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What’s Your Parenting Style?
Knowing yours — and learning from the others — can help you give kids your best
(Getty Images.)
(Getty Images.)

There’s no single right way to parent, and nobody sticks to one style all the time. Maybe you’re a free-range parent, who gives your child independence and endures the worry that comes with it. Or are you a lawn mower mom — someone who, for better or worse, mows down all obstacles in your child’s way? The best approach: Pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of various methods, then decide what works for you and your family.

AUTHORITATIVE

Keeps kids accountable with firm rules and gentle discipline.

PRO: Remarkably well-adjusted children.

CON: Lots of work up front to lay the groundwork.

Authoritative parents demand a lot from their kids, from keeping them accountable for their homework to helping with chores. Unlike authoritarian parents, who set strict boundaries but don’t facilitate skills to meet them, authoritative parents readily explain and reinforce expectations. “Research indicates that children of authoritative parents tend to enjoy positive relationships with their peers, do well in school and become independent and self-sufficient,” says Lisa Damour, Ph.D., author of Under Pressure.

ATTACHMENT

Fosters strong connections through physical and emotional closeness.

PRO: The bond between parent and child is rock-solid.

CON: Because it’s extremely demanding, it’s easy to lose a sense of individuality.

This method, which maximizes skin-to-skin touch, was popularized by William Sears, M.D., and his wife, Martha Sears, R.N., who claim that babies of attachment parents cry less and have fewer behavior problems than other kids. Proponents of it, like Attachment Parenting International, advocate breastfeeding, responding with sensitivity to a baby’s needs and nurturing touch and physical contact as the child grows. However, many experts believe the same results can be achieved without the demands of constant contact. “Most parents — 70% to 80% — form secure attachments with their children regardless of breastfeeding and baby-wearing,” says Emily Edlynn, Ph.D.

FREE-RANGE

Encourages a child’s independence and autonomy.

PRO: Kids develop self-determination that benefits them throughout their lives.

CON: So. Much. Worrying.

The term “free-range parenting” was coined by Lenore Skenazy, who let her 9-year-old ride the New York City subway system alone. Freerange parents encourage kids’ independence by giving greater autonomy. Unlike permissive parenting, in which parents forgo rules entirely, it doesn’t call for a total lack of oversight. “Freerange parenting emphasizes the child’s functioning independently with judicious parental supervision,” says Kyle Pruett, M.D., a clinical professor of child psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine and an advisor for the Goddard School. Parents are responsible for knowing local laws regarding leaving kids unsupervised.

LAWN MOWER

Works hard to keep kids’ lives easy and free of conflict.

PRO: It makes adolescence slightly smoother for kids.

CON: The transition to adulthood can be rough.

Lawn mower parents, also called “snowplow parents” or “bulldozer parents,” are extremely involved in their kids’ lives, doing things like arranging schedules, asking for accommodations and negotiating on behalf of their families so their kids don’t have to experience disappointment or setbacks. While this may mean their kids have somewhat easier lives in the short term, those children don’t get to flex their problem-solving muscles on their own. “Kids who rarely or never have to face significant challenges, experience the sting of failure or navigate a bumpy journey are likely to become less resilient, less confident and more anxious,” says Carla Naumburg, Ph.D., author of How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t With Your Kids. “The only way to truly know you can bounce back, stand strong or muddle through is by having to do just that, in small and big ways, over and over again throughout your life.”

OTHER

Parenting Styles & Methods

Helicopter Parenting

Parents “hover” over their children, ready to swoop in and intervene at any sign of distress. Kids don’t have to deal with roadblocks, but this style can hamper their abilities to learn problemsolving skills on their own.

Positive Parenting

This style uses a collaborative approach to discipline—parent and child work together to find a solution rather than punishing misbehavior. It requires a high level of communication so kids understand expectations.

Tiger Parenting

Inspired by Amy Chua’s 2011 book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, this style sometimes uses tactics like shame to enforce a very high standard. Still, it’s based in a very loving parental mentality.

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