styles. It also helps strengthen the respect, love, and empathy between the children and the parents. Remember to communicate with other caregivers the expectations of discipline and positive reinforcement.

Balancing in your personal and family life is important, so remember it is okay to say “no.” Make sure each family member has their own needs met without compromising your health. Do not be afraid to ask for help if your own needs are not being met.

Permissive Parenting

child of free-range parenting

Permissive parenting is known as one of four Baumrind parenting styles (named for developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind). These four parenting styles are permissive, authoritarian, authoritative, and neglectful or uninvolved.

Permissive parenting’s definition is a style that has low demands with high responsiveness. Parents who practice this parenting style may act more like a friend than an authority figure. A permissive parent may show a lot of warmth and affection to their child but may shy away from discipline or conflict.

The opposite of permissive parenting is helicopter parenting, as permissive parents do not have much structure and do not enforce rules. A permissive parent may not have routines in place for their children or set limits. They may also be indulgent parents, letting their children have or do whatever they want and giving in if a child begs, for instance.

However, the permissive style is different than free range parenting. Free range parenting is a parenting style that allows kids to explore and experience their limits. While their daily life is not as structured, children of free-range parents do experience natural consequences and are not bribed to act a certain way.

Permissive parents are also different from neglectful parents. Neglectful parents (sometimes called uninvolved parents) tend to put little or no structure in place for their children, show little or no warmth, and don’t meet their children’s needs. Uninvolved parents tend to lack closeness with their child.

Most often you will hear permissive parents saying, “kids will be kids.” Children with permissive parents often struggle with self-control and self-regulation.

A few characteristics of permissive parenting:

  • Use bribery to get a child to behave
  • Have little or no structure or schedule
  • As the opinions of children on major decisions
  • Rarely enforce consequences
  • Inconsistent rules
  • Loving and nurturing towards their children

Research has shown that children with permissive parents have poor social skills, may be demanding, and lack self-discipline, which can result in behavior problems. The children may also feel insecure because of the lack of guidance and boundaries put on them.

If you feel like you are falling into permissive parenting, there are a few things you can do. Create a list of household rules and expectations. Once the rules are established, have penalties for breaking the rules. Following through with the consequences may be the hardest part, but it is the most important part. Be firm and consistent and provide explanations when necessary. Furthermore, be sure to reward good behavior, and most kids respond better to positive discipline.

Helicopter Parenting

You will notice a helicopter parent when they hover over their child, or when the parent tries to micromanage their children’s lives. Helicopter parents are the opposite of uninvolved parents. They tend to be overly involved. Most helicopter parents are just trying to help their children succeed in life, especially with the competitiveness of today’s world. Not failing may seem like a good thing, but it may not help the child succeed on their own. In fact, it can create anxiety in the child while stunting their cognitive and emotional development. Children raised by helicopter parents may also have low self-esteem.

Anecdotal evidence from college counseling centers has shown that parents who are overly involved in their college-aged student’s lives are more likely to cause academic difficulties for their children. Furthermore, these students were more likely to experience depression and anxiety. While uninvolved parenting can leave kids neglected, excessive overinvolvement or pressure may also have negative outcomes. Please seek professional help if your concerned about mental health issues.

If you notice you or another caregiver have been excessively hovering over your child, take a step back. Listen to your child’s thoughts and allow them to manifest their own goals, wishes, and dreams.

Author Amy Chua coined another parenting style that’s similar to helicopter parenting. It’s called tiger parenting. She wrote specifically about tiger mothers who she says are of Chinese origin, although many people countered that this is not a Chinese parenting style typically used to raise Chinese children. (Parenting styles may be influenced by culture or origin, but broad labeling may not be accurate. For example, saying “Spanish families” do things one way while “French families” do things another way can be a limiting or even untrue stereotype).

Chua claimed that tiger mothers are highly controlling and that as a result, their children achieve and accomplish more at high levels. She specifically emphasizes Asian adolescent school performance and heavy practice or rehearsal schedules from early childhood through early adolescence and onward. This cultural notion, however, may be a stereotype and not offer a true understanding of Chinese parenting. Furthermore, tiger parenting is not linked to positive social, emotional, or better school performance or academic outcomes for children.

The do’s and don’ts of helicopter parenting include:

  • Don’t manage your children’s communications
  • Don’t help your child escape consequences
  • Don’t treat your child in a way they expect to be better than or receive different treatment than children around them
  • Encourage independent problem solving
  • Support your children’s teachers and their opinions

 

Free-Range Parenting

Remember when you could roam the streets as a child without the worry of Child Protective Services being called on you? That is part of the idea of free-range parenting, and the other part is raising their children to be autonomous and responsible from early childhood. It is the opposite of helicopter parenting.  

The idea is that children live in an adult-controlled world. They go to a school that is controlled by adults, have activities planned by adults, and routines scheduled by adults. Free-range parenting pushes kids to learn how to self-repair and self-manage themselves while parents offer limited guidance.

Most free-range parents find a balance between letting children run completely free (an uninvolved parenting style) and being a helicopter parent. However, it’s important to note that there are laws in some states that impose limits on children being left alone. For example, in Colorado or Delaware, if a child under 12 is left alone the state will investigate any reports that are made. In North Carolina, fire laws say that a child under the age of eight should not be left home alone. In Illinois, you cannot leave a child at home unless they are 14 years old. These rules are usually intended to keep a child safe until they’ve reached a stage of adolescent competence.

