Parenting Styles 101: The Ultimate Guide to Raising ’Em Right

“Raising kids is part joy and part guerilla warfare.” ― Ed Asner

You are in charge of an entire human.

Anything that goes wrong is literally your fault.

How do you know that what you are doing, saying, thinking, enforcing is “right”?? Ask your partner? Your parents (yikes)? You can’t ask other parents about their parenting style. Admitting weakness at a mommy-and-me event is social suicide, and you will be judged.

But you’ll also be judged if Junior is a joke, a jerk, a janitor.

So, you observe other parents in their natural habitat, hoping to learn from their mistakes.

And you have quickly learned the following: not all parents were created equally.

This should be easy, right? You got raised. The planet is full of adults. How hard can this parenting thing really be?

Really hard.

Really, really hard.

It’s so hard you might lose friends who refuse to set boundaries with their kids. It’s so hard you might find yourself having panic attacks at the thought of dropping your child off at school. It’s so hard you might start fighting with the adults you respect and love most in the world.

That hard.

But the most rewarding things usually are hard. So study up (and parent-up)! Here is the Ultimate Guide to Parenting Styles and how to raise ’em right.

(You got this. I promise.)

What is Baumrind’s Parenting Style Theory? (And Why Do I Need to Know this?)

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” –Frederick Douglass

In the 1960s and ’70s, Dr. Diana Baumrind, a developmental psychologist, observed and interviewed 100 families with pre-school age children through late adolescence. She was the first to study the same families for such an extended amount of time and the first one to include fathers. Her ultimate goal? To understand different parenting styles and how they affect child development. In a nutshell, she wanted to know how parents can make happy, healthy kiddos.

She noted two essential aspects of parental behavior: demand and response.

Parental demand is parental control. Essentially, how much do your demands control Junior’s behavior? In momsplain, how mature do you expect the little bugger to be all on his own?

Not as much as you’d like?

More than you should?

Parental response refers to emotional response: How well do you respond to Junior’s needs?

It probably depends on the day, right?

Baumrind eventually identified three parenting styles: Authoritative, Authoritarian, and Permissive. In the 1980s, Maccoby and Martin added another style to Baumrind’s Parenting Styles: Neglectful Parents, more on them later. Most importantly, she identified which parenting style is the best for Junior.

And once you learn the *BEST Parenting Style, you’ll be ready to face the chaos of parenting.

Take a quiz. Then read on MacDuff.

So What Are the 4 Parenting Styles? (And Which is Best)

1. Authoritative Parenting: Kind Authority (the BEST)

What is it? Authoritative Parenting sounds intimidating, but it basically involves talking. A lot. You talk about emotions, problems, consequences, mistakes, quantum physics (impressive!). You set boundaries, communicate your expectations, BUT you are empathetic, understanding, and warm when Junior messes up. And Junior will mess up.

What does it look/sound like? It looks like love and mutual respect. It sounds like “I love you but you messed up. How can we fix this situation?” It uses “we” instead of “I” or “You.” It sounds humble and honest.

How it may affect your child? This parenting style tends to produce high-achieving kiddos with healthy self-esteem and solid social skills. Yay! Authoritative Junior is less likely to be anxious, depressed, or a delinquent. Authoritative Junior is flexible, compassionate, and mature.

2. Authoritarian Parenting: Rigid Authority (not so good, not fun)

What is it? Authoritarian Parents are intimidating. You talk AT your children. You dictate rather than elaborate. You expect Junior to behave like a small adult with little complaining and even less guidance or nurturing from you.

What does it look/sound like? It looks like condescension. It looks like lists, pointed fingers, and dismissive gestures. It sounds like “Because I said so!” It lacks understanding and compassion.

How may it affect your child? This parenting style seems to produce low achievers, with spotty self-esteem, and weak social skills. Authoritarian Junior may have depression, anxiety, and seek to suppress emotional pain with substance abuse. Junior might also act out and become Junior the Jerk.

