Top Types of Parenting Styles from Gentle Parenting to Tiger Mom: Which Is Best?

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch via Pexels
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch via Pexels

Types of parenting styles these days actually outnumber books on parenting! From tiger moms to gentle parenting, which style is best for you? Finding your parenting style is a bit like finding your tribe. With so many categories (and sub-categories), it can be a challenge to find the right fit. Are you a Koala parent like Kim Kardashian or a permissive mom like Jada Pinkett Smith?

The good news is you don't have to settle on one single style. The better news is we've brought together some of the top types of parenting styles here, so you can see what everyone is talking about, and figure out which style(s) intuitively make the most sense to you. Plus, you'll be able to distinguish the helicopter parents from the bulldozers at the next school function!

Hopefully, these types of parenting styles will make you feel seen, as you recognize like-minded parenting schools of thought. Kind of like these funny parenting memes, that give you a chuckle and let you know you're not alone.

Dad has water gun fight in the house with kids as an example of permissive parenting.
Permissive parents treat their kids more like a friend. Photo by Pavel Danilyuk via Pexels

Expressing different types of parenting styles isn't always a conscious choice. Some parents can shift through styles in one day. Running out of patience and moving from gentle encouragement to clean-your-room-because-I-said-so firmness is a typical example. Remember that none of these are fixed identities. You're never one single thing any more than your child is.

Also, please note that we've defaulted to the terms most often used in pop culture, like tiger mom. That isn't to say that dads can't be tigers, too. Or elephants, or almonds...

Types of Parenting Styles: The Basics

Psychologist Diana Baumrind—a researcher, UC Berkeley professor, and mother—defined the four basic parenting styles. These have held up as general categories of parenting styles. Most of the parenting types with fun names fall into one of these parenting styles. But there can be elements of each in anyone's style.

1. Permissive Parents

This parenting style involves minimal controls or demands on a child. Permissive parents are involved in their children's lives, but they want to be a friend rather than a disciplinarian.

2. Uninvolved/Neglectful Parents

This parenting style is as hands-off as it gets. Neglectful parents let their kids do whatever they want. While they don't impose a lot of demands on their kids, they also aren't very responsive, beyond providing basic food and shelter.

3. Authoritarian Parents

Authoritarian parents are easy to spot. It's their way or the highway (think Tiger Moms). These parents have exacting standards, and their child's feelings don't really factor into the parenting master plan.

4. Authoritative Parents

Not authoritarian, but authoritative. This parenting style combines the standards and responsibility expected by the authoritarians with the gentle parenting of the permissive parents. Authoritative parents are authorities. They know what the right approach is; they also know their kids and adjust to their needs and feelings appropriately.

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Mom doing yoga with kids as an example of gentle parenting.
Gentle parenting centers around compassion with boundaries. 

Types of Parenting Styles: Not a Lot of Rules

5. Gentle Parenting

This parenting style has four basic parts—empathy, respect, understanding, and boundaries—and centers on parenting your child with compassion while enforcing consistent boundaries. It's not permissive parenting (see below) where there aren't a ton of rules (or even much parenting) going on; gentle parenting does in fact encourage age-appropriate discipline, but always leads with compassion.

6. Free-Range Parenting

Author Lenore Skenazy popularized the parenting style that emphasizes permissive boundaries. These parents are emotionally engaged with their kids, but they also want children to explore the world on their own. The freedom emphasized in free-range parenting has led to more than a little controversy.

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Tiger moms make kids do homework here, as they have high expectations.
Tiger moms command obedience and have high expectations. You will succeed, kids!

Types of Parenting Styles: Tiger Moms and More Animal Styles

There is a veritable zoo of pandas, elephants, and other types of parenting styles named after animals.

7. Tiger Moms

The term tiger mom was  coined by Amy Chua to describe a type of Chinese/Chinese-American mother who commands obedience. Tiger moms demand success, and they don't want to hear any grumbling about it. The phrase has grown beyond its Asian-American roots to describe an authoritarian parenting style.

