From Free-Range to Tiger, Helicopter to Lawnmower we are breaking down today's most popular parenting styles so you're in the know. Because let's face it, it's hard to keep up.

By Lauren Pardee
Updated: October 12, 2018
Sharomka/Shutterstock

Sure, every parent wants the best for their kid. But one look around the playground and it's impossible not notice that there are a ton of different parenting styles out there. For example, are you the mom who rushes your child to the doctor for a paper cut? Or are you the rub-some-dirt-on-it type of mom? Well, whichever it may be, there's a name for it.

From the constantly hovering helicopter parent to the totally hands off free-range approach, we broke down the five most common parenting styles being adopted by moms and dads today. New parents, take note. And seasoned ones? You may think twice about your style once you see just how your neighbor is raising her kids.

Free-Range Parenting

The official definition of “free-range” is livestock kept in natural conditions, with freedom of movement. Without referring to livestock, free-range parenting is similar in the way that these parents allow their children the independence and self-reliance of being less-supervised or unsupervised in public—like a park for example.

For a long time, parents who practice this style were considered neglectful, endangering their children due to lack of supervision—some individuals even faced trouble with the law after allowing their young children independence. But, more recently (and after much debate) states like Utah have passed laws in favor of the hands-off parenting style—it can instill amazing qualities like self-sufficiency and resilience.

Helicopter Parenting

If you’re an overprotective parent who feels the need to control most aspects of your child’s life you likely fit the bill of a helicopter parent. Thebump.com notes the characteristics of a helicopter mom or dad as someone who, “Constantly intervenes to prevent failures, overlooks kids’ weaknesses, [and] hovers closely.” These consistent risk assessing tendencies are often driven by fear and anxiety that can hinder a child’s ability to learn integral life skills, confidence, and self-sufficiency.

Lawnmower Parenting

“Instead of preparing children for challenges, they mow obstacles down so kids won’t experience them in the first place,” weareteachers.com explains. Lawnmower parents (also known as snowplow or bulldozer parents) are easily willing to drop everything to fulfill their child’s wants and demands no matter how small.

These parents often have good intentions and are motivated by not wanting their children to experience struggle. But, these habits don’t provide a foundation for long-term happiness, they can actually strengthen a child’s anxiety of failure.

Lighthouse Parenting

One of the more balanced methods of parenting, the lighthouse approach was coined by pediatrician and author Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg who said in his book, Raising Kids to Thrive: Balancing Love With Expectations and Protection With Trust, "We should be like lighthouses for our children. Stable beacons of light on the shoreline from which they can measure themselves against. Role models. We should look down at the rocks and make sure they do not crash against them. We should look into the water and prepare them to ride the waves, and we should trust in their capacity to learn to do so." This means finding the perfect balance when loving, protecting, communicating, and nurturing your child.

Tiger Parenting

Often displaying rigid and harsh characteristics, tiger parents are described by iflscience.com as someone who, “expect[s] first-time obedience, excellence in every [endeavor] and a child who never talks back.” This term gained mainstream attention due to Amy Chua’s book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom, where she describes tiger parenting as an authoritarian method commonly used in Chinese culture. Iflscience.com notes that while tiger parents can raise children to be more productive, motivated, and responsible, children can form anxiety, poor social skills, and face difficulty functioning in a day-to-day setting due to their parent’s high demands, name calling, and constant expectations for perfection.

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