Tag Archives: parenting style

Your Safety Style as a Parent

safetystyleDo you imagine taking your child rock climbing, bungee jumping, and white water rafting? Do you enjoy big bold play like tossing them up in the air and spinning them round? Or do you wish you could keep your child in a soft padded room full of soft padded objects so he need never get hurt?

It is helpful for parents to reflect on their own tolerance for risk as they safety-proof their house, teach their child safety skills, and allow for some risk-taking. Where you strike the balance between protecting your child and allowing exploration is influenced by your gender and theirs, your age and experience and theirs, your temperament and theirs.

Gender: Men lean toward risk-taking, women lean toward being protective. Talk to your partner, and agree what limits you will set, so you can be consistent. Try to understand the value of each others’ views.

Boys tend to be bigger risk-takers than girls, who are a little more likely to look before leaping. If you have a risk-taking boy, you may need to focus on removing most hazards; if you have a cautious girl, you may be able to adopt a wait-and-see approach.

Age & experience: Older first-time parents tend to be more cautious than younger first-timers. Experienced parents of many children tend to be less cautious over little hazards, but stricter about the big rules. If you wonder whether you’re being over-protective, or too lax, try watching other parents (on the playground, at your child’s school, etc.). It’s a good way to “sanity check” yourself. Are you setting about the same kind of limits others are? If not, do you think they’ve got the right idea and you need to adapt? Or does it reinforce with you that what you’re doing is what really feels right to you?

For children – the older they get, the more dangerous situations they are capable of getting themselves into, but hopefully they’ve also started to learn caution and safety behaviors. They need wider boundaries, so you will need to adjust safety rules as they grow. Do you feel like you’re striking the right balance?

Temperament: Some people are inherent risk-takers, some inherently cautious or fearful. Your limits need to balance your temperament, your partner’s, and your child’s. Set limits that are within your comfort zone, and set rules you can enforce consistently even if you’re tired or stressed.

There’s no right or wrong answers here, just things to be learned from self-reflection…


photo credit: safety zone – http://www.freeimages.com/photo/1422766; Jump – *vlad* via photopin cc

Four Parenting Styles

In the media, you’ll hear modern trends for parenting style labels: Helicopter Parent, Free Range Mom, Attachment Parenting (learn more here)

But developmental theorists have a different way of categorizing parenting style: It splits differences along two gradients, then into four categories.

Responsiveness addresses how much attention a parent pays to the child’s needs, demands, and unique temperament. Highly responsive parents attempt to foster individuality and independence by being attentive, supportive, and responsive to the child’s needs and demands.

Demandingness, or behavioral control, is how high the parent’s expectation is for obedience and “fitting in” to the social norms. Demanding parents set clear goals and expectations, confront a child who disobeys, and disciplines when limits are crossed.



Authoritative / Democratic (aka Giving Choices / “No means no”)

Democratic parents provide clear, reasonable expectations, explain why they expect children to behave that way, and monitor behavior in a warm and loving manner. Mistakes are used as a chance to teach important lessons rather than as an opportunity for punishment. Parents give limited choices based on developmental ability, balancing freedom with responsibility. Children tend to adapt easily to situations that require cooperation. The goal is for children to be self-regulated, self-determined, cooperative, and socially responsible.

Authoritarian (aka Giving Orders / “Just do it, or else…”)

Focus is on control. Parents provide structured environments, set strict rules, and don’t explain rules beyond “because I said so.” Children may be punished if they don’t meet standards, and may or may not be rewarded when they do. Children are scolded for showing negative emotions. Parents may not show affection. Benefits: Children tend to perform well in school and not get in much trouble, and may excel at skills that require focus and discipline to learn. Downsides: may lack spontaneity, have lower self-esteem and higher levels of depression.

Permissive (aka Giving In / “Do anything you want”)

Permissive parents have an indulgent laissez-faire attitude. They make few rules and routines, and do not consistently enforce the rules and routines they do establish. They want children to feel free, and have as many choices as possible. They may not have specific expectations for appropriate behavior, and accept their child in a warm and loving way, no matter how the child behaves. Benefits: kids may have high self-esteem, good social skills, low depression, and be creative. Downsides: more likely to show problem behavior, perform less well in school.

Uninvolved (aka Giving Up / “I don’t care what you do”)

Uninvolved parents may not give any guidance, punishment, or rewards. They may simply be detached, and un-interested in their children and their activities. Most provide the basic needs of life, but shrug off responsibility for their child’s activities and concerns. In extreme cases, this might include rejection and/or neglect. Children tend to be rebellious, irresponsible, perform poorly at school, and show signs of emotional distress.

Most recommended…

Most theorists recommend “authoritative” parenting which merges high expectations (demandingness) with high attention to the child as an individual (responsiveness.)


Sources: http://pediatrics.about.com/od/infantparentingtips/a/04_pntg_styles.htm; Sources: http://pediatrics.about.com/od/infantparentingtips/a/04_pntg_styles.htm; www.greatdad.com/tertiary/27/1744/choose-your-parenting-style.html

www.athealth.com/Practitioner/ceduc/parentingstyles.html; www.greatdad.com/tertiary/27/1744/choose-your-parenting-style.html


Here is a free printable handout on this topic of parenting styles.

Parenting Style: Are You a Helicopter Parent? Free Range Family? Tiger Mom?

