• Understanding Modern Parenting Styles: A Guide to Nurturing Well-Rounded Children


    Navigating the journey of parenthood is a universal challenge, filled with its highs and lows. There seems to be a quest for the right balance of how to raise our children. As a parent to three wonderful kids myself, I’ve experienced firsthand the complexities and joys that come with parenting.

    The truth is, there’s no such thing as the perfect parent or the perfect child; we’re all learning and growing together.

    In this modern guide to parenting styles, we’ll explore various approaches to help you understand the impact your parenting style can have on your child’s development. I also aim to provide insights and strategies for fostering a nurturing and supportive family environment. Recognizing the challenges of parenting, it’s important that we all learn to become more aware of our potential areas for growth, particularly in our parenting roles. This really is the most important job we will ever have.

    Parenting Styles

    The concept of parenting styles, first introduced by Diana Baumrind’s pioneering research in the 1960s, and later expanded by researchers Maccoby and Martin in the 1980s, offers a framework to help parents determine their differing styles.

    In my years of experience and from what I’ve gathered through recent studies, it’s become clear that the way we, as parents, choose to guide and sometimes control our children can have profound effects on them, lasting well into their adult lives.



    The Impact of Parenting on Child Development

    The way we parent touches every aspect of our children’s growth and shapes them in profound ways—emotionally, cognitively, socially, morally, culturally, physically, and mentally. Let me walk through how our parenting nurtures these different dimensions of development.

    Emotional Growth: The early connection we forge with our kids sets the stage for their future relationships and emotional well-being. When we respond to their needs with understanding and support, we lay the groundwork for them to become emotionally savvy and resilient individuals.

    Cognitive Development: Engaging our kids with educational toys, reading books together, and being a part of their learning journey doesn’t just boost their brainpower; it lights up their curiosity and love for discovery.

    Social Skills: Our little ones are always watching us, learning how to interact with the world from our examples. The way we handle our relationships, and show empathy becomes their blueprint for social interactions.

    Moral Compass: As parents, we’re their first teachers of right and wrong. Our approach to discipline and the values we live by help shape their moral understanding and encourage behaviors that are kind, fair, and empathetic.

    Cultural Identity: Through the traditions we celebrate, the stories we share, and the values we hold, we give our children a sense of belonging and help them understand their place in the wider world.

    Physical Wellbeing: Our habits around food and activity set the tone for our kids’ health. Encouraging nutritious eating and the joy of being active can lay the foundation for a lifetime of good health.

    Mental Health: Finally, our parenting style deeply influences our children’s self-esteem, how they handle stress, and their overall mental health. Showing unconditional love, respect, and understanding supports their inner strength and self-belief.

    In essence, the love and guidance we provide as parents echo through every facet of our children’s development, guiding them toward becoming well-rounded, healthy adults. It’s a beautiful responsibility.

    The Spectrum of Parenting Styles

    There’s a growing body of work aimed not just at understanding the impact of our parenting styles but also at helping us as parents to become more self-aware. This awareness allows us to adjust and evolve our approaches to foster healthier, more supportive relationships with our children. The goal here is to encourage a shift, sometimes with the support of therapy, towards a more balanced, moderate style of parenting.

    Let’s dive deeper into each style to uncover how we can best support our children’s growth.

    Parenting styles are primarily distinguished by two key dimensions: responsiveness, which refers to the warmth and support provided to children, and demandingness, which involves the expectations and discipline enforced. These dimensions give rise to four main styles, but I’m emphasizing a fifth style because I see it often enough to highlight it.


    Authoritative Parenting: Balancing Love and Limits

    Authoritative parenting is the sweet spot between demandingness and responsiveness. These parents set high expectations but also provide plenty of support, affection, understanding, and communication. They’re similar to coaches who guide their children through the rules of the game while cheering them on from the sidelines. When parents are responsive and consistently respond to their child’s needs with sensitivity and warmth, the child develops a secure attachment.


    Studies have shown this style is associated with fostering self-reliance, high self-esteem, effective emotional management, and social adaptability in children.

    Subcategories that may ring familiar include Positive Parenting, Attachment Parenting, and Montessori Parenting, each emphasizing the nurturing aspects of the authoritative approach.


    Authoritarian Parenting: Discipline Over Dialogue

    This particular parenting approach stands in stark contrast to the more lenient permissive style, marked by lower displays of affection and a strong emphasis on rules, standards, and clear boundaries. Picture a dictator in a family setting—rules are rules, no questions asked. This stricter, sometimes forceful way of guiding your child might lead to challenges if it becomes the primary way you connect with your child each day.



    Surveys and studies, including a notable one from 2016, have shown that young people aged 12 to 17 living under such strict rules are more prone to experiencing depressive symptoms. Further research has linked a high degree of authoritarian practices with more aggressive forms of parenting, such as yelling or physical discipline.

    Running a household with a heavy hand can strain the parent-child relationship and risk creating an unwelcoming atmosphere for all family members. However, it’s important to recognize that there are times when adopting a firmer stance is necessary – especially in situations where your child’s safety or well-being is at immediate risk.

    This category includes familiar parenting styles such as Tiger Parenting, strict parenting, snowplow parenting, and bulldozer parenting, in which control often overshadows connection.

    An authoritarian style usually produces immediate short-term results. Your children may comply out of fear and/or guilt. However, this often leads to a child withdrawing and feeling resentment in the long run.

    There is a healthy alternative.