It can be important to keep in mind that if a parent focuses on giving a child too much independence before they’re developmentally ready, the child’s safety and wellbeing may be compromised. Additionally, uninvolved parents may not meet the needs of their children. Kids aren’t ready self-manage themselves completely. Uninvolved parenting may lead to neglect. An uninvolved parent may not form a strong, healthy bond with their child.

If you are thinking about free-range parenting, try these tactics:

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  • Life is not fair, and that includes children too. Some may have more natural abilities than your child, and that is okay.
  • If one parent is more worried about dangers than the other, have the less worried parent monitor more risky activities.
  • “I can’t vs. I won’t.” Some children will have skills to complete other tasks where others will not. Is your child anxious and frustrated? Or do they not have the appropriate amount of skills? It is up to you to assess the situation and provide guidance from there.
  • Gradually reduce the number of rescues your child needs from a situation.
  • Mild anxiety is okay, and children can pay attention to what they are doing when they channel it.
  • Children develop coping skills by experiencing risks, so let them take safe risks.

Authoritarian Parenting

  • This parenting style can be seen as uncompromising and “military-like” parenting. The main goal of this style is to bend the will of the child to the “authority figure”—the authoritarian parent.
  • Authoritarian parents may use yelling and physical punishment to force children to comply.
  • Authoritarian parents may be highly critical of children’s behavior.
  • Authoritarian parenting is seen as one-sided and children must conform to the rules of the parent.
  • An authoritarian parenting style may focus on strict rules and stern discipline.
  • Parental control may be prioritized by authoritarian parents.
  • Authoritarian parents tend to be less responsive and less nurturing.
  • An authoritarian parent may be more likely to give negative feedback in response to children’s behavior.
  • Authoritarian parents may not be tolerant of child behavior they disapprove of even if it’s developmentally appropriate.
  • Authoritarian parenting practices may come across as aggressive.
  • The consequences of authoritarian parenting:
    • Children will often rebel due to their strict upbringing, which can result in behavior problems.
    • Children may view relationships and situations as black and white only.
    • Children may grow to have very high expectations for themselves and exhibit low self-esteem or harming behaviors if they are to fail or not achieve a goal they set out for themselves
    • Children tend to be unhappier and more insecure with themselves
    • Children whose parents show bullying behaviors may engage in bullying or delinquent behavior.

Authoritative Parenting

Research shows that the authoritative parenting style strikes the best balance of rules, structure, and discipline with warmth and flexibility. The authoritative style is considered the optimum parenting style by many because child outcomes tend to be more positive with this parenting style. The authoritative parenting style also tends to be the one that mental health professionals prefer as a basis for parenting.

Authoritative parents tend to be nurturing and responsive. Parents who embrace this style tend to encourage independence but are also supportive and helpful.

Authoritative parents also set firm, reasonable limits for their children and communicate those limits clearly. Authoritative parents tend to explain rules, discuss, and reason. Authoritative parenting separates negotiable from non-negotiable rules. An authoritative parent tends to let children experience the natural consequences of their behavior.

Authoritative parenting is not the same as authoritarian parenting. Authoritarian parents tend to be more strict and more focused on complete control rather than flexibility. An authoritative parent may be more open to problem-solving with their child. If a child fails to meet expectations, they may be encouraged to learn from the experience and grow from it.

Authoritative parents set clear boundaries with flexibility, adjusting their expectations to meet the needs of the specific child. They also tend to take into consideration the intellectual development, emotional development, behavioral development, and social development of their children. The pros of authoritarian parenting:

    • Children are more likely to discuss feelings with their parents and seek advice from them because authoritative parents tend to foster a secure, comfortable, trustworthy environment.
    • Fosters a relationship that strengthens the bond between parent and child, as an authoritative parent tends to be responsive to a child’s emotional needs.
    • Children may be more likely to become well-adjusted adults when they are raised by authoritative parents.

Do What Is Best For Your Child

How parents raise children is very personal. The right parenting style is what is right for your child. There are many styles out there, and many can be crossed into a style of your own. Maybe your child could benefit from free range for one thing but needs more attachment parenting when it comes to sleeping. Each child is their person, so their needs will differ. As you and your child grow together, you can reevaluate your parenting style and adapt it as necessary. The best parenting style may the one that meets the needs of your child and supports their positive growth and development.

Reach Out For Help

Raising a child is not an easy task. The phrase, “it takes a village to raise a child” didn’t come from nowhere. It is important to have your support system around to help you. It’s also a great idea to enlist professional help, if needed. A therapist may be able to help you understand the main parenting styles (and other parenting styles) and then help you develop one that’s best for your child and that works for you. Many therapists have an understanding of child psychology, child development, and children’s emotional needs and can share this helpful knowledge with you. They can also help you with mental health issues or concerns.

A therapist can a great resource to have while navigating the challenges and hurdles of parenting. BetterHelp offers online therapy at a low cost. It includes 24/7 contact with your therapist and the ability to talk from home, if needed. Consider reaching out for professional parenting help today.

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