Parenting Styles: Four Main Philosophies

SETTING THE SCENE: Parenting Philosophies at Play

You are at the park with your precious little nugget.  You are happily pushing her in the swing while you watch all the other kids play.  It is hard not to notice all the other parents there too; one on her phone, one engaged in a thrilling game of chase, one hoovering at the bottom of a ladder waiting for her son to fall and one navigating his way through a toddler melt down.  Each adult is engrossed in “parenting” their child… but which one do you relate to the most?  And which one is “winning” at parenting?

The fact of the matter is that there is no one way to parent as there is no mold for children.  And even more there is not a TOP parenting style albeit some may be a better fit for your family’s ideology on parenting. Nonetheless, as parents we are always looking for resources, support and ideas on how to tackle the journey with more grace and confidence so today we are going to chat about four different parenting styles.


For all you moms with tiny newborn babies at home this is just great food for thought.  The reality is that most parenting philosophies do not start to take place, in practice, until after the first six to twelve months of a child’s life.  Those first months with your child are truly spent adjusting, getting to know them and learning how to survive!  Along those same lines you do not need to adopt a parenting style and stick with it for the next 18 years.  You will find you will move in and out of several parenting philosophies over the coming years. Each phase of your child’s life could require a different type of parenting and as your little human grows so will your parenting tool kit.

As you child(ren) grown it is entirely possible and probable that each of the following parenting styles will seem the best fit for you and your family.  Embrace that but use these a starting point.  As you navigate the world of motherhood it will become clear with philosophy you find yourself pulling from.  Come back to home base when needed and re-align yourself with the philosophy you most identify with. 

Now, let us discuss these four philosophies. 

Within in each style we will name them, describe them and then detail out actions/attitudes seen within each style.

If you Google parenting styles you will be bombarded with hundreds of articles so I have taken all the work out of it for you and broken them down into four main types of parenting philosophies. Authoritative, Attachment, Authoritarian, Permissive. 


According to Vanderbilt Department of Psychology  an authoritative parent sets high expectation yet provides support for success and fosters a productive relationship between parent and child through open, non-judgmental and effective two-way communication.  Now, this could seem challenging at first glance but it is easy to obtain and spot. Here are few ways that you can develop and implement this type of parenting; an authoritative parent establishes high expectations and provides structure in and out of the home.  A regular bedtime routine or consistent understanding of table manners (at the family table or in public) are two examples of how to establish this type of parenting.  A parent who subscribes to the authoritative style uses communication as the basis of their parenting… being able to speak to and talk to your child in a way that enables them to feel accepted and loved provides the foundation for success in achieving high expectations.  Additionally there are clear expectations (rules) with defined consequences; both positive and negative. It is as simple as “if x then y”.  Children learn and grow with this as a basis for behavior as it is clear and concise.

Giving children the confidence to flourish and then allowing them to be independent in achieving those set expectations is Authoritative Parenting.

This is the parent at the park playing tag with her child. She has established the rules and expectations of the game and is able to communicate with her child in a way that allows them to engage in play and behavior that meets the expectations. 


This style of parenting is the intuitive instinct to meet both the physical and emotional needs of your child without question or pause.  For most new mothers this is the style you are engrossed in.  HOWEVER, as Positive Parenting Ally points out this form of parenting can be very successful as your child grows up.  Building the basis when they are very young really establishes their understanding and comprehension as they grow up.  A main focus of attachment parenting is an in-depth knowledge of your child; essentially the ability to anticipate their needs and meet them immediately and almost before they know it.  As a mother to a new born this is obvious in the feeding and care of an infant and as your child grows it is about being one step ahead of them.  The anticipation of their need, based on previous behavior/traits or desires, allows a mother to demonstrate an unconditional and unwavering love for their child.

There are four subsets of attachment parenting: secure, avoidant, ambivalent, insecure. This graph from Positive Parenting Ally provides a breakdown of the different types of attachments.  These results were from a well known and well supported study down my psychologist on infant attachment. 


This type of parenting (Secure Attachment) helps build a positive self-awareness in children in the long run as they are confident their needs will be met and are able to explore in a deeper and more meaningful.  The guiding principle of this philosophy focuses on the relationship between the care-giver and the child and  it is demonstrated in the mothers who are able to ‘read’ their children and anticipate next steps.

This is the parent at the park anticipating her son falling down the ladder. She is able to anticipate he may need a bit more support climbing that ladder and is there to offer before he even has to ask. 


Authoritarian parenting is “also called strict parenting, is characterized by parents who are demanding…expect children to follow a strict set of rules and expectations. They usually rely on punishment to demand obedience or teach a lesson.”(Vanderbilt Department of Psychology) At first glance this style seems cold but there should always be a balance of rules and love.  This style of parenting is an example of the traditional rules and consequences.  There is no gray area and very little ambiguity or discussions of why.  For an authoritarian parent you define rules and there are clear punishments for not following.   A parent who subscribes to the authoritarian way there is less dialogue about expectations; it is not a conversation about “why” or “how”.  Children who require a great deal of structure and are analytic often times thrive in this environment due to the limited ambiguity.   At times these parents may seem reserved in their warmth; not to be confused with a lack of warmth.  Authoritarian parents set rules and expectations and give the reasoning of “because I am adult and you are a child”, they establish clear lines between right and wrong and use punishment/consequences to reinforce the expectations.

This is the parent at the park who is on her phone. She has established the rules and expectations and the park and the clear consequences for not following.  She is confident her child will act appropriately and if not she knows what punishments will follow.  


Last but not least is the permissive parenting style.  A permissive parent has a very low demand of their child but is very high in their response.  Over at VeryWellMind.Com they describe a permissive parent as very loving but provides few guidelines and rules.  Often times the permissive parenting style focuses on the child’s freedom over their responsibility. That is not to be confused with the ideological questions of free will vs determined fate. This is highlighting the idea of “kids will be kids”.  Many times bribery is used as form of persuasion to obtain a desired behavior as rules and outcomes are less ridged or structured.  Due to the less formal nature of this parenting style self- control and self-regulation are slower to develop in children but a sense of love and affection are very apparent.   Permissive parents strive to be friends with their child over establishing structured rules which when enforced are often inconsistent or ambiguous. These types of parents can be very affectionate and provide a wide girth for expression which some children need. 

This is the parent at the park who is negotiating a toddler about a meltdown. He is bribing and pleading with his child for better behavior due to little structure or clarity on park rules and expectations. 


Today we considered four main parenting philosophies; Authoritative, Attachment, Authoritarian and Permissive.   Each style is defined by their own set of guidelines, beliefs, ideas and values.  Each, of the four, can be effective and valuable depending on your family’s principles and morals.  As mentioned before at any given stage in your child’s life you may find yourself pulling concepts and beliefs from different philosophies.  Again, please remember that while one parenting philosophy may seem superior to others your actions and parenting should be driven by what best suits your child, your family and your lifestyle. 

These main styles are likely the top four types seen at your neighborhood playground or park. 

Deciding which one suits you best can seem daunting or overwhelming… so consider this a resource to come back as you begin to travel through parenting. 


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