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Parenting 101

What's Your Parenting Style?

Understanding the Schools of Thought on Parenting Techniques

January 01, 2011
Parenting advice from the media experts? Check. Guidance from Aunt Helen, your book club friends and co-workers? Check. Tips from your child's pediatrician? Check. Considering this, plus the more than 100 books on child-rearing published each year, we should all be Parenting experts by now, right?

Not really. In the realm of parenting, where most parents are fumbling for a proverbial light switch at 2 a.m. for elusive answers to their parenting questions, the fact of the matter is there is a wide variety of parenting styles.

Ultimately, there is likely no single parenting philosophy, book, piece of advice or article that can encompass every parent, child, family or situation, which makes the information overload a little more understandable.—we're all just trying to figure it out.

Here are seven different parenting styles which run the gamut. Depending on your beliefs on parenting, there are a variety of methods you can try.

1. Attachment Parenting

Dr. William Sears is credited for coining the term Attachment Parenting (AP). Attachment Parenting consists of an intuitive, high-touch relationship between parents and their children. Sears identifies three goals of AP parenting: to know your child, to help your child feel right and to enjoy parenting. Babywearing and sleep-sharing when children are small are two of the key components of the AP movement.

2. Free Range Parenting

This style advises parents to feel free to send their kids out to play—unattended—and, in doing so, is a non-neglectful and positive experience for the child. Free Range Parenting is "a movement dedicated to fighting the other big movement of our time, helicopter parenting," says Lenore Skenazy, founder and author of Free Range Kids. "Childhood is supposed to be about discovering the world, not being held captive."

3. Helicopter Parenting

Also known as Hyperparenting or Overparenting, helicopter parents focus on protecting their kids' childhoods, as well as help them avoid any challenges they can foresee and prevent. Though helicopter parents (aka hoverers) mean well, this parenting method has been criticized for being fear-based and not giving children opportunities to think for themselves.

4. Slow Parenting

In Slow Parenting, emphasis is placed on play and unstructured activities, as well as encourages time for exploration in the natural world—there is even a place for boredom. Carl Honoré, a Slow Parenting advocate, advises against "grownups taking over everything. Slow parenting means allowing our children to work out who they are rather than what we want them to be."

5. Unconditional Parenting

Author of the book Unconditional Parenting, Alfie Kohn believes "children learn how to make good decisions by making decisions, not by following directions." The idea is not to control children by rewards and punishments, but rather to work with them. Kohn wants to help parents to reconnect with their instincts and question their long-held assumptions about parenting. He states, "It's not just about discipline, it's about the ways we think about, feel about, and act with our kids."

6. Authoritative Parenting

This is a child-centered, responsive parenting approach that helps children become independent, while also placing limits on their behavior. There is give-and-take between the parent and child, and effort is made to be empathetic and treat the child with respect and dignity.

7. Gender Neutral

Neuroscientist and author of Pink Brain, Blue Brain, Lise Eliot contends that by focusing on the innate gender differences in males and females we limit our child's potential. The solution? Provide more balanced opportunities for both genders to participate in what is generally considered "boy" or "girl" play. For example, encourage boys to play with kitchen sets and girls to play with male-marketed Legos.

Nancy Mosier, a Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist at St. Francis Hospital shared her parenting style insights. "One of the parenting styles we see frequently in the hospital is where the children "rule the roost." Children are given no boundaries and the general thought is that "kids will be kids." A lot of the time, parents are wanting to create an ideal environment for their child, which may not be totally bad but is not always realistic. We live in an imperfect world and need to concentrate on teaching our children how to cope. Being a parent of three boys, I know my parenting style has changed over the years. Pick one or two philosophies that work for you, your home situation, and your children. It needs to be something that you agree with, can implement, and more importantly, stick with. Seek advice and help as situations arise."

Dr. Sarah Hill, a Pediatrician with Riley at Methodist and mother of two young children, also shares a similar viewpoint. "There are lots of styles and lots of books out there, probably too many. You have to know what works for you and what works for your child, and what works for one child may be different from what works for another child. There are certain styles that don't work as well. The authoritative style has consistency and certainly has rules, but it's flexible, versus someone who is authoritarian."

