The five types of parenting – as expert reveals the best and worst ways to bring up your kids

When it comes to raising a child, it can be a challenge for parents to figure out just what is today’s ‘gold standard’. 

Those on the hunt for information are likely to be met with all manner of parenting styles from helicopter and lawnmower to authoritative and free range.

To make things easier, Australian parenting expert Dr Justin Coulson recently spoke to Today to outline the five major parenting techniques and to reveal how each can affect your child.

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Australian parenting expert Dr Justin Coulson (pictured) has spoken about five different parenting styles 

1. Authoritative parenting

Dr Coulson said for the past few decades research has shown this style of parenting – a style that’s both warm and firm – enables kids to thrive.

He explained authoritative parents are able to express love and concern for their child with ease while maintaining limits and boundaries.

‘Authoritative parenting offers high levels of warmth, love, care, nurture and concern – all of the lovely stuff – but there are also high levels of strictness or limit-setting,’ he said.

Drawbacks of this style: Dr Coulson said previously this style of parenting can be confusing for children because of the punitive aspect.

‘Recent research has shown that sometimes authoritative parents can be very punitive and children may struggle to disentangle the love and the limits,’ he said.

2. Permissive parenting

Taking a hands-off approach to parenting comes with its advantages, however, a lack of rules can see kids run riot

Taking a hands-off approach to parenting comes with its advantages, however, a lack of rules can see kids run riot

At the other end of the parenting scale are the sorts of parents who believe in taking a hands-off approach.

Dr Coulson said a permissive style of parenting is very loving. However, the problem is it comes with few rules – and if there are any they are rarely enforced.

‘The love and nurturing aspects are very high, although the research tells us this [style] isn’t as successful,’ he said.

Drawbacks of this style: Dr Coulson said children who are raised in permissive parenting environments can fare well because love and nurturing are high. 

However, problems can arise with authority figures, and children parented with a permissive style may do less well at school.

3. Authoritarian parenting

Dr Coulson said this type of parenting is far stricter in that there an expectation rules and limits are adhered to.

The expert described it as a ‘my way or the highway’ style of parenting, and if a child doesn’t do what they’re told parents can respond with threats of punishment.

Although the approach has some advantages in that a child grows up to be very compliant, especially in structured environments, this is often more as a way to avoid any perceived trouble.

Drawbacks of the style: Dr Coulson said this style of parenting can affect a child’s identity and may see children ‘push back’ further down the track as a way to regain some control.

4. Attachment parenting

Attachment parenting is a type of parenting which blends the best aspects of sensitivity with 'positive discipline' (stock image)

Attachment parenting is a type of parenting which blends the best aspects of sensitivity with ‘positive discipline’ (stock image)

This style of parenting blends a mix of sensitivity with positive discipline and is one which Dr Coulson describes as a ‘child-centred approach’.

The characteristics include the ability to respond with caring and consistency while being able to strike a healthy balance between responsibility and limit-setting.

Drawbacks of this style: ‘There’s not a lot of research to tell us what is going on with attachment parenting,’ said Dr Coulson.

‘But in terms of love and nurturing and the things we know that help children to thrive, attachment parenting seems to be right on the money.’

What are the five criteria for positive discipline? 

Positive Discipline is based on the understanding that discipline must be taught and that discipline teaches.

1.  Is kind and firm at the same time. (Respectful and encouraging)

2. Helps children feel a sense of Belonging and Significance. (Connection)

3. Is effective long-term. (Punishment works short term, but has negative long-term results.)

4. Teaches valuable social and life skills for good character. (Respect, concern for others, problem-solving, accountability, contribution, cooperation)

5. Invites children to discover how capable they are and to use their personal power in constructive ways.

 Source: Dr Jane Nelsen

5. Free-range parenting

This style of parenting allows children very high levels of autonomy – in that they are actively encouraged to make decisions for themselves.

Dr Coulson said one benefit to this style of parenting is it builds resilience in kids – an essential attribute as they go on to adulthood.

Drawbacks of this style: The expert said the biggest challenge free-range parents face is ensuring their kids are in safe environments and that they are able to make safe choices and healthy decisions.

‘Again we don’t have a whole lot of evidence to support it, but helping a child to develop autonomy and independence as a pathway to building resilience in this pressure cooker world is something many parents should consider,’ he said.