What parent style are you?

Parenting styles – are you a helicopter or a snowplow?

So often understanding how to better help or teach someone else, comes back to first understanding how our own minds work. Think about parenting, for example. Yes, every kid is different and all have different needs to each other. But as parents, we also all have different personalities, parenting styles, needs and expectations too!

And the better we understand ourselves, the better we can help others.

I’ve always identified with being a helicopter parent 🚁 – I just can’t help it! 🙂

But now that I’m reading about the Inuit parenting I can also see a little bit of me there too. Not enough to say that I never raise my voice, but definitively enough to say I might get there with a bit of intentional parenting.

What parenting styles are there?

Over the years we hear about new parenting styles, some in fashion, some frowned upon. Tiger moms, free-range parenting, helicopter parents, and now the new snowplow parenting and Inuit parenting (although Inuit parenting is not really “new” at all).

Originally, parenting styles used to be defined simply by authoritative, authoritarian, permissive and neglectful or uninvolved. But then we got a bit more creative… let’s check out some of the parenting styles we hear about nowadays and see if you recognise yourself in any of them!

Tiger Moms

What is a Tiger Mom?

In a word – fierce.

They push their kids to achieve their absolute maximum potential, and teach their children through strict discipline and tough love. Boundaries are firm, extracurricular activities are a must and pretty much a ‘no pain, no gain’ attitude applies.

The name ‘Tiger Mom’ arose from the book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua. The book is more of a memoir, than a parenting guide, but it certainly highlights the positives and negatives of this parenting style. The aspect that does stand out to me is that this style develops perseverance. A skill I think many of us could use a bit more of these days.

Free range Parenting

What is free range parenting?

Free range parenting is s a term coined by Lenore Skenazy, in a bid to correct the direction of modern parenting as we became over cautious, and over protective. It feels like it’s come about from a generation nostalgic for their own childhood. Remembering back to when they walked to school on their own or to a friend’s house after school, or the freedom of being left to wander the neighbourhood (and for my sisters and I, the nearby golf course) until dinnertime.

Back in 2008, Lenore wrote an article on why she let her 9-year old ride the subway alone and it clearly spoke to a number of parents, as laws started changing to reflect this idea. Certainly, others were outraged of course. We are all different – and this clearly demonstrates that we all have different parenting styles.

Is free range your parenting style?

The aim is to give children more independence, and it recognises two key points. One, danger is not lurking on every corner, ready to pounce on our children the second we turn our backs. This obviously depends where you live – free range parenting was born in a state were crime rates has dropped back to where they were in the 1960s. And two, that your child will step up to the responsibility. As you give them more and more opportunities to build their independence, they will rise to the occasion and their sense of responsibility will grow with it.

If you like the sound of this kind of parenting, Lenore has a whole website dedicated to helping parents raise their kids free range – Free Range Kids. In fact, her website’s description sums it up nicely –

Fighting the belief that our children are in constant danger from creeps, kidnapping, germs, grades, flashers, frustration, failure, baby snatchers, bugs, bullies, men, sleepovers and/or the perils of a non-organic grape.

Lenore Skenazy, freerangekids.com

Helicopter Parents

On the flip side of this, of course, are the helicopter parents. Characterised by their over-protectiveness and excessive interest in their children’s lives. The name says it all – parents tend to hover over their kids, a little closer than what is deemed a ‘responsible level of parenting’.

Helicopter parenting originated in the 60s and was first used as a term relating to parenting teenagers specifically. And I think that’s probably where it mainly still fits. Although it’s a term that can be used for parenting children of any age, I think it recognises that challenge parents face as their kids enter the tween and teenage years. Parents need to learn to let go and allow their kids to handle situations on their own. Letting go can be tough!

Parents.com describes the reasons that lead to helicopter parenting:

  • fear of dire consequences,
  • fear of anxiety,
  • overcompensation, and
  • peer pressure from other parents.

Snowplow Parenting

What is Snowplow parenting (a.k.a. Lawnmower parenting)

Maybe the name depends on whether you’re in a sunny climate where the grass grows long, or buried under a foot of snow! Either way, they mean the same thing. As a parent, you find yourself clearing the path in front of your kids, removing obstacles and ensuring a smooth ride.

You want to make sure they have all the very best opportunities in front of them, and help them to make sure they grasp them fully. But in reality, it can be a very fine line between standing up for your child, being their number one cheerleader (if you’re not going to, who is?), and depriving them of the very experiences that will make them a stronger, happier person.

Too many parents make life hard for their children by trying, too zealously, to make it easy for them.


The most recent examples of snowplow parenting can be seen in the US college admissions scandals – parents paying for their kids to secure spots in top colleges. Although a snowplow parent is likely driven by wanting a better life for their child than they had, it does pay to have a good hard think about will achieve that. A clear path ahead, but no opportunity to develop resilience or independence, may not be the best way.

Inuit Parenting

Inuit parenting style

And finally, let’s talk about Inuit parenting. It’s less well known, but as I said early, this parenting style has been around for a long time. I love this one because it shows how effectively a different approach can work. Which is always helpful when you find yourself in a cycle of misbehavior, yelling, door slamming and general exhaustion! It’s good to have a trick up your sleeve at times like these!

So what is different about the Inuit parenting style?

The Inuit are the indigenous people of the Arctic, with a strong parenting style that goes back centuries. They don’t yell at their children. I know, right? Let me say that again, they don’t yell at their children. It’s worth taking a moment to let that sink in. First off, their parenting style aims to teach their children to regulate their emotions and express them appropriately. Needless to say, yelling at a kid really only teaches them to yell. And second, they teach both responsibility and problem solving as a first response, rather than discipline or blame. If a child spills something, the mothers response is not to chide but to observe the accident and propose a solution.

What is their response?

“Oh, look at that mess. We better clean it up”.

In the 1960s, anthropologist Jean Briggs studied the Inuit parenting style for a year and half and wrote the book Never in Anger: Portrait of an Eskimo Family. Her observations include that the Inuit parenting style is to never yell at a small child. When emotions are high and tantrums are flying, that is not the time to try and teach. And if nothing productive will come of it – what’s the point? Instead parents focus heavily on controlling any negative outbursts, seeing them as a sign of immaturity, and deal with the situation once emotions have calmed down.

Final thoughts

Did you see yourself in any of these parenting styles? I know I did, and I can see some things I might need to work on! But just remember, you don’t need to label yourself (or others). Knowing these different parenting styles, apart from just being a bit of fun, can help you to recognise in yourself the direction you tend to take when parenting. And keep this in mind, when you’re parenting. It might just give you a bit of insight into when you need to pull back, take a deep breath or stop and just listen to your child.

Understanding ourselves is the first step towards understanding others. 🙂 Let me know in the comments below if you resonate with any of these.

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