The Ultimate Guide to Parenting Styles

Published:  September 1, 2020 Updated: September 1, 2020

By  Cheryl Jerabek

The concept of parenting has evolved dramatically over the last few decades, and several styles have now emerged. One method may suit some parents and their lifestyle, while another may best tackle the requirements of different types of children. Not too long ago, there were only a couple of techniques parents could resort to in order to raise their children.

All this has changed with the advent of psychology and the unraveling of the secrets of a child’s mind as a result of this field of science. We now know that children are unique and special beings that need to be cared for in a manner that they best respond to. Armed with this information, let's dive into the ultimate guide to parenting styles. 

The Most Common Parenting Styles

The most common parenting styles are:

  • Authoritative Parenting
  • Authoritarian Parenting
  • Permissive Parenting
  • Uninvolved Parenting
  • Attachment Parenting
  • Gentle Parenting

We'll go over each type and even more styles below. 

Authoritative Parenting

The first four styles of parenting described below are collectively referred to as Baumrind parenting styles. According to popular theories, almost every parent in the world can be placed in one of the four Baumrind styles of parenting presented below. 

These styles contain qualities that are based more on the personality of the parents and the environment than the specific parenting style. Understanding the four types allows us to understand the basic styles of parenting, after which we can dive into more in-depth concepts.

The first type in this category is known as authoritative parenting. It’s the parenting style that is possibly the most common one followed around the world. It follows the simple mantra of “parents know best” and is characterized by two values—fairness and structure.

Parents who follow this style tend to appreciate effort and dedication over the actual results achieved by the children. They would much rather the child follow through on their instructions efficiently and even fail as a result, over the child following their own “heart” and succeeding in this manner.

Parents belonging to this school of thought tend to place self-control and obedience over everything else. They aren’t harsh when it comes to enforcing these ideals, opting to even use kindness and compassion in order to deliver their expectations to the mind of the child. 

They don’t believe in inflating the child's ego to make them follow their values, but they will also not undermine the structure of their parenting style to affirm the child’s beliefs.  

Parents who are authoritative don’t have a problem repeating their expectations to their child. They will often choose to communicate regularly with their kids regarding their thoughts and feelings.

Another trademark trait here is that there’s a remarkable level of consistency when it comes to handling a child under this style of parenting. Authoritative parents tend to be quite reasonable, and they follow the same guidelines over time to resolve any conflicts. 

The bottom line here has to do with rules and expectations. Authoritative parents have high expectations from their children, not in terms of achieving results, but in the context of seeing their child try their hardest regardless of the results.

They expect the child to give it their all, and once they have done that, they don’t care if the results have been achieved or not as the proper method has been employed by the child in a quest to achieve the results. 

Structure is king, and structure is key here!

Cause and Effect

Children raised under this authoritative style of parenting tend to be quite competent and possess the ability to understand and execute instructions with remarkable proficiency. They’re often more mature than their peers and also possess the ability to speak their mind whenever it’s most required.

Thanks to the consistency in their upbringing, these children tend to become confident and reliable adults who are able to practice higher levels of self-control with regard to various facets of their lives.

They also tend to be well-grounded in terms of their moral reasoning and don’t require supervision or assistance to make the right decisions in life. These children are often quite socially adept and are well suited to take on leadership roles.

Authoritarian Parenting

Although they may seem like similar styles on the surface, there’s a fair amount of difference between authoritative and authoritarian parenting styles. While both of these fall under the category of intentional parenting styles, authoritarian parenting is definitely the more controversial of the two.

Parents who follow this style are known to be controlling and stern with their children. They are the ultimate voice in the family and take very little interest in negotiating their ideals or values with their children. 

While authoritative and authoritarian parents both create and enforce a strong structure of rules and expectations for their children, the latter is far less concerned with communicating these rules with the children so that they’re aware of the expectations. 

The former will deal with any broken rules with a thorough discussion, while the latter will more often than not resort to punishing the child for straying from the norm. 

These parents aren’t flexible when it comes to rules, and they tend to have little to no patience for excuses when it comes to broken rules. 

Expectations play a big part in this style of parenting. Authoritarian parents expect a great deal of success in terms of academic and social spheres, but they may be poor when it comes to communicating said expectations. Most communication, in this regard, tends to only occur when the child has strayed from the norm.

Some of the techniques used in this parenting style when it comes to controlling the child’s behavior is opting for a cold and distant style of parenting. An authoritarian parent would much rather disconnect from the child emotionally to punish them, instead of speaking to them openly and honestly about the issue at hand. 

