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As professionals in the education industry, we are very familiar with helicopter parents, tiger parents, lawnmower parents, and so on. However, there are some parenting styles in which you may not be familiar.

Helicopter Parents

  • Tend to hover over their children. This can continue through college. 
  • May be over-involved and always assess risk, thus preventing their children from developing critical skills. 

Lawnmower Parents

  • “Mow down” a path for their children, thus removing all obstacles that may cause discomfort, challenges, or struggles. 
  • Not only help their child, but probably do a lot of the work for the student, or at least check to make sure that everything is correct. 

Tiger Parents

  • Place a heavy emphasis on excellence in academics and carefully chosen extracurriculars above leisure time. 
  • Are authoritarian and have high expectations. 
  • Exercise tough-love parenting where children are expected to respond to challenges.  

Elephant Parents

  • Are as close to the opposite of tiger parents as possible. 
  • Value emotional security and connection. 
  • Do not promote the independent sleeping of the child during the 0-5 years. 
  • Seek not to raise their voices and value encouragement over academic or athletic success. 

Dolphin Parents

  • Seek collaboration, flexibility, and balance. 
  • Defined by the acronym POD. 
  • P is for play and exploration, O is for others, and D is for downtime, which includes rest, exercise, and sleep.

Attachment Parents

  • Desire close contact between baby and caregiver through babywearing, breastfeeding, and co-sleeping. 
  • Use natural closeness rather than the clock to determine their babies’ needs. Emphasize role modeling and positive discipline by using praise and rewards for good behavior, and loss of privileges for poor behavior.

Free-range Parents 

  • Allow their kids to walk to school or a nearby playground alone. 
  • Allow young children to ride public transportation or shop alone. 
  • Believe this freedom promotes independence and self-reliance. Dissenters criticize it as dangerous and neglectful.

A study of 300 college students found that kids of hovering parents had poorer scores for psychological well-being. Moreover, they were more likely than their peers to use prescription medication for anxiety or depression. In addition, they were more likely to use pain medication recreationally, without a prescription.

Most Effective Parenting Style

According to the Center for Parenting Education, the most effective parenting style is what’s called the assertive style.

Here is an example:

 “Jon, I see your games are still not put away as I asked you to do. It is really bothering me that I can’t count on you to take care of your things and I can’t stand seeing the family room be such a mess. We need to come up with a plan for you to put your things away. Until we can agree upon a plan, there are no electronics for you.”

Parents using this approach are willing to listen and yet still hold firm so that the parent’s and the child’s needs are both met. When setting limits, the parent does not get sidetracked, can provide choices, and allows the child an opportunity to participate in finding a solution.

Assertive Style

  • Uses a healthy balance of both nurture and structure.
  • Raises your child’s self-esteem because you communicate that your child is lovable and loved and worthy of respect. 
  • Communicates that your child is capable of meeting the demands that life places on him – he can tolerate some frustration and he can contribute to solving the problems he encounters. 
  • Builds a strong parent-child relationship, as your child realizes that he can depend on you to both understand his struggles and provide guidance and support.  

Tips for Using an Assertive Parenting Style

  • Listen.
    When your children talk about things that may bother them, acknowledge their feelings and let them know you have heard them.
  • Be respectful.
    When you discipline, you can set limits without blaming or shaming your children.
  • Model behavior.
    Exhibit the behavior you would like your children to exhibit.
  • Give children choices.
    When possible give your kids opportunities to make decisions on issues that affect them. This is respectful, encourages independence, and shows you have trust in them. Your children are more likely to cooperate when they have had a say in the decision-making.
  • Establish clear rules.
    Know that it is in your children’s best interest to have clear rules that are consistently enforced with persistence, love, and warmth.
  • Use praise.
    Praise your children for positive behavior that you would like to see repeated.
  • Be consistent.
    Allow for sufficient flexibility to accommodate specific situations and your unique child.


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