12 Parenting Styles (The Good, Bad and Sadly the Ugly)


There are many types of parenting styles, although you may not be familiar with all the official names.

The types of parenting styles, essentially, describe the way that parents react and respond to their kids.

It’s important to keep in mind that partners may have different types of parenting styles when dealing with their kids and that, just because your partner’s approach is different, it’s not necessarily wrong.

We have laid out here the 12 different types of parenting for you to consider.

Which one sounds most like you?

And is that the style of parenting you want for your kids?

Positive Parenting

This is a parenting style that you may be unfamiliar with.

The philosophy is based on the work of Viennese psychiatrists, Alfred Adler and Rudoph Dreikurs.

This type of parenting is focused on developing a strong relationship between the parent and child based on communication and respect.

Instead of just telling your kids what needs to be done, Positive Parenting emphasizes the importance of telling them “why.”

Positive parenting doesn’t mean that you have to be a pushover, though.

Parents layout rules and consequences, discuss them often and follow through on what they say.

They listen actively to what their kids are saying to better understand them and clear up any miscommunication and they focus on helping kids develop self-discipline rather than asking them to obey orders based on fear of punishment.

If you’re looking for some guidance, we highly recommend watching Amy McCready’s webinar on Positive Parenting (click here to watch).

In this brief webinar, she reviews how to get kids to listen without nagging, reminding, or yelling (can I get a hallelujah?).

Attachment Parenting

The name for this parenting style was coined by none other than Dr. Sears.

According to WebMD,

Attachment parenting focuses on the nurturing connection that parents can develop with their children.

That nurturing connection is viewed as the ideal way to raise secure, independent, and empathetic children.”

Attachment Parenting International is an educational association for attachment parenting. The organization identifies eight principles for attachment parenting:

  • Prepare for pregnancy, birth and parenting by eliminating any negative thoughts or feelings
  • Develop a secure attachment through breastfeeding
  • Respond to all behavior, even tantrums, with sensitivity, as they’re just the child’s way of communicating
  • Maximum skin-to-skin time, which could include joint baths or baby-wearing
  • Co-sleeping as a means of feeding and soothing the child in the night
  • Providing constant, loving care, which means the nearly constant presence of a parent, including no more than 20 hours per week of childcare for kids under 30 months
  • Positive discipline by redirecting or distracting kids and trying to understand what negative behavior is communicating
  • A support network to create balance in personal and family life to prevent burnout

Unconditional Parenting

This parenting style means accepting and supporting the child and showing unconditional love, no matter how he or she behaves or what he or she says.

The term Unconditional Parenting was coined by author Alfie Kohn.

According to Alfie, there are ten principles for Unconditional Parenting:

  1. Think about what you’re asking – Could it be how you made your request that your child is acting out? Are you trying to trick your child into doing what you want?
  2. Put the relationship with your kids before the need to be right – The idea is that your child feels safe, secure and loved enough to tell you why she did something wrong.
  3. Make your child feel loved unconditionally, even when they screw up – This principle contends that positive attention doesn’t stop, which means positive reinforcement (which only comes when they’re good) would have to go away, as that could make them dependent on our approval to be reminded that they’re good.
  4. Imagine how your child sees things – From a child’s point of view, we are often interfering in what looks fun when we tell them no. The more you see the world from their perspective, the better you will parent, according to this principle.
  5. Be authentic – Remind your child that you’re only human and apologize to your child periodically (you’ll find a reason).
  6. Be an active listener – Listen, look at a situation from the child’s perspective and respond appropriately.
  7. Assume the best – Assume that your child has the best possible motive that is consistent with the facts. We don’t always know why kids do things, so don’t assume the worst.
  8. Say yes, whenever possible – Pick your battles and try to avoid saying no constantly. Saying no all the time doesn’t make them better at coping with it.
  9. Be flexible – Kids are different so be prepared to respond differently to different kids and different situations. Yes, predictability is good but don’t be rigid.
  10. Bring kids into the decision-making process – Teach them to make good decisions by letting them make some.

The overarching theme of this parenting style and what makes it different than other styles of parenting is the idea that praise and punishment are both tools for manipulation aimed at controlling our kids with a weapon of love.

Kohn encourages parents to show love unconditionally so that kids learn they are loved for who they are rather than what they do.