3. Permissive Parenting: Indulgence(not so good, fun for a while)

What is it? Permissive Parents are the Jedi Knights of distraction. You PLAY with your kids, which is great, but you play far more than you talk. You live to make Junior happy and to avoid anything unhappy. You think rules are harsh and may struggle making them or enforcing them.

What does it look/sound like? It looks like a friend rather than a parent. It looks like gifts, games, and giggles. These parents avoid conflict and confrontation..with anyone. It sounds like, “Kids will be kids.” It sounds like, “Hey what should we do tonight? What sounds fun?’ It lacks reality.

How may it affect your child? Permissive parents tend to create egocentric children, shocking, huh? These kiddos may act impulsively to escape anything uncomfortable. And while Permissive students stand anywhere on the academic success ladder, they tend to struggle with low self-esteem and few quality relationships.

4. Neglectful Parenting: Uninvolved (the absolute worst)

What is it? Neglectful parents are self-centered and cold. They can’t be bothered to read this, but their partners might. They are careless with their actions and words. Sadly, they may suffer from mental illness, like depression, and be unable to properly parent. They teach their kids that they are unworthy.

What does it look/sound like? Neglectful parents are physically absent or emotionally absent. They look glued to their technology. Neglected Junior may have ill-fitting clothes, a lack of school supplies, unkept hair, downcast eyes or he might just be distant and wary of others. It sounds like “me.” “Don’t make me look bad” or “Don’t make me get up.”

How it may affect your child: Neglected Junior may also suffer from impulsivity, not knowing how to process emotions, or deal with conflict. Neglected Junior may act out, drop out, or turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to escape. Neglected Junior is most likely of all Juniors to choose the ultimate escape, suicide.

What Are These Other Parenting Style Labels I Keep Hearing About? Helicopter and Tiger and Free-Range Parents (Oh, My!)

These labels are trendy terms, not official parenting styles. They all fall under the general umbrella of Authoritarian Parenting: Helicopters are Authoritarian enablers; Tigers are Authoritarian hunters; Free-Rangers are Authoritarian hippies.

Helicopter Parents (not good, but very tempting)

What are they?

Helicopter parents love to hover, hence the name. You are afraid of Junior getting hurt or messing up. You swoop; you hover; you enable.

The. Best. Parent. Ever. (psst. You think you are, no one else)

You generally can’t relax or sit down at the park, and it is possible that you have occasionally completed a homework assignment or a project on behalf of Team Junior.

How might they affect their children?

You mean well, but you are not helping Junior.

At all.

Helicoptered Junior is likely to be immature with low self-esteem. “Adult” Helicoptered Junior struggles. Some return home, some stay far away, most report resentment and high levels of stress and anxiety when faced with the everyday challenges of adult life.




Tiger Parents (not good, and just not fun at all)

“Children are gifts. They are not ours for the breaking. They are ours for the making.” ― Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing

What are they?

Tiger parents are fiercely demanding; Authoritarian Parents with a cool name. The name comes from a memoir, The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom, by Amy Chua. Chua describes her demanding upbringing and how she raised her own daughters using a very strict work ethic.

Tigers demand success from their cubs. There is no free time for frolicking in the jungle.

How might they affect their children?

Tigers, like Helicopters, mean well but they fall short. Studies reveal that tiger cubs are no more successful than their peers. In fact, they tend to suffer more than their peers from mental illness, anxiety, depression, and many rebel. Chua herself writes about the backlash of one daughter and how the Tiger Mom had to change or lose her daughter forever.

Learn from the OG Tiger Mom.

Sheath your claws.

And stop growling so much.

Free-Range Parents (neutral, with a side of risk)

“The most important thing that parents can teach their children is how to get along without them.” ― Frank A. Clark

What are they?

Free-Range Parents are Authoritarian Hippy Parents who believe in giving their children “free-range.” They may look like Permissive or Neglectful Parents because their chicks get to experience an almost shocking amount of freedom, but these parents think the best way to grow up is to be independent. They are the opposite of Helicopters and Tigers. They believe a child can walk to school alone and even make a meal. They have a “You’ll figure it out” attitude towards parenting.

