4 of the most common Parenting Styles: Which one are you?

What every new parent needs to know about the four most common styles of parenting, the upsides, the downsides and what you can do to make your relationship with your child the best it can be.

parenting styles

In the field of psychology there are four recognized parenting styles. If you are reading this you may be expecting your first child or be in the throws of raising young children. You may be doing what feels natural which may be at odds with the way you were raised or with the way your partner or spouse was raised. This is a common dilemma.

In this article, I am going to help you understand the four types of parenting styles in relatable and simple language so that you may identify your particular style or see where you may be inconsistent in your approach.


“We will leave for the playdate once you pick up your toys.”

If you are authoritative you have high yet reasonable expectations for your child and understand limitations and that no one is perfect (including yourself). You likely read a lot of articles or books about child development and want what is best for your child. Bed time routines, structure, naps times, scheduled activities and set feeding times are your thing. You are rule driven and enforce consequences with consistency. You are also nurturing, loving and enjoy communicating with your child. If you are pregnant and have not yet given birth you likely talk to the baby in your belly and listen to Mozart every couple of days while running errands. Your goal is to foster a loving and open relationship with your child with a great deal of communication to understand your child the best that you can. This style is considered the healthiest approach to raising children so if this you, good job!


“You can’t go to Billy’s house because I said so.”

If you or your partner (usually only one parent is this style) are authoritarian you are the strict parents. But not in the ‘we only let our kids eat organic fruits’ type of way rather in the ‘we make the rules and you follow them’ kind of way. Period. There is little room for discussion with this style, it’s your way or the highway. You may be reading this and thinking of one of your parents from your own childhood. Sometimes people joke and say this is old school parenting. Punishment is often used freely in an effort to instill the value of being obedient or compliant. If you are this type of parent you don’t like to be questioned, you don’t want to have to explain yourself, and you provide very few choices to your child. With this style of parenting having a warm and loving relationship with your child is highly challenging. They will likely fear you, may have low self-esteem, may not have well developed decision making skills and be timid or anxious. With some understanding of the potential detrimental effects of this style often minor adjustments can be made in order to have structure, respect and rules while still being approachable, warm and loving.


“Stop screaming and I will buy you a toy when we get to the store.”

If you are a permissive parent you do not do well with establishing rules, structure or organization. Spending an hour in your home you friends leave thinking that the kids run the show. You are engaged with yet have little control over your child. You are well intentioned but tend to avoid conflict and compromise (aka give in) often to your kids. It can start in infancy when your baby is crying and your doctor tells you to let them cry it out for 30 minutes and you just can’t. Bribes are your best friend (if you stop screaming I will give you ice cream). You are also likely to want to be best friends with your child truly believe that all of the choices and freedoms that you afford your child will make them creative and free spirited in the future. What you don’t want to hear is that it is not good for your developing child to lack structure and boundaries. Children without boundaries tend to disregard authority, have trouble socializing with their peers and come off as spoiled. If you are a permissive parent you have to establish boundaries and trust the process that you can have a very close and healthy relationship with your child all while having rules, consequences and structure.


“I can’t play with you tonight, I have to work.”

No one wants to think of themselves as neglectful but there is a reason that this parenting style has been around for decades. If you are reading this I am going to assume you are not a terrible person who doesn’t care for your child. I am going to give you real situations where I see good people go wrong in this area. First, a neglectful style is characterized by not being in touch with your child’s emotional or physical needs. You may have a hard time understanding what is happening in your child’s life or even feeling out of control over their life and yours. You may be in an unhealthy relationship or marriage where there is domestic violence, frequent fighting or alcoholism making putting your child’s needs above all else a challenge. On the flip side, a frequent travel schedule for work can cause an otherwise good person to be a neglectful parent. If you cannot make school meetings, athletic games, or you don’t know your child’s teachers or friends you may be neglecting some key aspects of their life that get in the way of bonding. This lack of involvement is a major deterrent to building trust that can be harmful throughout your child’s life. It can also be corrected with effort, education and some meaningful time even the busiest or highly stressed parent can build a healthy relationship with their child.

So, there you have it… the four major parenting styles. Within these styles are different philosophies of child rearing as well as pros and cons. As a parent what you can rely on is that all children want to be kept safe, be heard, accepted and loved. I do believe the old adage that it takes a village…happy parenting.


By Dr. Sheryl G. Ziegler, author of Mommy Burnout: how to reclaim your life and raise healthier children in the process

The ultimate must-read handbook for the modern mother: a practical, and positive tool to help free women from the debilitating notion of being the “perfect mom,” filled with funny and all too relatable true-life stories and realistic suggestions to stop the burnout cycle, and protect our kids from the damage burnout can cause.

See more about Mommy Burnout.