From authoritarian to authoritative, permissive to neglectful, we’re breaking down the four types of parenting styles. Which one do you practice? 

By Lauren Pardee and Nicole Harris
Updated December 08, 2019
Illustration by Caitlin-Marie Miner Ong

Take one look around the playground, and you’ll surely notice a wide variety of parenting styles. In the 1960s, developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind described three distinct types—and a fourth was added later by researchers—based on parental demands and responsiveness to children. They include authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and neglectful.  Read on to learn the difference between the four major parenting styles, with information about other popular subtypes like helicopter parenting, free range parenting, tiger parenting, and more. 

Authoritarian Parenting Style

The authoritarian style of parenting focused on strict rules, obedience, and discipline. These parents have high expectations, and they don’t hesitate to punish when children don’t follow their guidelines. Authoritarian parents also take over the decision-making power, rarely giving children any input in the matter at hand. These types of parents aren’t nurturing, lenient, or communicable—similar to an army drill sergeant. 

The Effect on Children

When raised in an authoritarian style of parenting, children are well-behaved at home. But they may rebel when with classmates or friends.  They may also struggle with self-confidence, self-esteem, lower academic performance, and even substance abuse. 

Permissive Parenting Style

Oftentimes permissive parents act more like friends than authoritative figures. They tend to cater to their children’s needs without much discipline. For example, they might let (and even encourage) their child to drink soda at every meal, if that’s what he wants. Permissive parents are relaxed and lenient, and household rules are very minimal. They’re the total opposite of strict. 

The Effect on Children

Since they have high standing in the household, children of permissive parents are used to getting whatever they want. They can act entitled, egocentric, and rebellious—and they might also have antisocial tendencies with an inability to control their emotions. These children might also fail to put effort into school, work, or social endeavors; after all, they don’t have to put in effort at home. 

Authoritative Parenting Style

Baumrind considers this to be the “gold standard” parenting style. Moms and dads provide their children with boundaries, but they also give freedom to make decisions. They view mistakes as a learning experience—although justified punishment isn’t off the table—and they have clear expectations for their children. Authoritative parents are nurturing and warm, and yet they instill the importance of responsibility and discipline.  

The Effect on Children

Usually children of authoritative parents are confident, happy, and successful. They can usually be trusted to make the right decision on their own, and they often set high expectations for success. These children may also perform well academically and socially, and they’re less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol. 

Neglectful/ Uninvolved Parenting Style

This parenting style wasn’t initially defined by Diana Baumrind; it was added to her list later by other researchers (Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin). Essentially, neglectful parents ignore their children, who must raise themselves. They don’t set rules or expectations—but they also don’t provide guidance when needed. In extreme cases, a child’s welfare can suffer from this parental neglect. 

The Effect on Children

Without any guidance, structure, or parental involvement, children of neglectful moms and dads often act out. They might, for example, get into trouble with school officials or the law. They might also hesitate to form bonds with other people, and depression is also common.

6 Sub-Types of Parenting Styles

Of course, plenty of parenting style subtypes exist, but they all fall into the four major categories above. Here are TK other parenting styles that moms and dads need to know. 

Free-Range Parenting

Free-range parents allow their children the independence of being less-supervised or unsupervised in public—like in a park for example.

For a long time, parents who practice this style were considered neglectful, and many thought they endangered their children due to lack of supervision. In fact, some individuals faced trouble with the law after allowing their young children independence in public. But, more recently (and after much debate) states like Utah have passed laws in favor of the hands-off parenting style. Proponents say 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. Helicopter parents constantly intervene in their kid’s life, and they obsess about successes or failures (specifically, they want to protect their children from failure). The risk-assessing tendencies of helicopter parents are often driven by fear and anxiety that can hinder a child’s ability to learn integral life skills, confidence, and self-sufficiency.

Snowplow Parenting

Snowplow parents (also known as lawnmower or bulldozer parents) are easily willing to drop everything to fulfill their child’s wants and demands, no matter how small. They essentially “plow down” anything standing in their child’s way. Lawnmower parents often have good intentions and don’t want their children to experience struggle. However, 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. He 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 expect obedience and success. 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.

Attachment Parenting

With attachment parenting, moms and dads believe in a nurturing and hands-on approach to parenting. They think that putting a child's needs first leads to independence and emotional stability. Parents who follow this styke value physical closeness, bed-sharing and co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding, positive discipline, and other attachment-based approaches to raising offspring.

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