There is no shortage of parenting advice available. Just ask your mother-in-law or even your neighbor. But is there a right and wrong way to parent? And how best can we raise successful children?
Family psychologists talk a lot about nurture and boundary or firmness and friendliness.
“We call them different names but nurture includes love and support and responsiveness — all those warm and positive parenting qualities that go into really loving your children,” said Shelly Smith, a licensed marriage and family therapist at United Counseling and Wellness in Peoria, Illinois. “The boundaries are the rules, the guidelines we put into place.”
All parenting styles — old and new — attempt to define the right mix of these two aspects of parenting. The original parenting categories, as researched by psychologists, are: authoritarian, authoritative and permissive. Today, there are catchier names, such as helicopter and free-range parenting. But family counselor and author Alyson Schafer pointed out: “What you’ll find is there are a lot less parenting styles than names to describe them.”
The Tribune looked at a few modern parenting styles and how they compare.
Dr. William Sears introduced the term attachment parenting in 1993. The philosophy focuses on close contact between baby and caregiver through practices such as breastfeeding, co-sleeping and baby wearing. It also emphasizes positive discipline, meaning praising good behavior instead of punishing poor decisions. Those practicing attachment parenting seek to build a strong emotional bond between parent and child.
What the experts say: “Attachment parenting is one that’s highly misunderstood and lands kids and parents in my office.” Schafer said. Schafer warns against pampering your child, calling overindulgence a “serious problem.” To better understand the goals of attachment parenting, Attachment Parenting International outlines eight principles of parenting on its website at attachmentparenting.org. Some of the highlights are modeling good behavior for your child and practicing self-care.
Researchers Foster Cline and Jim Fay coined “helicopter parent” in 1990. The phrase evokes a picture of a parent hovering over a child, closely monitoring his every action. But the philosophy also means parents take extra care to advocate for their children and help them to succeed — even if they have to pave the path themselves.
What the experts say: “Helicopter parenting comes out of fear and wanting to protect our children,” Smith said. “If a parent is overly anxious, they may over-parent or overprotect their child and forget about balancing the child’s needs for independence and facing challenges,” she added. However, in a piece for Time magazine in defense of helicopter parenting, professor Elisabeth Stokes points out that failing to intervene and advocate for our children can lead to bullying, abuse and overexposure.
Lenore Skenazy’s book “Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts With Worry” has influenced a movement in the past decade toward giving children greater independence and less parental oversight, when possible. Skenazy writes about empowering kids and warns against over-parenting. Some other aspects of free-range parenting include more free play and fewer scheduled activities.
What the experts say: Free-range parenting can also be called “anti-helicopter parenting,” Schafer said. “It started a whole lot of conversations about how old should my child be before they do X, Y and Z,” she said. “It’s misunderstood when people ask, ‘What would (Skenazy) do?’ without preparing your kids for something like riding the subway alone.” It should also be noted that some states, including Illinois, have laws regarding a minimum age for leaving a child home alone. In Illinois, a parent who leaves a minor under age 14 unsupervised may be guilty of neglect.
The book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” by Amy Chua sheds light on parenting practices popular in Asia, where intellectual and academic success is paramount. Tiger parents hold their children to high expectations and enforce strict rules at home. Chua maintains that parents should set the bar high for their children and says they will not only respond to the challenge but also thrive. Tiger parenting has also been called tough-love parenting.
What the experts say: Tiger parenting is most akin to authoritarian parenting. “If you rule that way, you’re going to raise one of three types of kids: the pleasure, the sneak or the outward rebel,” Schafer said. Studies have also shown higher rates of depression and suicide, as well as low self-esteem, among children with authoritarian parents. Smith adds: “If there are any safety issues with a child or if the child has any symptoms of depression or high anxiety, try to get help right away. The earlier you intervene in those situations, the faster and easier it is to help your child.”
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