Skip to main content

4 Popular Parenting Styles and How to Find Common Ground

We all have our own style of parenting, but many parents fall into the category of today's most popular parenting styles. Which styles are most common — and how can we all find common ground? Read on to get some handy tips for managing modern parenting with so many different philosophies in the mix!
dad carrying daughter on shoulders
Updated: December 1, 2022

Here's the deal. These are some of the most common parenting styles, plus some helpful hints on what to do if your child's best friend has a mom or dad with a different parenting approach than your own (it's bound to happen!).

1. Attachment parenting. This style is mostly associated with babies and toddlers, but it can carry on well into older childhood — and it's not for the faint of heart. Demand feeding, baby wearing, and co-sleeping are the early hallmarks of this style. According to Attachment Parenting International, the goal of this style is to nurture a "secure attachment and support a mindset of nonviolent communication and positive discipline." Some children co-sleep with their parents into the elementary school years, and parents are constantly accessible.
Pros: Your child has security in knowing you're always there and available.
Cons: Paying constant attention to your child's mood and whims can lead to an unhealthy overdependence or even manipulation of Mom and Dad.
Possible parenting style clashes: If your child is buddies with a child whose parent who practices the attachment style, you may encounter issues around who "runs the show." For instance, you may require that your preschooler eat what is offered no matter if they like it or not. An attachment parent may provide many other options for their child to keep them happy. Choose situations where the potential conflict of styles might not be as much of an issue, like having a play date together at home at a non-meal or snack time. If there is a real issue, communicate your style to the other parent. Most parents can respect each other and work on ways to reduce conflict.

2. Helicopter parenting. Helicopter parents do exactly what the name implies: hover. They are typically overprotective and very involved in every aspect of their child's life, beyond what would be considered typical. They often take full responsibility for their child, including failures and successes, and obsessively observe, whether at the playground or during homework time.
Pros: You're very present for your child and he can always count on you to know what's going on.
Cons: Kids are not allowed any freedom to venture on their own and learn important life lessons.
Possible parenting style clashes: Helicopter parenting is very common these days. According to the American School Counseling Association, it's wise to stay positive with a helicopter parent and try to relate to their jitters (parenting can be nerve-racking!), while also encouraging them to empower their kids. Most children can handle more responsibility and independence than Mom and Dad might realize. If you invite your child's pal with a helicopter parent over for a play date, let the parent know that you will take good care of their son or daughter, and tell them what you will be doing. If the parent would feel more comfortable, offer for them to stay and have coffee for a bit while the kids play — but offer space and opportunities for the children to play without heavy supervision.

3. Free-range parenting. These are the opposite of helicopter parents. They allow their child almost full independence and freedom often beyond what would be considered age-appropriate for many parents. These parents let their kids walk to school alone and use public transportation at a young age, all in the spirit that they will learn about life and gain independence. The term came from the book Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children by Lenore Skenazy.
Pros: Kids learn very early on that they are capable, independent, and free to learn, gain confidence, and understand risks.
Cons: Sometimes kids may be too young, either in age or maturity level, to take on such independence.
Possible parenting style clashes: What if your child's friend has a free-range parent? You may not feel comfortable allowing your child the same freedom as their friend. It's OK to express this to the parent and explain that you aren't comfortable having your child walk to the local pizza parlor without an adult, for example. Hopefully the other parent will respect that. If not, maybe have a play date at your house where a set activity is planned. As always, respectful communication is key.

4. Tiger parenting. This notoriously tough parenting style was the focus the book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua. The book chronicled the author's Chinese upbringing and how it impacted the parenting of her own daughters, whom she didn't allow to watch TV, play video games, have sleepovers or play dates, or get grades lower than an A. Tiger parents have very regimented schedules and high expectations for their children.
Pros: Tiger parenting can breed strong academic achievement and possibly future career success.
Cons: According to the American Psychological Association, this style can lead to "higher rates of depressive symptoms than children with easygoing or supportive parents, as well as high levels of academic pressure and feelings of alienation from parents."
Possible parenting style clashes: So what if you tangle with a tiger parent and you are more easygoing? Once again, communication is key. Get your kids together (after all their homework is done, of course!) for a super fun play date that encourages unstructured play, such as free time at the playground. Know that the child might be very focused on following the rules, and praise her for that, while also finding ways to bring out the sillies and maybe even a bit of rule-bending (shhh!).

Today's diverse parenting styles can cause conflicts, but it's worth talking things out so that kids can be pals regardless of adult differences. There's always some common ground: our kids' happiness.

Laura Richards

About Laura

Laura is a writer, journalist, communications, brand, and PR specialist with 20+ years of… Read more

Join the Family

Your partner in parenting from baby name inspiration to college planning.