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Parenting Styles: From Helicopter Parent to Hummingbird Parent

Every parenting style has a label, such as “helicopter parent,” “hummingbird parent,” “free range,” etc. Even if you dislike labels (which many of us do), sometimes the concepts hidden beneath them can be helpful.

We can learn a little something about ourselves and how we parent by thinking about the ideologies that underlie these titles. If you are like most people, you might recognize elements of each category that characterize your own parenting approach.

The research labels

These three well-known classifications, which are based on the work of clinical and developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind from the 1960s, have remarkably withstood the test of time:

1. Authoritative parenting

This term refers to the “ideal” parent in the scientific community. There are no perfect parents in the real world, of course, but this approach’s basic philosophy is useful because it emphasizes balance.

Parents who are authoritative are neither too strict nor too lax. While setting limits, they are also amenable to some (age-appropriate) discussion with children. The traditional description calls for harmony between being extremely demanding and being extraordinarily responsive. This harmony gives children a sense of security while also allowing them to expand and gain independence.

2. Authoritarian parenting

This is what would be referred to as parenting in the “old school” nowadays. Authoritarian parents are extremely rigid, demanding, and give little allow for freedom or flexibility.

In this parenting approach, the emphasis is on the parent’s attempts to exert emotional and behavioral control over the child. As a result of trying to suppress a child’s emotions, they become emotionally vulnerable and fearful of expressing themselves.

3. Permissive parenting

This method, which is essentially the laissez-faire style of parenting where direction and boundaries are not prioritized and children are free to make their own decisions, is one that most of us are very familiar with. Contrary to authoritarian parenting, permissive parenting places a strong emphasis on addressing children’s emotional needs.

Contrary to authoritative parenting, however, permissive parenting also places little restrictions on conduct. This creates an environment where a kid might feel unsafe owing to a lack of structure or norms.

The Cultural Labels

Let’s examine how those study designations have been incorporated into popular culture in the present day. These three traditional classifications are very wide, thus our contemporary parenting culture and media have begun to define parents in more specific ways.

Helicopter parent

This is the one that we constantly hear, right? Helicopter parent. These are the parents who constantly worry about their children, help them with their issues, and, yes, even call the college professors of their children to try to modify a grade (it does happen!). As we can clearly see, the real drawback of the helicopter parenting style is that it prevents children from developing self-reliance and resilience.

Modern parenting research has demonstrated that stress is a constant throughout children’s life. Children develop various emotional abilities that will be useful later in life through overcoming challenges and dealing with disappointment.

Tiger mom

Although we haven’t heard this name as much in recent years, Amy Chua’s book The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom garnered a lot of media attention in 2011. It typically refers to parents who place a high value on their child’s academic performance above all else. These parents, who resemble a hybrid of the authoritarian and the helicopter parent, can be extremely demanding while also limiting their kids’ freedom of choice.

Hummingbird parent

You might be seeing references to this new parenting term for the first time in the media. A hummingbird parent is the toned-down counterpart of the helicopter parent, as you might expect. A hummingbird parent watches over their little ones, but they don’t meddle too much in their decisions. They try not to make decisions for their children or shield them from failure, but they try to stay physically (or psychologically) close by so they can help if their children need it.

This encapsulates authoritative parenting in many ways today—a healthy mix of dependency and independence.

Attachment parent

The terms “attachment parenting” and “attachment theory” are frequently used interchangeably, yet they are distinct concepts. Attachment parenting is mostly derived from the work of Dr. Sears, a pediatrician who advocates a parenting approach characterized by close physical contact with children (e.g., sharing a bed, wearing a baby), responsiveness, and the ability to read babies’ cues.

After witnessing the traumatic impact of children being removed from their parents during World War II, two psychologists developed the child development theory known as “attachment theory” in the 1950s. The theory focuses on comprehending how parents bond with their children through responsiveness, calming, and serving as a “secure base” for their growing child’s adventures (particularly in the first two years of life).

Although “secure” attachment—the term employed in the theory—is most likely encouraged through attachment parenting, it is not the only way to do so. Contrary to attachment parenting, attachment theory advocates responsive parenting as a whole rather than any particular parenting technique.

Free-range parent

Free-range parenting is essentially the opposite of helicopter parenting. Free-range parents give their children a great deal more freedom and independence in contrast to what they perceive as the current tendency toward overprotection and overparenting among parents.

Comparable to parenting styles from the 1960s and 1970s, free-range parents are more likely to give their kids age-appropriate freedoms and responsibilities, such as accompanying them to school or letting them go alone to a park, or letting them fail at something to develop “grit.”

The free-range mentality is not without guidelines or limitations, though. Free-range parents simply place a greater emphasis on helping their children develop self-assurance, resilience, and coping mechanisms. They rely less on activities planned by adults and more on experiences from everyday life in this attempt.

In actuality, the majority of us are a blend of several parenting philosophies.

Understanding these varied ideas and their advantages and disadvantages might be useful, though. There are no perfect parents and no perfect parenting ideologies, but these labels might be able to shed some light on who we are and what are our values.

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