Such parents can also be controlling when it comes to the social circle of their child, making decisions about who the child can or cannot see, and even going as far as managing their interests and activities. This can extend to every element of the child’s life, including their likes and dislikes and even their choice of wardrobe.

Punishments come thick and fast in the face of disapproval, and children raised in this style tend to become fearful of disobeying orders.

Cause and Effect

When a child grows up in an authoritarian household, they can sometimes be quite antagonistic towards their peers and parents. Although the parent has tried really hard to control the actions of the child, it often results in the child acting out in extreme ways and taking drastic steps such as engaging in small crimes or delinquent behavior.

This style of parenting often creates the rebels of the world, as the child desperately tries to seize control of their own life in any manner possible. The child also has to deal with some emotional problems such as self-esteem issues that tend to come up because of the consistent discouragement provided by the parents.

Kids facing this style of parenting can also become quite anxious about dealing with conflicts, especially in relation to the parents themselves. This anxious mentality can take a toll on their social and academic performance. In the long run, it may even lead to emotional states such as depression.

Permissive Parenting

This is the style of parenting most children wish they had growing up, as permissive parents often have a difficult time saying “no” to their child. Such parents are known to be extremely warm without exercising too much control over their child's actions and decisions. 

In the eyes of permissive parenting, the happiness of the child is first and foremost on the list. Parents don’t care about social or academic performance as much as they care about seeing a bright and shiny smile on the face of their child. 

Permissive parents are known to be extremely loving, but they also take a hands-free approach to parenting, allowing the child to make their own decisions, especially after a certain age. The funny part here is that parents who end up becoming permissive in their style are often those who were raised by authoritarian parents.

The severe lack of control they experienced during their own upbringing makes them sometimes overcompensate when it comes to their own child. 

With regard to punishments, such parents tend to avoid enforcing anything too strict and are often the kind whose bark is far worse than their bite. There tends to be very little follow-through in this aspect of parenting, as they believe that showing love and support trumps any punishment they might throw the child’s way.

The concept of saying “no” is the most challenging part for a permissive parent, and this can sometimes come from a place of low self-confidence as well.

Cause and Effect

Children who grow up with permissive parents may find it jarring when they’re suddenly introduced into an environment with rules and structure. As these children have never been introduced to boundaries or have to seldom deal with rules, they can have trouble recognizing that other children need their own space in a public setting.

This can lead to some socializing issues to develop over time, and it may even affect the academic performance of the child if the parent deems this element as unimportant.

Other difficult behaviors displayed by such children include being bossy at times and even displaying a lack of impulse control.

Uninvolved Parenting

kids and teacher

Uninvolved parents are those who are physically or emotionally unavailable for their children due to a wide range of reasons. Such parents are either too busy for their kids, or they simply lack the emotional capability of being involved deeply in the life of their child.

Children who grow up around uninvolved parents tend to experience a lack of both control and warm emotions as the parents seem to be too distracted from reacting the right way to the needs of the child.

Such parents tend to require low levels of obedience and affection from their children and are also less likely to punish their child when they misbehave in any manner.

The defining trait of this style of parenting is simply a lack of interest in being a parent and accepting the many responsibilities that accompany the title. There could be several reasons why a parent adopts this style, although the broadest of them all tend to be severe abusive and emotional issues.

Uninvolved parents don’t communicate well with their child and display very few emotions towards them, regardless of whether a situation is positive or negative. They do not demand affection, and they don’t believe in showing it as well.

Cause and Effect

Children who grow up in such an environment tend to feel lonely and depressed due to a lack of attention from prominent figures in their lives. They can develop numerous social handicaps as a result, and rejection becomes a recurring theme in their world.

They can easily develop feelings of anger towards their family and peers, and they can also feel a severe lack of self-worth as well. There has also been strong research that suggests children who grow up in such an environment can develop issues such as attention deficit disorder and other related cognitive issues.

Attachment Parenting

The next six styles featured on our list provide a more comprehensive look at modern-day methods followed by parents around the world. These are known as intentional styles and they are concerned with specific choices made by parents with regard to raising their children in a particular manner.

Attachment parenting is the first of these six styles. Attachment parenting is where the adults are highly focused on understanding the unique requirements of their child. They work their hardest to provide for these needs to develop a deep attachment.

The concepts that are most related to this style of parenting involve maintaining intimacy and proximity with the child during formative years, offering necessary emotional support whenever necessary to nurture the needs of the child. 

