What's Your 'Parenting' Type?
Thursday, May 5, 2022
Written by Sarah Hamaker
Categories: Parent Leadership and Authority
The labeling of parenting styles has gotten a little out of hand lately. Are you a lawnmower or snowplow parent? Attachment or helicopter? Tiger or free-range? What I want to know is what happened to just being plain old mom or dad?
Last fall, a USA Today article printed a primer on parent labels. But not to worry if you see yourself exhibiting any of these tendencies - I offer a solution to overcoming the urge to get rid of obstacles, hover over your child, seek collaboration over guidance or pressure a child to perform academically.
Mowing Down the Obstacles
A Lawnmower parent is one who smooths out the path before their children with the ferocity of the yard equipment for which it is named. Those in the Northeast will recognize this parent as a Snowplow parent. This parent removes “all obstacles that may cause discomfort, challenges or struggles.” A lawnmower parent helps their child by doing most of the work and/or going behind the child to check to make sure the work is perfect.
The antidote to “lawnmowing” parenting is to recognize that your child will fail—but that learning how to pick themselves up and carry on is essential to your child’s mental well-being. A child who doesn’t learn to navigate life’s obstacles becomes a young adult who falls apart at the slightest bump in the road.
A Growling Success
The Tiger parent puts excellence in academics above everything else. Tiger parents pick their children’s extracurricular activities with an eye to the future, not because a child enjoys the activity. Free time is seen as being lazy. “Parents are authoritarian and have high expectations” and exhibit extreme “tough-love parenting.”
The antidote to being a tiger parent is to recognize that a child should be the one driving academic studying and extracurricular activities, not the parent. If that means your child eschews playing a sport or only turns in minimal work to pass high school chemistry, that’s okay. Repeat after me, tiger parents: It’s your child’s life, not yours.
The Elephant parent is the exact opposite of the Tiger parent. “These parents value emotional security and connection.” While that can be good for a child, elephant parents take it too far with co-sleeping until the child is well into school, for example.
The antidote to being an elephant parent is to recognize your child’s mental well-being isn’t solely your responsibility. Your child is separate from you, and learning to deal with emotions is part of growing up.
Helicopter parents circle around their child ready to jump in and fix any problems the child may encounter. Coined in 1990, child-development researchers Foster Cline and Jim Fay labeled helicopter parents as ones “who may be over-involved and always assessing risk thus preventing children from developing that skill.” Often, helicoptering continues well into the child’s young adult years.
The antidote to helicoptering is to give your child control over his or her own life. Yes, said child might muck it up, as the British say, but, again, it’s your child’s life. And learning how to cope with failure actually breeds a healthy mental state in the long run.
Give ‘Em Space
Free-range parents let their children do age-appropriate activities alone, such as walking to a friend’s house down the street or going to the corner store. “Free-range parents believe this freedom promotes independence and self-reliance.”
The antidote to free-range parenting is more of a caution: Make sure your child is prepared to handle more independence and use your commonsense when it comes to what you’ll allow and what you won’t allow your child to do. But building your child’s self-reliance is essential to a happy and healthy adult.
Joined at the Hip
The Attachment parent is one who emphasizes extreme closeness between mother and child, especially in the younger years. Attachment parents co-sleep, wear their baby/toddler constantly and definitely breastfeed. “Parents also emphasize role modeling and positive discipline by using praise and rewards for good behavior and loss of privileges for poor behavior.”
The antidote to attachment parenting is to be separate from your child. It’s important for your child to have a life separate from you—and it’s important for you to have a life apart from your child.
A Swimming Chance
A Dolphin parent is one who seeks balance, flexibility and collaboration between parent and child. On the surface, this sounds great, right? After all, who doesn’t want a balanced child? But the danger in dolphin parenting lies in fact that kids, even teens, need more guidance and leadership from parents.
The antidote to dolphin parenting is being the leader your child needs, even when it’s not popular with your kid.
I hope you’ve seen the pattern here in my antidotes to most of these parenting styles—it’s to recognize that while parents have an important part in raising their children, a large part of what we’re called to do is to step back and let the child do the hard work. The more involved we become in our children’s lives, the more unhealthy our relationship with our kids become.
So repeat after me: Parenting does not produce the child. The child produces the child.
Certified Leadership Parent Coach