Popular media likes simple, black and white labels for more complicated ideas. For this post, I’ve gathered some trendy labels for different parenting styles. For 5 topics below, I’ll give two statements… decide which one comes closer to representing your feelings, and then see what “label” that would get you:

How should you care for a young baby? (under 6 months)

A: Parents should determine a schedule for baby’s feeding, diaper changes, and nap times. Parents provide structure, a predictable environment, and a consistent response style to train baby’s internal clock. They may leave a baby to “cry it out” as it learns self-soothing behavior.

B: Parents watch baby for hunger cues and feed on demand. They watch for toileting cues to know when a diaper change is imminent. When tired cues appear, they settle baby to sleep. Parents always respond to crying. Parents focus on being responsive to the child, and the family’s schedule adapts around baby’s needs.

If you chose A, that’s “parent led” style. One proponent of parent-led style is Gary Ezzo, author of On Becoming Baby Wise.

B is “child led” style. One proponent of baby-led style is the Sears family, authors of The Attachment Parenting Book.

Here’s an article comparing a daily schedule for Parent-Led vs. Baby Led families. www.babble.com/baby/baby-care/baby-sleep-feeding-parent-led-schedule-routine/

How much do you schedule enrichment activities (for your preschool age child)?

A: “Children are exposed to enrichment videos… from early infancy as well as specialized books and toys [and enrichment activities] designed to ensure that they are well-rounded and adequately stimulated for excelled development… considerable family resources are being invested to ensure that the children have what are marketed as the “very best” opportunities.”

B: “He doesn’t need toys… He sometimes picks up a stick and one moment it’s an airplane. Then it becomes a car, then a train, then a monster from the lagoon. What amazes me about this is his creativity and delight as he plays… In order for a child to be able to play like this and be inventive, he needs unscheduled time.” [Source]

These are the Scheduled vs. Un-Scheduled Parents. With this topic, it’s probably best to find a good balances between the two sides. Here is an AAP article on the importance of play (and unstructured time): http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/119/1/182.full

How much do you intervene in your child’s conflicts? (for 5 year olds on the playground)

A: “I tried to be prepared and attentive. I would get up mid-conversation to help my boys negotiate and share if I sensed trouble was brewing. I parceled out snacks, helped them on the swings, and watched over my kids… being on top of things… was what good parents did.”

B: “Adults didn’t impose their notions of correct behavior onto the children’s natural, boisterous play. Play fighting was considered [normal]… Fighting, crying, and making up again were normal ways of figuring out how to get along… it was important not to interfere in this…”

These summaries are taken from Parenting without Borders by Christine Gross-Loh. A describes her observations about American parents versus Japanese parents. She goes on to discuss research that shows that at age 12, the Japanese kids are more empathetic and respectful of their peers. They treat other people right because it’s the right thing to do, and they know people will be unhappy if they do otherwise. Kids in America report that you need to be nice to others, because if you’re not, you’ll get caught and you’ll get in trouble with your parents or teachers.

How much do you protect your child vs. allowing free exploration?

A: These parents have a high level of oversight and supervision, providing frequent advice, reminders, and assistance. Parents protect from harm and upset, and help with decision making. Parents “smooth the way” by being actively engaged with teachers, coaches, etc.

B: These parents encourage children to actively and independently explore their worlds. “We don’t want our kids to fall off a bike. But we do want them to learn to ride. We can [either] hold onto handlebars forever, or wish them luck and then let go.”

A is the Helicopter Parent. Learn more at http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/04/in-defense-of-helicopter-parents/; http://www.schoolofsmock.com/2013/08/19/helicopterparenting/

B is a Free Range Parent. Learn more at www.time/com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1940697,00.html and http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/03/hey-parents-leave-those-kids-alone/358631/

How would you approach school, homework, and piano practice? (for a 10 year old or so…)

A: “What [these] parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences… Once a child starts to excel at something—whether it’s math, piano, pitching or ballet—he or she gets praise, admiration and satisfaction. This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun.”

B: “[This] includes trusting your child in what they choose to learn; you extend that same trust to other areas of your child’s life, like foods, media, television, bedtime. Parenting is supposed to be joyful, and it can be when we learn to connect with, rather than control, our children. The focus of our life is on happiness and pursuing our interests with reckless abandon together. We totally immerse ourselves in our passions every single day.”

A describes a “Tiger Mom” Amy Chua, self-described “Chinese Mother”, describes this in Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother: Learn more: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704111504576059713528698754.html  or Video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=TlHLyHw47AU

B is Radical Un-Schooling. Read more from Dayna Martin at Radical Unschooling: http://daynamartin.com/unschooling-blog/radical-unschooling-the-gift-of-mindfulness/ http://learninghappens.wordpress.com/2011/09/24/ unschooling-is-not-child-led-learning/  Or Video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFgVgRvmSeM

Another perspective on parenting styles

Researchers in psychology and child development often refer to 4 styles of parenting: Authoritarian, Authoritative, Permissive, and Uninvolved. (Learn more here.) On that scale, all the A choices above (Parent-Led, Helicopter Parent, Tiger Mom, etc.) lean toward the Authoritarian – high on demand, low on responsiveness. Parents who go too far in this direction may end with children  who follow rules and don’t get into trouble, but might be less creative, and less happy.

All the B choices (Child Led, Free Range Parent, Radical Unschooler) lean toward Permissive – high on responsiveness, low on demand. Parents who go too far in this direction may end up with kids who are creative and happy, but have a hard time succeeding in school, peer relationships, and work.

Parents who moderate a bit toward the authoritative – finding a good balance at challenging their kids to help them succeed while at the same time honoring them as individuals – may do best.

Parent Educators, here’s a free printable handout on parenting style spectrums.