Amanda Amanda is a married 30-something with three kids. She previously worked full-time as a clinical social worker in a homeless shelter for young mothers. She earned her masters degree while commuting to school and learned to share parenting and conflicting parenting styles with her husband. Now she is learning to manage her career, marriage, kids, and personal time. Amanda is also a writer, a continuously-trying-to-start-again runner, reader, cook, novice pianist, terrible housekeeper, and amateur juggler. She hates laundry. Contact Amanda by emailing

There area too many options when it comes to answering the question, “What is your parenting style?”
Today you can be a Helicopter parent who is still calling your child’s teacher to talk about his grades in COLLEGE. You can be Tiger Parents setting high standards and refusing to accept anything else. You can be a Free Range parent, someone who lets a 4 year old ride around the block on his bike, on his own. The list goes on: attachment parents, permissive, authoritative, conscious, authoritarian, etc. What do these parenting styles really mean?

First let us briefly review the generally accepted meanings of the most common parenting styles:

The Parenting Styles

Tiger Parents: A “strict disciplinarian” according to Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger MotherTiger parents set high standards, accept little discussion or “back talk”, and believe they are in charge-no matter what. Studies suggest this style results in the least positive outcomes.

Free-Range parents: Lenore Skenazy, who runs, describes this as an “old fashioned” approach in which parents allow for more natural consequences, give kids freedom, and don’t let fear be a guiding principle in parenting. Lenore was skewered for allowing her nine year old to ride the subway in NYC by himself, even though she allowed it after careful practice and planning to ensure that he was ready.

Helicopter parents: This has become a parody of itself and is widely thought to be a demeaning term.  Helicopter parents are constantly hovering, interfering, and ‘doing for’ their child rather than teaching the child to take care of himself.  This could be considered the polar opposite of Free Range parenting.

Attachment parents: In infancy, attachment parents, especially the primary parent, respond quickly and are with the child constantly.  The belief is that this fosters a healthy and secure attachment, which leads to healthy brain development and stronger independence later on.

There are, of course, many more parenting styles and labels and my descriptions just scratch the surface; however, what
really matters is what’s behind the label. Rather than focusing on picking a style, consider instead values you want to pass on and traits you and your child currently have.

The four Cs can be a helpful reminder: communication, consideration (respect), consistency, and compassion (for your child and yourself). Let’s take a closer look at those:

Communication: Have regular conversations with your children.  Ask them questions, teach them how to listen by listening to them.

Consideration: Teach your children how to respect other by respecting them. Respect their boundaries, their feelings, their thoughts, their ideas, and their wholeness as human beings.

Consistency: Whatever discipline you use, whatever boundaries you set, whatever routines you have for and with your child, being consistent is what matters most. As infants, consistency matters above almost all other parenting traits; this continues into childhood and the teenage years. By being consistent, we give our children anchors and steady ground, a foundation they can build on. When they know we’ll be there for dinner, or ask them what their high and low was at the end of the day, they can worry about other things like Shakespeare and the Pythagorean Theorem.

Compassion: Sometimes life is hard. We have bad, terrible, horrible, no good days. WE have those bad days and our children do too. We need to teach our children how to be kind to themselves by being kind to ourselves.  Treat yourself to a long, hot bath, or glass of wine, or a time-out at the coffee shop. They’ll thank you for it one day.

To which of the parenting styles do you ascribe?


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