Co-sleeping and babywearing are some of the habits that are commonly associated with this style of parenting. The philosophy behind this school of thought is that it's unhealthy for a child to be forcefully detached from their parents and that this process of detachment should occur naturally and at a comfortable pace for the child.

Parents who are drawn to this style are often known to be naturally intuitive towards the needs of the child. They’re capable of recognizing and reacting to these needs in a natural and healthy manner.

They create strong bonds with the child that last a lifetime, and non-verbal communication here becomes just as useful and effective as verbal communication.

Cause and Effect

Children who are raised under this style of parenting tend to naturally develop feelings of compassion towards the outside world. They can easily develop a strong sense of connection with adults and peers alike, and they are not known to be impulsive or overly emotional.

They are also emotionally confident and can utilize this skill to effectively socialize with their peers. Such children tend to be quite independent, and they don’t feel many insecurities about stepping into the greater world at large in order to exercise their curiosities and abilities.

Gentle Parenting

This is a new-age form of parenting whose characteristic principles are being positive, kind, respectful and offering unconditional love and support to the child. In this style, the quality of the bond between the parent and child is of foremost importance, and everything else is secondary to this relationship.

The bond, in fact, is even more important than punishing or disciplining a child. Methods of disciplining here don’t rely on positive or negative reinforcements, and bargaining is seldom used either. Instead, the parent relies on recognizing and encouraging positive traits and ensuring that a child feels well-loved and respected in their home.

The most important element of this style of parenting is understanding and recognizing those elements that make a child unique. After doing so, a distinct style of parenting is created in order to best match or suit the needs of the child.

Many gentle parents consider the point of view of the child as important—if not more important—than being rational in decision making. Unconditional love drives this style of parenting, and conversing with the child is seen as the best way to understand their innermost wants and desires.

child and baby with parents on their bed

Cause and Effect

Children who grow up under this style of parenting can develop a good sense of self-control over time. They tend to gain confidence through the simple act of communicating with the parent, and this open line of communication can leave them feeling more comfortable about sharing their shortcomings and misgivings as well.

Such children tend to be quite compassionate towards others because they’ve received plenty of compassion from their parents all their life. They also understand and respect the quality of unconditional love, and this tends to improve their feeling of empathy towards others.

Free-Range Parenting

Although this style of parenting sounds familiar to the method employed while raising cattle, it’s a new form of parenting as well and is known to be quite effective in the long run. 

In this method, a parent understands and recognizes the inherent intelligence of their child and develops a parenting style that will allow this sense of intelligence and independence to grow freely on their own terms. 

Free-range parents don’t shy away from allowing their children to find their own path in life. They firmly believe that they’re capable of forging their path if provided with the right number of opportunities and gentle guidance.

While most parents tend to view the outside world as a place that’s threatening to the lives of their young children, parents engaging in a free-range style of parenting believe that the world is actually much safer than we believe and that children are more than capable of navigating their way across this tricky terrain with far less support than we believe they require.

Overprotecting children, according to this style of parenting, can be more detrimental than offering children freedom, and hence the rules of parenting are devised around this principle.

Children are encouraged to develop their own train of thought from an early age, and they are asked to trust their own intelligence and competency when it comes to solving problems.

This style does not fear a child’s independence, but instead focuses on valuing the great things that may arise from embracing it.

Cause and Effect

Children who are raised in such an environment tend to be far more confident than their peers, and they also have a great deal of confidence in their own ability to navigate through the world.

The idea of surplus safety being damaging to a child is the exact opposite of this style of parenting. Instead, parents are more than happy to let a child engage with the outside world on their own terms, and this allows children to develop social and practical skills in an effective way.

This method also develops a healthy bond between a child and a parent without ever crossing over into the sphere of over-reliance.

Slow Parenting

This style of parenting is often referred to as simplicity parenting and is the exact opposite of the style practiced unconsciously by most parents around the world. 

While the expression “it's a dog eat dog world” tends to rule the minds of parents and forces them to train their children excessively to meet the challenges of the modern world, slow parenting disregards all of this.

This style believes that instead of bombarding the mind of a child with far too many schedules and routines, the best method involves keeping things simple and decluttered. This allows the child to make the most of any activity they are a part of, and it further allows them to deeply engage in their favorite routines without external pressures.

Minimalism is one of the operating principles of this style of parenting. This can extend to every facet of a child’s life, including keeping their home space and bedrooms clean and uncluttered.

