What Is My Parenting Style? Four Types of Parenting

Mom exhibiting different parenting styles with her young daughter

One of the interesting things about being a parent is that there is great variation in how we raise our children. At the same time, there are many commonalities from one parent to another. In fact, there is enough similarity that researchers have tried to group parents into four common parenting styles.

Your parenting style refers to the combination of strategies that you use to raise your children. The work of Diane Baumrind in the 1960s created one commonly-referenced categorization of parenting styles. The four Baumrind parenting styles have distinct names and characteristics:

  • Authoritarian or Disciplinarian
  • Permissive or Indulgent
  • Uninvolved
  • Authoritative

These Baumrind parenting styles are United States-centric and it is not clear how well these styles describe parents cross-culturally. Each parenting style varies in at least four areas: discipline style, communication, nurturance, and expectations. Are you wondering how to figure out your style? You might also be thinking, “What is authoritative parenting?” or “Should I be more disciplinary or indulgent?” Read on to learn more.

Baumrind Parenting Styles: Four Types of Parenting

Authoritarian Parenting

Authoritarian parents are often thought of as disciplinarians.

  • They use a strict discipline style with little negotiation possible. Punishment is common.
  • Communication is mostly one way: from parent to child. Rules usually are not explained.
  • Parents with this style are typically less nurturing.
  • Expectations are high with limited flexibility.

Permissive Parenting

Permissive or Indulgent parents mostly let their children do what they want, and offer limited guidance or direction. They are more like friends than parents.

  • Their discipline style is the opposite of strict. They have limited or no rules and mostly let children figure problems out on their own.
  • Communication is open but these parents let children decide for themselves rather than giving direction.
  • Parents in this category tend to be warm and nurturing.
  • Expectations are typically minimal or not set by these parents.

Uninvolved Parenting

Uninvolved parents give children a lot of freedom and generally stay out of their way. Some parents may make a conscious decision to parent in this way, while others are less interested in parenting or unsure of what to do.

  • No particular discipline style is utilized. An uninvolved parent lets a child mostly do what he wants, probably out of a lack of information or caring.
  • Communication is limited.
  • This group of parents offers little nurturing.
  • There are few or no expectations of children.

Authoritative Parenting

What is authoritative parenting? Authoritative parents are reasonable and nurturing, and set high, clear expectations. Children with parents who demonstrate this style tend to be self-disciplined and think for themselves. This style is thought to be most beneficial to children.

  • Disciplinary rules are clear and the reasons behind them are explained.
  • Communication is frequent and appropriate to the child’s level of understanding.
  • Authoritative parents are nurturing.
  • Expectations and goals are high but stated clearly. Children may have input into goals.

What is My Parenting Style?

Few of us fit neatly into one single parenting style, but rather raise children using a combination of styles. Think of the four styles as a continuum instead of four distinct ways to parent. Ideally, we think about our children and what they need from us at specific points in time. For example, while a parent might not typically adopt an authoritarian parenting style, there might be times in a child’s life when that style is needed. Or you might know an authoritarian parent who is nurturing, contrary to the description above.

Factors in How Children "Turn Out"

While it is easier for the family when both parents practice the same style of parenting, some research shows that if at least one parent is authoritative, that is better for the child than having two parents with the same, less effective style.

And of course, there are more influences on who children become than just parenting style. Some of the many other factors impacting a child’s development include these elements:

  • The child’s temperament and how it “fits” with the parents.
  • A teachers’ style of working with children and the match of teaching style to parenting style.
  • The influence of a child’s peer group.

Today, new names for parenting styles are arising. For example, “helicopter parenting” is similar to the authoritative style, but with a little more involvement, or some might say over-involvement, in a child’s life. “Free range parenting” resembles the uninvolved style, but with a conscious decision to allow more independent thinking that is in the best interest of the child.

Reflecting on where you fit on the spectrum of parenting styles can be helpful. Taking that one step further: know that any of us with any style at any point in time could benefit from the self-reflection that typically comes from participating in a parenting class. Talking with other parents and a facilitator can be helpful and reassuring.

Webinar: Getting to Know Your Parenting Style

When it comes to parenting styles, we all know that one size doesn’t fit all. So how can you ensure your parenting style is helping your child to thrive? Access the Bright Horizons® Family Matters webinar to find out.


More on Parenting Styles

  • As parents, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do basically everything, all the time, every single day. Exhausted? We know the feeling. Watch this webinar to get tips on how to manage advice overload and learn ways to effectively use your time to truly enjoy what matters to you and your family most.
  • Changes in parenting styles from generations past have given men more options for responding to obligations as fathers, husbands or partners. Here are some tips for being an engaged and loving father in today’s world.
  • Slow parenting, or the conscious effort to stop racing around and to be present in each precious moment with your child, is a growing challenge in our increasingly busy lives. Read more about one mom’s desire to thrive in the slow parenting movement.
  • While we as parents can only do our best for our children every day, it doesn’t mean we don’t experience our fair share of parental guilt from time to time. We’ve compiled some tips to help guide you through the guilt in your parenting journey.

Written by: Bright Horizons Education Team

September 16, 2021

About The Bright Horizons Education Team

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