How might they affect their children?

Like the chickens and eggs they are named after, Free Range parents generally raise healthy chicks because expectations and consequences are part of life on the free-range farm. The chicks also need to be old enough, and mature enough, to handle all that freedom. Unfortunately, not every chick is created equal. Free-Range parenting can quickly become Neglectful Parenting if one eye isn’t kept on the chicks.

Parenting Styles Psychology: How Can I Use This to Be a Better Parent?

“Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.” ― Benjamin Spock, pediatrician

So you’ve done the reading. (I’m so proud of you!)

You know the styles: the traditional and the trendy. You see yourself, your friends, your partner, even your parents.

You may feel validation.

Or, you may feel concern.

Don’t freak out. Parent up.

If you aren’t an Authoritative Parent yet, you still can be. Do more research, if necessary, and remember Authoritative parents TALK.

A Grain of Salt: Limitations of Parenting Studies and Theories

“Before I got married I had six theories about raising children; now, I have six children and no theories.”― John Wilmot

While Baurmind’s Parenting Styles are considered the dominant Four Parenting Styles in America, they may not hold true in other countries. So if you live somewhere else, somewhere unlike America, the styles of parenting may be different and yet still effective.

Regardless of your location, these identified styles are fascinating.

And please, don’t worry if you find yourself Permissive Parenting one day and Authoritative Parenting another. There isn’t one label that fits every single day. You’ll probably change things up a bit based on what is happening in your unique family. Just be reflective. Parent consciously not reactively.

And move forward.

Baurmind did not study these families for decades just so we could label our parenting style, she did it to help us be better at the hardest and best job we will ever have.

Nature vs Nurture

How much of an influence does my parenting style really have? Aren’t there a lot of factors involved?

After about 50 years of research on 14.5 million sets of twins, science can confidently say that DNA and environment have equal influence when it comes to the development of our little humans.

So 50% DNA + 50% environment = 100% Junior.

That environment half is your parenting style, your community, your culture, your education, your socio-economic situation, your morals, your marital status, your mental health, your physical health, your paint choices….you get my point.

That 50% is made up of a whole lot of stuff.

Relax. Control what you can and move forward.

Parenting Style Diversity: How to Deal

“The children who need love the most will always ask for it in the most unloving ways”― Russel Barkley

And what if one parent is Neglectful and the other is Authoritarian? Does the good one cancel out the bad? Or, is it the other way around?

Remember three important things:

1) Neglectful parents were probably neglected themselves,

2) You can’t change anyone other than yourself.

3) The parent who talks can undo the pain of the parent who doesn’t.

Child Temperament and How to Adjust

What if your first kid is super easy and you’ve been Free-Ranging it and then number two comes along and kicks your parenting butt?

Make like the OG Tiger Mom and adjust.

Kids in the same family can be very different, but their uniqueness shouldn’t affect your parenting style. It will affect how you communicate and how your child feels love.

Some kids roll their eyes at the pointed parental stare while others dissolve into hiccups and tears. Some unicorn chicks will flourish wherever they land, no matter how barren the soil.

Moving Forward

“Parenthood…It’s about guiding the next generation, and forgiving the last.”

― Peter Krause

Face it. The pay stinks. The hours blow. The benefits seem to only exist in some faraway future. But for those who do it right, parenting is the best job you’ll ever have.

All you have to do is channel your inner Dory. Just keep talkin’.

Talk through every awkward question, every sassy look, every lie, every heartache, every day.

Talk your way to happy and healthy kids.

And if things hit a road bump, or you don’t know how to talk, get some help. You can do more research about specific situations, or meet with a family therapist. If you’re having trouble getting your parenting partner to see the importance of a unified approach, try using this Ultimate Guide to Parenting Styles as a way of opening up a dialogue. Spouses and partners need talk, too.

It’s never too late to be a good parent. (I promise.)



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