How parents raise their children has always been up for speculation and criticism since the post-WWII days of Dr. Spock. His book published in 1946, The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, suggested that parents knew the best way to raise their kids. He even states in the introduction, “You know more than you think you do.”
He advised that the more care, contact, and consideration a parent invested into their child, the better their child will turn out. How you did it, for the most part, was completely up to you.
With that in mind, psychologist Diana Baumrind, in the 1960s, packaged how people parented into three categories:
- Authoritarian– the old school parent who is strict, demanding, and rigid regarding behavior and emotions. Although this method means well, it sets up the child up for emotional struggles as they age (ex: difficulties processing and/or showing emotions) along with their abilities to become an independent adult. My way or the highway…
- Authoritative – the ideal parent that is both highly demanding and responsive. This allows kids to feel safe but gives room to grow and become independent. We make these rules because….
- Permissive – the go-with-the-flow parent who puts the child in charge but is emotionally available. The downside is that it limits control on behavior, resulting in insecurity and testing boundaries of others. Sure, go for it…
Because these types are rather broad, modern parenting has created some new terms to describe childcare, for better or worse. There are many labels out there, but here are a few worth noting:
- Brick Wall – seeking order, control, and obedience through strict rules and fortified with threats and bribes
- Hippo – parents metaphorically “sitting” on their child until they comply
- Tiger – prioritizing academic success above all else, limiting their child’s choices and opportunities for independence
- Lawnmower (aka snowplow or bulldozer) – having a strong desire to protect their child from any struggle or obstacle that may be in their way, thus removing it from their path
- Helicopter – micromanaging their kid’s lives so that they may succeed, taking responsibility for their child’s experiences
- Hummingbird – hovering nearby if/when needed, but tries not to interfere in the choices their children make
- Backbone – providing clear and consistent rules within the context of a caring and loving family
- Dolphin – striving for balance between firmness in discipline but flexibility to permit their child’s autonomy, guided by parent’s intuition
- Elephant – nurturing emotional security and connection, especially in the child’s early years; protective in nature
- Attachment – forming a strong caring bond with their child using close physical contact as well as reading and responding to baby’s cues
- Peaceful – providing a safe and supportive environment that promotes emotional bonding and connection as this is the main focus
- Pussycat – sitting back and letting the child lead; opposite of tiger parent
- Free Range – encouraging their child to engage in age-appropriate responsibilities independently with the focus of building grit, confidence, and resilience; opposite of helicopter parent
- Jellyfish – embracing emotions and communication, but has limited structure, consistency, or expectations for their child; opposite of brick wall parent
In truth, it doesn’t really matter what you label your parenting style, or if it fits into any or all of them. You might be a blend of styles, or change styles as your kids grow.
Do any of these labels truly make a difference in terms of your child’s physical development in the grand scheme of things? No.
Babies are hard-wired to bond with their caregivers regardless if they’re loving or not. Babies will meet their developmental milestones; some may just take longer than others. As long as you are present with them, responsive to their needs, and trying your best, they’ll be just fine.
So, what kind of parent are you? A good one.
That’s all you need to know.
Parenting Styles Are About You, Not the Baby | Fatherly
Parenting Styles Revealed – Care.com
Parenting Styles for ADHD Children: Brick Wall, Jellyfish, or Backbone Caregivers (additudemag.com)
From hummingbird to helicopter—what’s your parenting style? – Motherly
Parenting terms explained: Lawnmower, attachment, tiger and more (usatoday.com)
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