I have fond childhood memories of playing tag, hide-and-seek, and other outdoor games with neighbourhood friends for hours on end with no adult supervision. Yes, I took swimming, piano, and Tae Kwon Do lessons, but there was plenty of leisure time in between. Back in those days, I don’t think much consideration was made by my parents or their peers about their own parenting style. Now kids are bogged down by structured activities, have less time for free play, and are provided with less opportunities to take risks and develop problem-solving skills. Much of this stems from a wide range of parenting styles, including some rather extreme forms of parenting.
Here’s a breakdown of common parenting styles and how they could shape your child’s development.
Lawnmower or snowplow – Lawnmower or snowplow parents mow or plow a path for their children by removing any uncomfortable or challenging obstacles in the way. Going beyond helping their child, this parent actually does most of the work for the child and checks that it is done properly.
Tiger – Tiger parents prioritize excellence in academics and specialty extracurricular activities above leisure time. Tiger parents take an authoritarian approach and set high expectations. Also known as tough-love parenting where children are expected to respond to challenges. Children of tiger parents don’t learn how to adapt to life’s ups and downs and are prone to anxiety.
Jellyfish – At the other extreme of the tiger parent, jellyfish parents would prefer to give in to their kids in order to avoid confrontation. They set few rules and expectations, lack authority and are generally overly permissive. Since children of jellyfish parents lack rules and direction, they often look to peers for guidance and are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviours.
Dolphin – Dolphin parents are the middle ground between the tiger and jellyfish parents. They seek collaborative decision-making with their kids, foster creativity and independence. The parenting style derives its name from the acronym “POD” (a pod is a group of dolphins) where P stands for play and exploration, O stands for others, i.e. developing a sense of community and of giving, and D stands for downtime, which includes rest, exercise and sleep.
Elephant – Elephant parents value the emotional security of their children which hinges on a deep connection. This could mean co-sleeping with children during the 0-5 years. These parents seek not to raise their voices and value encouragement over academic or athletic success.
Helicopter – Helicopter parents tend to hover and intervene in challenging situations. These parents may be considered over-involved and always assessing risk, which can prevent children from developing that skill for themselves.
Free-range – Free-range parents grant their kids plenty of independence including the right to walk to school alone or play at a nearby playground unsupervised. Young children may even be allowed to ride public transportation or shop alone. These parents believe this freedom promotes independence and self-reliance.
Attachment – Attachment parents desire close contact between baby and caregiver through baby-wearing, breastfeeding and co-sleeping with the goal of developing a strong bond. These parents use natural closeness and a child’s cues rather than the clock or a strict schedule to determine their babies’ needs. Parents emphasize role modeling and positive discipline by using praise and rewards for good behaviour and loss of privileges for poor behaviour.
Clearly there are pros and cons to each parenting style and it’s possible that your parenting style might evolve over time as your child grows older.
So, what type of parent are you?
P.S. I want to thank Stephanie Shefrin for the opportunity to share this column for several months longer than initially envisaged. I will continue to enjoy reading her Modern Mishpocha articles.