This style believes that there’s more than enough time in the world for a child to get through the activities that are most important for their overall development and well-being. Therefore rushing a child through their young lives is a pointless and ultimately fruitless endeavor.

Cause and Effect

Children who grow up under this style of parenting generally enjoy every detail of their lives and childhood from an early age. They’re not overexposed to ideas of consumerism and commercialism, but instead, take their own sweet time to explore and contemplate their place in the world.

Such children rarely feel anxiety or excessive pressure, and their focus remains on quality over quantity at all times.

Tiger Parenting

This is a style of parenting that’s famously associated with cultures hailing from the East. The idea behind this style is that children must grow up to be exceptional versions of themselves, and the bar is therefore set very high for such children.

Characteristics of tiger parenting involves overscheduling a child’s days and over engaging them in a multitude of activities while simultaneously expecting the child to excel on all fronts.

Such parents tend to exercise high levels of control over a child’s life, and the levels of love and warmth are inversely proportional to the level of control being exercised. No bridge is too far to be crossed when it comes to making a child achieve their potential according to this style.

Therefore, tiger parents can be seen using insults and threats to get the job done and make their child successful in their eyes.

Perfection is the need of the hour when it comes to tiger parenting, and children are expected to deliver thoroughly with regard to academic, social and extracurricular activities. Negative reinforcement is openly and freely used under this style.

Cause and Effect

The goal of this style is to make a child successful through absolute dedication to the goals set by the parent. Children who grow up under the tiger parenting style may become successful in the future, and may also have a high level of discipline. 

Their satisfaction levels, however, may be low because they have encountered very little warmth and love from their paternal and maternal figures. This may develop an unhealthy sense of independence that can affect a child psychologically in the long run.

child reading with mom

Gender Neutral Parenting

This is yet another new-age form of parenting that relies on shedding stereotypes to dig beneath the surface of a child’s psychology and tap into their true personality.

This style is meant to eliminate the binary behavior that’s expected from children, as most of their characteristics are viewed through a gender lens. Eliminating this gender bias allows a parent to understand the true nature of a child and focus on their sense of self-expression in the long run.

Parents operating under this style often go with gender-neutral names for their children so as to avoid influencing their subconscious minds in any way. Such parents may even choose not to reveal the biological gender of the child to the rest of society, while only allowing the closest circle to know the sex of the child.

Choice of colors, activities and toys are all based on non-gender factors. While some parents may color a child’s room blue or pink based on their gender, gender-neutral parents avoid making such associations for their child and instead opt for neutral colors and patterns.

Children are taught to embrace their inner identities from an early age and are encouraged to keep this identity free from any gender biases to find the best version of themselves.

Cause and Effect

Children who grow up in a gender-neutral environment are often free from any preconceived notions when it comes to their own gender and the gender of their peers.

They tend to develop tastes and preferences that are unique and authentic to their own personalities, rather than by being influenced by the larger gender constructs seen in society.

Such children also do not feel any external pressures with regard to performing according to predetermined gender roles, and they often freely express themselves without judging their own choices through the gender lens.

Helicopter Parenting

The following four styles of parenting explored here are widely categorized as harmful parenting styles and should be avoided at all costs. The first of the four styles is known as the helicopter parenting style, and it refers to a style that’s insecure and untrusting.

Such parents are profoundly uncomfortable in letting their child be, and they feel a constant urge to protect their child from the many harmful elements of the world around them. They tend to be quite negative and pessimistic, and they can affect a child’s social and emotional growth by over-involving themselves in the child’s life.

Even when the interference in the child’s life crosses over into the realm of unproductivity, helicopter parents cannot recognize the cues to back off in order to let their child make their own decisions.

It almost verges into the area of inappropriate behavior, and they cannot stop themselves even when other parents or peers are asking them to step back from the child’s life.

Cause and Effect

Children who grow up in such an environment feel like their privacy is always being pushed to the brink. They are continually being controlled by their parents, and this takes a toll on their emotional and social growth. As they cannot make their own mistakes and learn from their follies, they become averse to taking risks, and this again affects their social development.

The lives of the parent and child tend to intermingle at unhealthy levels, and it can almost feel suffocating or overbearing for a child. Such children may end up resenting their parents in the long run, and it can also lead to emotional turmoil and developing feelings of anxiety and depression.

Snowplow Parenting

Snowplow parents are sometimes referred to as bulldozer parents, which is one of the most common mistakes made by individuals while adopting a style of parenting.