Spiritual Parenting

Despite what you might initially think, spiritual parenting isn’t about worshiping a specific God or adhering to a specific religion.

Also referred to as holistic parenting, this type of parenting is helping your child become more and more conscious of what feels right for him.

Instead of feeding your child answers that society tells you are right, you encourage him or her to generate his or her own answers.

It’s about “respecting each child’s individuality and creating the space for each child to develop his or her own beliefs based on his or her unique personality and individual potentials.”

Deepak Chopra says the best way to raise a spiritually conscious child is to be the best example in your own life.

Slow Parenting

Slow parenting is actually a reaction to the stressful rat race that has become childhood, with parents racing their kids from one event to the next and not enjoying enough quality time together.

The term came from Carl Honeré book Under Pressure: Rescuing Our Children from the Culture of Hyper-Parenting.

Here is Honeré’s definition of “slow”: “‘Slow’ in this context does not mean doing everything at a snail’s pace. It means doing everything at the right speed. That implies quality over quantity; real and meaningful human connections; being present and in the moment.”

A few of the basic principles behind this style of parenting are:

  • Making sure there’s enough time on the family schedule for together time, alone time or whatever else is needed that week
  • Very few organized activities, but instead encouraging kids to use their own creativity to entertain themselves
  • Limited television and, instead, encouraging children to spend time outside exploring and playing
  • Encouraging kids to try new things and take calculated risks to better understand their abilities and limits

The basic premise is that you make time in the schedule to enjoy time together as well as prioritize time alone to be creative. Definitely check out his famous Ted Talk with over 2.5 Million Views!

Authoritative Parenting

This parenting style is characterized by high but reasonable demands and high responsiveness.

Authoritative parents are responsive to the child’s emotional needs while having high standards. They set limits and are very consistent in enforcing boundaries.

It is one of four parenting styles developed by developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind.

So while authoritative parents may hold high standards for their kids, they also give their kids the resources and the support they need to be successful.

They listen to their kids and provide warmth and love but also set boundaries and provide fair discipline.

Some of the most common characteristics that you find, with this type of parenting style are:

  • They listen to their kids and encourage them to express opinions
  • They encourage their kids to be independent
  • They set limits, expectations, and consequences for their kids
  • They encourage their kids to discuss options
  • They are consistent with administering fair discipline

These parents tend to be flexible. They let their kids explain if there are extenuating circumstances that have impacted their behavior and adjust their response accordingly.

Parents who use this parenting style want their kids to work independently and use their own reasoning to work through problems.

However, they do hold high expectations for their kids and when rules are broken, they are disciplined in a fair but consistent manner.

Authoritarian Parenting

Though the names are similar, authoritative parenting is not to be confused with the next parenting style: authoritarian parenting.

Like authoritative parenting, this parenting style is characterized by high demands from the parents. However, it also is characterized by low responsiveness, in other words, very little warmth or nurturing.

Rather than teaching kids to be independent and manage their own behaviors, this type of parent is almost entirely focused on adhering to the rules. The authoritarian parent tends to provide feedback in the form of yelling or corporal punishment and rarely rewards positive behaviors.

Some of the common characteristics of this type of parenting are:

  • They are demanding and may even micromanage their kids’ lives
  • They don’t show much warmth and are often cold or aloof
  • They aren’t flexible and there is no room for negotiation
  • They hand out punishments with little or no explanation for why the kids are being punished
  • They no patience for misbehavior and rarely explain to kids why certain behaviors are inappropriate
  • They may shame their kids into behaving
  • They don’t encourage independence because they don’t trust their kids to make good decisions

While boundaries are important, most experts agree that this style of parenting is too punitive and lacks the unconditional love and nurturing that kids need.

Permissive Parenting

This type of parenting takes the complete opposite approach that authoritarian parents take. Permissive parenting has very few rules and expectations for children. While the parents are typically warm and loving towards their kids, they don’t set boundaries or even see their kids as being mature enough to carry out tasks that require self-control.

This type of parent typically will avoid confrontation, so they rarely discipline their kids.

Permissive parents usually leave it up to their kids to figure things out for themselves.

The characteristics that are usually found in permissive parenting include:

  • Encouragement of independent thinking
  • Role equality between parent and child
  • Warm, responsive and caring
  • Manipulation like bribery and praise used to motivate or control kids
  • Focused on harmony in the home
  • Non-restrictive child discipline strategy

Uninvolved Parenting

This parenting style is characterized by low control (so very few demands) and low responsiveness (very little warmth and nurturing).

