The 6 Main Parenting Styles And Their Pros And Cons

By Nadia Khan|Updated May 2, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Lauren Guilbeault, LMHC

Are you wondering where to start when it comes to parenting styles? There are many styles out there, but the main ones include attachment parenting, permissive parenting, helicopter parenting, free-range parenting, authoritarian parenting, and authoritative parenting. Each style has their pros and cons, so it is best to choose what is right for your family.

The Main Parenting Styles

helicopter parenting mom mad

Each parenting style has different characteristics, and the personalities of your children will respond differently to each style. Some people decide on a style before their child is born, where 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.

Attachment Parenting

Attachment parenting encourages empathy and responsiveness between the parent and the infant. Furthermore, it 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 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.


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.


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. 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 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’s definition is a style that has low demands with high responsiveness. Parents who practice this act more like a friend than an authority figure. The opposite of permissive parenting is helicopter parenting, as permissive parents do not have much structure and do not enforce rules.

However, the permissive style is different than free range parenting. Free range parenting 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.

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, maybe demanding, and lack self-discipline. 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. 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 will not help the child succeed on their own. In fact, it can create anxiety in the child while stunting their cognitive and emotional development.

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.

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.

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 early on in life. 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.

Most free-range parents find a balance between letting children run completely free and being a helicopter parent. Furthermore, 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.

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

  • 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.” Authoritarian parenting is seen as one-sided and children must conform to the rules of the parent
  • The consequences of authoritarian parenting:
    • Children will often rebel due to their strict upbringing
    • Children will 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

Authoritative Parenting

Parents set clear boundaries with flexibility adjusting their expectation to meet the needs of the specific child. Authoritative parenting separates negotiable from non-negotiable rules.

  • The pros of authoritarian parenting:
    • Children are more likely to discuss feelings with their parents & seek advice from them
    • Fosters a relationship that strengthens the bond between parent and child
    • Children typically become well-adjusted adults

Do What Is Best For You

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 needs 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, reevaluate your parenting style and adapt it as necessary.

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 is 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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