Parents here mean well when it comes to caring for their children and offering them the best in terms of facilities and privileges. The problem occurs when they take over the life of the child entirely and choose to make their decisions for them to prevent them from feeling any pain or discomfort. 

The idea is to bulldoze or snowplow any issues or obstacles out of the child’s life so that they don’t have to face such problems on their own. In the parent’s eyes, their child won’t have to experience failure, missed opportunities and frustration. 

Although the parents mean well with this tactic, it can ultimately be damaging to a child as they miss out on developing important life skills, learning responsibility, and overcoming challenges.

Cause and Effect

Children who grow up under snowplow parents feel excessively pressured even though their parents are trying really hard to solve their issues for them. This is because parents under this style may create opportunities for their child that the child didn’t ask for, and they may end up forcing them to follow through on these opportunities regardless of their interest levels.

Such parents may even resort to lying or being dishonest with their children or for their children in order to produce a position of interest or benefit for their child. They tend to lack a sense of fairness and objectivity, and they don't care about the condition of the child’s peers in a quest to achieve their own goals.

newborn holding hand

Narcissistic Parenting

This style of parenting is driven by the human ego, and it can be profoundly damaging to the psyche of a child. Instead of viewing their children as separate and individual beings, narcissistic parents tend to see their children as an extension of themselves and their own personality.

According to narcissistic parents, children only exist to meet the emotional and physical needs of the parents, and this may even extend to social spheres. Here, parents view the accomplishments of children as their own accomplishments, choosing to take the credit for all their best work.

They believe that the child would not be able to achieve any of their best feats without the support of the parent, so they can easily accept all the credit for the child’s work without thinking of their emotional state.

Such parents tend to be highly controlling and invasive, and they can even have emotionally abusive tendencies.

They follow an abusive pattern of providing extreme affection and follow up this behavior with a poor sense of devaluation of the child. They try to live out their own goals and fantasies through the life of their child, and they use their child to fulfill any desires or goals they may have missed out on during the course of their life.

Cause and Effect

Children who grow up in such an environment may be exposed to emotional frailty from an early age. They are experiencing a form of emotional abuse without knowing it, and this can affect their personality growth in the long run in a negative manner.

They tend to lack independence in thought and action, and are raised continuously around conflicting emotions that affect their train of thought and overall mental clarity. Growing up, the child will experience low self-esteem and feel like they aren't good enough. They are also at a higher risk of suffering from anxiety and depression.

Toxic Parenting

This is widely considered to be the worst type of parenting style in the world, and it can be physically and mentally damaging to a child. In toxic parenting, there is often one form of abuse or another being practiced by the parent. Either they are complicit in the abuse being dished out to a child, or they play an active role in the abuse as the abusers themselves.

Toxic parents tend to be highly uninvolved and neglectful towards the needs of their child. There’s often an ongoing pattern of actions that bring guilt, fear, shame or manipulation for the child. They may even emotionally or physically abandon the child at a young age. 

Cause and Effect

Children with toxic parents undergo one form of physical, emotional or sexual abuse from a very early age. They don’t receive basic considerations such as proper housing or clothing, and they feel a severe lack of emotional warmth from their parental figures.

They tend to become emotionally absent individuals themselves, and they may grow up to follow a similar style of parenting if they ever have children of their own.

Such children tend to be deeply stressed as they take the brunt of this turmoil by experiencing one form of physical or mental issues over time. 

They are highly vulnerable members of society, and they need to be cared for by a responsible parental figure or another to avoid negative repercussions because of their parents. 

The Circle of Life

Parenting styles tend to have a drastic effect on the personality and behavior of children. This, in turn, dictates how these children treat their offspring in the future, as well as their character and role in society. It’s the circle of life in its most glorious and persistent form, and it pays to understand the elements you need to focus on to give your child the right advantage in life.

From the numerous parenting styles presented above, it’s evident that there are many ways to raise a child, and who’s to say that one style is more effective than the other? What we do know is that some styles of parenting, such as toxic parenting, can be highly damaging and must be avoided at all costs. 

Cheryl Jerabek

Cheryl Jerabek lives in a tiny remote town in Southwestern Colorado. She writes full-time from her cabin nestled in the mountains. She often expresses how lucky she feels to be able to do what she loves from a setting that looks like a postcard. When she’s not writing, Cheryl loves hanging out with her husband and two grown children, her dog, Joe, and adores spending time with her three grandchildren.

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