8. Koala Moms

These moms (and dads) fall under the catch-all of attachment parenting, where one parent forms a deep emotional bond through constant physical contact. Picture a koala cub clinging to its parent. It gets awkward for humans once the kid hits high school.

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Mom and baby elephant represent actual elephant parenting!
Elephant parents help their kids explore the world while keeping a close watch. 

9. Elephant Parents

If a tiger mom invokes facets of traditional Chinese culture, then elephant moms were identified by Priyanka Sharma-Sindhar to reflect her Indian roots. Elephant parents are known to nurture and protect their young. Elephant parents help their children explore the world while keeping close watch on the little ones.

10. Panda Parents

A gentle parenting style, panda parenting means getting involved without forcing a child into anything. Panda parents seek independence for their children, sometimes leading these moms and dads to be labeled as lazy. 

11. Jellyfish Parents

This type of parenting style is pretty much what it sounds like. Jellyfish are the ultimate permissive parents, stressing complete flexibility.  Jellyfish parents don't provide much structure and don't tend to impose routines—though they are warm and engaging (unlike actual jellyfish). 

12. Dolphin Parents

Firm yet flexible, the dolphin parent strives for balance in authoritative child-rearing. The dolphin moms want their kids to explore, but they are emotionally connected and engaged with the children. Dolphin parenting is an authoritative parenting style—the best of both the tiger and jellyfish styles.

Types of Parenting Styles: Helicopters and Other Heavy Machinery

These parenting styles tend to exhibit the rigidness of authoritarian parenting. These parents care, but they're prepared to move heaven and earth to clear a path for their progeny.

13. Helicopter Parents

This might be the most recognizable parenting style. If you haven’t done a bit of helicopter parenting, you have certainly seen it. Helicopter parents hover around their children, constantly circling to catch danger or make adjustments. Helicopter parents are concerned for the well-being of their children, but anxiety seems to be doing most of the flying.

14. Lawnmower Parents

As the name implies, lawnmower parents clear obstacles out of a child’s way. The lawnmower parent’s approach is to guarantee their child’s success and was coined by author and teacher David McCullough, who emphasized the benefits of failure. McCullough's 2012 commencement speech went viral, sparking a nationwide dialogue about parenting.

15. Snowplow Parent

A snowplow parent has a similar style of parenting as a lawnmower parent. Snowplow parents remove obstacles from a child’s path; they are a little more forceful than lawnmower parents. It's a more robust form of metaphorical landscaping. Snowplows don't trim the obstacles, they push them away.

16. Bulldozer Parents

The bulldozer parent is the epitome of the meddling parent—one that absolutely obliterates perceived obstacles. A bulldozer parent makes a snowplow look like a hands-off parenting style.

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Mom and young spacial needs child take selfie while baking, as they enjoy every moment together.
Dragon parenting is about treasuring every moment. 

And a Few More Types of Parenting Styles

17. Almond Moms

The almond mom originated on a "Real Housewives" series and blossomed through social media. The name refers to an image-obsessed mother telling her daughter, weak from hunger, to eat a couple of almonds. The almond mom provides horrible guidance to their children, valuing superficial appearances over genuine well-being. If you're reading this, you're not an almond mom, but chances are pretty good that you know at least one, and now you have a PG name for them.

18. Unicorn Moms

A unicorn mom is defined by the Urban Dictionary as: "A mother who's not perfect, enjoys alcohol, has a sense of humor, and couldn't care less what you think." Unicorn moms are not nearly as rare as the name implies!

19. Dragon Parenting

Unquestionably, this is the most touching and precious of all parenting types. Dragon parenting is an approach to caring for terminally ill children. It involves living in the here and now and treasuring every moment.

What kind of parenting style appeals to you? Come meet us over on Facebook to chat parenting!

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