    If you find yourself in this category, you might benefit from focusing more on the power of commenting and rewarding the behaviors and values that you want to instill in your child. Positive reinforcement lasts much longer in terms of results.


    Permissive Parenting: Love Without Boundaries

    Permissive parents are the opposite of authoritarian ones. Laissez-faire, free-range, and Jellyfish Parenting emphasize this style’s hands-off approach.

    They offer high responsiveness with few demands. These parents are more like friends than guardians, often reluctant to enforce rules and boundaries. While their warmth is abundant, their lack of structure can lead to challenges in children’s self-discipline and respect for authority.



    A recent study examined college students who came from predominantly permissive parenting homes and found that these students had issues dealing with stress, emotional regulation, and mental health while navigating college life. Another study concluded that permissive parenting may result in a higher risk for narcissism in young adults.


    Uninvolved Parenting: The Absentee Approach

    Also referred to as a Neglectful Parenting style, Uninvolved parenting is characterized by low responsiveness and low demandingness. These parents might provide for their children’s basic needs but are otherwise disengaged. This lack of involvement can result in significant emotional and behavioral issues for children, signaling the profound need for parental engagement in child development.

    Studies have shown that this type of parenting may lead to children developing borderline personality disorder. Another study associates higher levels of externalizing problems with the child not taking accountability for their own actions. It’s also well known that this style can negatively impact the physical, mental, and emotional health of developing children.



    Understanding this, it’s vital we reserve the more hands-off, or neglectful, approach to parenting for moments when it’s genuinely beneficial for our child’s growth, ensuring it matches their developmental stage. It’s also key to remember that working parents often unfairly face criticism for not being present enough. Yet, there’s a silver lining – focusing on quality over quantity in the time we do spend with our kids can help dodge the pitfalls of unintentional neglect.


    Over-Protective Parenting: The Fifth Style

    Helicopter parenting is a term you’ve probably heard tossed around in conversations about raising kids. It paints a vivid picture. Imagine a helicopter hovering, always close by, ready to swoop in at the first sign of trouble. That’s essentially what helicopter parenting is all about—being overly involved in every aspect of a child’s life. From solving their problems to making decisions for them, it’s a parenting style characterized by a well-intentioned but intense form of vigilance and control over children’s experiences and challenges.

    This is not to say that we should not protect our children from situations that could threaten them from a health and safety issue. Of course, we are going to stop our children from running across the street. And we are going to take them to the doctor when the situation requires.

    Helicoptering is another story.

    The Overprotective or Helicopter Parenting style has gained recognition for its high level of over-involvement and control over children’s lives, often to the point of limiting their ability to learn from failure and solve problems independently. This approach has long-term effects and does not instill self-confidence.


    Children who are “helicoptered” tend to be risk-averse in their lives and have more difficulty facing the inevitable challenges of life. Research also shows that they tend to be more anxious and depressed. The unintended and unconscious message they take away is that they are “not good enough” and “not capable of accomplishing a task.”


    Navigating Parenting Styles: The Bedtime Scenario

    Consider the common dilemma of enforcing a bedtime. An authoritative parent might negotiate with their child who requests a later bedtime to study for a test, seeing the value in flexibility and communication. An authoritarian parent, however, might refuse, emphasizing the rule without room for discussion. A permissive parent might let their child decide their bedtime, while an uninvolved parent might not engage in the situation at all. Each approach offers different lessons and outcomes for the child.

    So, what’s the right style for your family?

    The Right Style at the Right Time

    It’s all about finding that sweet spot where we guide our children with a firm yet loving hand, preparing them for the challenges of the world while ensuring they always feel supported.

    While the authoritative style is often deemed most effective, there’s value in recognizing moments that may call for a different approach. Safety concerns might warrant a more authoritarian stance while encouraging independence might see a more permissive strategy. The key is flexibility and adaptability to your child’s needs and the situation at hand.

    This approach leads to happier children and happier parents.



    In my experience, very few parents label themselves as strictly authoritarian or authoritative; it’s just not how we see ourselves in the daily act of parenting. Many of us are aware that consistency with our kids can sometimes slip through the cracks in the hustle and bustle of life. But here’s a gentle nudge in the right direction: paying a bit more attention to some broad yet powerful principles can truly elevate our parenting game.

    How about we try infusing our interactions with a bit more warmth for our child’s good behavior? Or setting limits that make sense for our children’s ages and stages, really listening to what they’re telling us, and advocating for mutual respect in our family dynamics? And let’s not forget the magic of acknowledging our kids when they do something right – not just with a passing nod, but with genuine recognition of their efforts. These simple shifts can make a world of difference in creating a nurturing and respectful family environment.



    Please remember to be gentle and patient with yourself. We all want to do our best, but we are all human. Again, there are no perfect parents or children.

    Please give yourself the grace to allow for your own humanity as all of us continue to navigate the life-long journey of parenthood.

    Even though I am often referred to as an “expert” in human relationships, I am just like you: I am still learning how to be a better parent—and my kids are all in their 30s!


    Embracing Your Parenting Journey

    Parenting is not a one-size-fits-all prescription. It’s a dynamic process that changes with our children and our continuous learning as parents. If you find yourself pondering the impact of your parenting style or seeking guidance on how to balance the various approaches, I’m here to help.

    I am more than happy to offer you a free 15-minute consultation so that we can explore together how to enhance your parenting strategy and ensure you provide the support, structure, and love your children need to thrive.