Dr. Hill also notes, "On the other side of that, you have someone who is very permissive with a lack of rules and consistency. So, trying to be authoritative means saying 'I have rules, I have expectations and I'm going to be flexible' and try and respond to your child's needs. The biggest thing I see is probably lack of consistency. That inconsistency of 'I've got rules today and I don't have them tomorrow' is very confusing to a child and really just invites them to test the rules (or lack thereof) more often."

Dr. Andrea R. Schwarte, Pediatric Neuropsychologist at St. Vincent Neuroscience Institute provides several tips on parenting.

Be warm, but firm. "Parenting styles that are loving and warm, but that set firm expectations for behavior tend to result in the happiest, most well-behaved and well-adjusted children. Children need to know their limits, so the boundaries should be predictable (e.g., hitting is never allowed) and consistent. Whenever a limit is set ("stop bothering your sister or you'll be in time out"), follow-through is extremely important."

Follow through and remain calm. "If you threaten a consequence, you must follow-through with it or you are teaching the child that they do not have to listen to you the next time. However, this should be done in a calm manner. Do not allow yourself to become overly angry or emotional when disciplining your child. It is okay to model a parenting 'time out' in order to collect yourself before imposing a consequence."

Provide choices. When possible, provide two acceptable choices to the child so he/she feels like they have some control. For example, "Do you want to start your homework before or after you have a snack?" (not doing homework at all is not an option).

Balance means everything. Overly permissive parenting, where children get to make all the choices for themselves, does not work well. Styles where parents are rigid, demanding and overly harsh tend not to work, either. In the former style, children often become rather aimless and insecure, while in the latter style, they can become angry, resentful and emotionally disturbed.

Ask for help. If parents are really struggling or their children are particularly challenging, I recommend setting up several sessions with a psychologist who specializes in behavioral methods and parenting."

In the grand scheme of parenting, only you know what will work best for your child, but knowing when to ask for help, when to step away, how to keep a comfortable balance and remaining consistent can go a very long way. If you want to learn more about the typical parenting styles, check out the resources listed here for more information or ask your pediatrician for recommendations on parenting support.

Krista Bocko is a freelance writer and lives in Noblesville with her husband and four children. She can be reached at kbocko@sbcglobal.net or via her blog at www.cachetwrites.com.

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Extreme Parenting Styles

Permissive: Parents don't place restrictions on their child's behavior. Children learn to expect things rather than earning them.

Authoritarian: The opposite of permissive parenting, this style is rigid and controlling while expecting children to follow rules without question.

Babywise: The goal is to get your baby to sleep through the night by twelve weeks. Nursing baby to sleep, rocking baby to sleep and sleep-sharing are all no-no's with this method, which has drawn criticism from the American Academy of Pediatrics and others for its rigidity.

Hypnosis: Similar to reverse psychology, this method uses touch, eye contact, nodding and statements instead of questions, which hypnotherapists say makes it possible to hypnotize your child into behaving.

Teacup: Like the name suggests, these parents treat their children as if they were fragile teacups, trying to protect them from every bump or disappointment. In some extreme cases, adults have been known to follow their (adult) children to job interviews.

Uninvolved: Parents generally don't display affection, provide discipline or meet the child's needs, all of which often add up to a sense of inadequacy for the child.

Book Resources & Websites

The Baby Book, by William Sears, M.D. & Martha Sears, R.N. www.askdrsears.com

In Praise of Slowness and Under Pressure, by Carl Honoré www.carlhonore.com

Unconditional Parenting–Moving from Rewards and Punishment to Love and Reason, by Alfie Kohn www.alfiekohn.org

Free Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry, by Lenore Skenazy www.freerangekids.com

Pink Brain, Blue Brain, by Lise Eliot, Ph.D. www.liseeliot.com

Tags: In This Issue, Parenting

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