This parent tends to be distant and disengaged from his or her kids’ lives. They provide for their kids’ physical needs but aren’t providing the emotional support and nurturing kids need to thrive.

Some of the characteristics you see in this parent are:

  • Emotionally distant from the kids
  • Very little, if any, parental supervision
  • Very little warmth or affection is shown to children
  • Have few or no expectations
  • Aren’t involved in their academic lives
  • Too overwhelmed by their own lives to deal with their kids, and may even avoid their kids altogether

Obviously, the degree of involvement in their children’s lives can vary considerably from family to family. Some parents may be almost entirely absent from their kids’ day-to-day lives, whereas others may set up a few boundaries, like implementing curfews.

Helicopter Parenting

A helicopter parent is one who “pays extremely close attention to a child’s or children’s experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions. Helicopter parents are so named because, like helicopters, they hover overhead, overseeing their child’s life.”

Helicopter parents are motivated, at least in part, by their fear of losing their kids. They then react to that fear by being overly protective.

Ann Dunnewold, Ph. D., a licensed psychologist and author of Even June Cleaver Would Forget the Juice Box, calls it “overparenting.”

“It means being involved in a child’s life in a way that is overcontrolling, overprotecting, and over-perfecting, in a way that is in excess of responsible parenting,” Dr. Dunnewold explains.

Helicopter parents are often intervening for their kids, covering up their mistakes and completing basic tasks like school work or job applications. They also have a hard time letting go of their kids and are overly engaged.

Helicopter parents tend to be:

  • Unnecessarily fearful to the point of irrational, which can rub off on kids
  • Indulgent of their kids’ needs and feeling they need to entertain them
  • Overly involved in academic life
  • Fighting kids’ battles for them

While these parents start off with good intentions, this style of parenting backfires.

Kids tend to have decreased confidence and self-esteem, undeveloped coping skills, increased anxiety, decreased life skills and a heightened sense of entitlement.

Narcissistic Parenting

This type of parent is typically seen living vicariously through their kids, using them to live out their own unrealized dreams.

This parent puts their own needs above all else and are even threatened by a child’s growing independence.

According to Psychology Today, “A narcissistic parent can be defined as someone who lives through, is possessive of, and/or engages in marginalizing competition with the offspring.”

In this type of parent-child relationship, the child is rarely loved for just being him- or herself.

Some of the characteristics of narcissistic parenting include:

  • Using or living vicariously through the child
  • Putting a child down so the parent remains superior
  • An inflated sense of entitlement based on superficial, egotistical and material reasons
  • Codependent on their kids to take care of them
  • Jealous or possessive in response to a child’s growing independence
  • Manipulation

Toxic Parenting

This type of parenting refers to parents whose behavior “grossly inflicts emotional damage which contaminates their children’s sense of self.”

This includes parents who abuse their children, whether verbally, physically and/or sexually. It also refers to parents who ignore their children’s emotional and physical needs.

Summary: Types of Parenting Styles

While I think we can agree that many of these parenting styles could fall into the category of bad parenting, I think we can also agree that many have aspects that we would like to carry into our own parenting styles.

For example, you may consider yourself an Authoritative Parent, after reading this article, but you may have agreed with many of the ideas that characterize Slow Parenting. And, as such, you may want to start to include some of those ideas into your own parenting style.

My point is that, excluding the poor parenting styles, you may want to consider drawing on the new, modern parenting philosophies as well as some of the older ones as you decide what type of parenting style is best for your kids.

To recap, here are the 12 different parenting styles:

  • Positive parenting
  • Attachment parenting
  • Unconditional parenting
  • Spiritual parenting
  • Slow parenting
  • Authoritative parenting
  • Authoritarian parenting
  • Permissive parenting
  • Uninvolved parenting
  • Narcissistic parenting
  • Helicopter parenting
  • Toxic parenting

Which parenting style are you?

And are there any ideas you found in other parenting styles that you would like to add to your own home?

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About The Author

Sheena White

Sheena White is a social media strategist, Facebook ads specialist and copywriter, a combination of skills that she uses to set online businesses ablaze. When she isn’t spending time with her family, traveling or taking in the beautiful Florida weather, where she lives, this lifestyle entrepreneur is working on new ventures.