parenting styles

Raising a child may be one of the most rewarding jobs you’ll ever do, but it’s not always easy. Unlike in the workplace, it’s hard to know what skills you need for the role. Some parents follow the same approach their own parents used, while others choose ways that reflect their own personality, for example laid-back or assertive.

Psychologist, author and parenting researcher Dr Justin Coulson says in recent years there’s been an explosion in clever names for various parenting styles, like tiger mum, helicopter parent and dolphin dad.

“Free-range and helicopter parenting are opposite extremes,” says Justin.

“Balanced parents will typically find themselves somewhere between the two poles.”

Wondering what type of mum – or dad – you will you be?

STYLE: Attachment

What is it?

Also known as natural or instinctive parenting, the philosophy behind this approach is that a child’s emotional and physical needs should be responded to closely, building a strong relationship of trust and intuition. Breastfeeding for an extended period, carrying your child and having minimal separation from him are also associated with attachment child-raising.

You’ll love that…

Attachment parenting is developed from the ideas of the late psychologist John Bowlby, who believed the way an infant is connected to his mother would be the basis for his future relationships and sense of personal worth and security. “If the mum is emotionally available and warm towards her child, then a deep bond will develop, and he will feel secure enough to explore the world,” says Justin.

What you might not like…

Some mums establish a literal, physical attachment with their child, like carrying him in a sling, and try to avoid their child experiencing pain, hurt or discomfort,” adds Justin. “But this may mean the child may not experience challenges necessary for growth,” says Justin.

STYLE: Tiger

What is it?

The concept of tiger mums has become increasingly popular after the book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua. Tiger mums have a strict, tough-love approach to parenting and are big on discipline, sticking to the rules and wanting their child to achieve pre-determined outcomes. This can mean they have very high expectations of their children and drive them towards achieving perfection.

You’ll love that…

Tiger mums believe their child has many strengths and should make full use of them. “If a child is driven hard by his parents the likelihood is that he will achieve amazing results and become tremendously accomplished,” says Justin. This could foster a strong sense of self-belief; it also demonstrates the rewards of hard work.

What you might not like…

Tiger mums can often be demanding and demeaning and research suggests such an authoritarian approach could be soul-destroying for children. These youngsters may struggle to develop their own identity, instead allowing others to choose it for them. “This has been shown to be an ineffective approach in the long run and may lead to negative outcomes including depression, aggression and low wellbeing,” Justin says.

Whatever your parenting style, your child’s first day of school will tug at your heart strings.

STYLE: Helicopter

What is it?

Watching out for your baby is a completely normal part of parenting, but these mums and dads constantly ‘hover’ over their children. Helicopter parents pay close attention to what their little one is doing, attempting to him safe at all costs.

“These parents can’t bear to think something bad might happen to their child,” says Justin. “Knees are kissed after falls and bad marks are argued about – not with the child – but the teacher.”

You’ll love that…

Helicopter parents are very involved in their kid’s life and they also have the best intentions. “Children parented this way feel safe knowing their parents will always have their back,” says Justin.

“In return they have the reassurance that they believe they are doing the right thing, as they won’t let anything bad happen to their offspring.”

What you might not like…

Kids need challenges, setbacks, hurt and failure in order to learn and grow. “There may be a day when you aren’t around to fight your child’s battles, and it could lead to them feeling lost, helpless and afraid,” says Justin.

STYLE: Free-range

What is it?

In this tolerant approach to raising children, a child doesn’t have any boundaries. Free-range parents often let their kids have the freedom to play and explore the world around them, at their own pace. These parents are less likely to over-schedule their child and have a laid-back approach to discipline.

You’ll love that…

By being so tolerant, free-range parenting enables children to learn how to become independent and gain the confidence required to discover the world around them. “They’re allowed to be ‘kids’, to roam, explore, discover, go places and try things,” Justin says.

What you might not like…

A lack of supervision can lead to concerns about physical and emotional safety. “Kids may struggle academically and may go a little wild if they haven’t been trained,” says Justin. “Research has shown the free-range approach is associated with negative outcomes, and in some instances causes delinquent behaviour.”

STYLE: Dolphin

What is it?

American researcher Shawn Achor, recently coined the name of this style of parenting. He believes dolphin dads have a social, playful and upbeat approach to child-rearing.

You’ll love that…

Some scientists believe a positive mental state is the real key to a child’s success. “Most parents want to have a good relationship with their children,” says Justin. “Having a dolphin dad or mum can be great for building a relationship, terrific for activity, experience and fun.”

What you might not like…

The limitations to this method are that you may quickly lose respect and authority. “Treating your kids like your friends may sometimes earn your brownie points,” says Justin.

“But research tells us that being ‘friends’ can make the relationship challenging when you need to enforce limits or standards.”

A few more?

David Ozab, dad blogger at Fatherhood etc, has come up with these parenting styles, tongue firmly in cheek.

  • Cheetah mum: Like a tiger mum, only faster!
  • Octopus mum: Arms everywhere!
  • Sea turtle mum: Leaves her young on the beach to fend for themselves. What doesn’t eat them makes them stronger.
  • Alligator mum: Protects her own children. Eats everyone else’s!
  • Peregrine falcon mum: Swoops in with no warning, but at least it’s a quick kill!