Behaviour & Emotions Core Concepts

Parenting styles and the one you want to aim for

Parenting Styles

There are certainly many different approaches to parenting – from strict and disciplined to free-range and even French, apparently. Yes, we joined the multitudes tuning into Parental Guidance each week (or binging the whole lot in one go – who would have thought that watching other people wrangle their kids would make for such compelling viewing?).

Parenting style is a huge topic with an array of theories, experiences and opinions all thrown in the mix. How we parent is influenced by our values, personality, culture and the way we ourselves were parented. Interestingly, one thing that’s noticeable from even just a few minutes of shamelessly peering into the lives of others via reality television, most approaches to parenting offer strengths and weakness.

Anyway, we’re not here to pass judgement on our friends across the ditch and their brave attempts to parent in front of TV cameras (as tempting as that is!). We’re here to offer our take on parenting style.

At Parenting Place, we’ve looked at parenting from lots of different angles and keep coming back to one style that’s a clear winner. Not that real-life parenting is a competition, of course. But metaphorically, it’s the Parent Coach that reigns supreme, producing secure, confident and capable children.

Let’s look at why, and also make some comparisons while still within the appropriateness of our non-judgemental metaphor!

We’ve looked at parenting from lots of different angles and keep coming back to one style that’s a clear winner. Not that real-life parenting is a competition, of course.

Yes Sir!

Sometimes we can get ourselves into a mode of parenting that features lots of rules, not many reasons for the rules, and very little emotional connection. If this type of parent was a robot, they’d have their Rules and Structure setting turned up to max, and their Love and Connection setting turned right down. If we were to give this parent’s style a label, it would be Sergeant Major.

You can probably picture it – a household and family organised and managed with military precision. The kids might appear compliant and will likely be very good at making their beds and stacking firewood, but they don’t often feel like their parents listen to them or take time to empathise with their feelings.

All over the place

Flip the switch and you get a parent who is big on love and connection, but completely averse to structure and unable to set boundaries. If they do ever manage to make any rules, they’re unable to enforce them. Boundaries and consequences just seem to make life too uncomfortable.

They’re 100% committed to doing whatever it takes to keep their kids happy and have them love them back. Sounds sweet, but if this parent were a sea creature, we’d call them a jellyfish. They’re all over the place, have no backbone and kind of float through the tougher moments of life. Sweet and rather pretty, but not that helpful at providing kids with the consistency and predictability they need to thrive.

Course primary inperson

Get more insights at Toolbox

For more great tools to help you understand parenting style (and understand your kids!), join a Toolbox course nearby or online.

Find out more

Missing in action

Then there is the parenting style that disregards both dials and offers very little in the way of either love and connection or rules and structure. The Absent parent is preoccupied with their own stuff and likely to hand their kids some sort of digital babysitter and point them in the direction of the fridge, allowing them time and space to get through whatever it is they need to get through uninterrupted. This sounds a bit harsh, and we can probably all relate even just a little bit. Raising kids is a big responsibility and requires huge amounts of energy. Moments of MIA might seem par for the course. This is why self-care is so important to fill our cups and resource us to stay present.

So, with Sargent Major, Jellyfish and good old Absent shining a spotlight on typical parenting weaknesses, it’s our friend Parent Coach who inspires us to play to our strengths.

Thinking about the attributes of a good sports coach can help inspire us in our parenting.

Thanks Coach

With a few tweaks to the dials, we can find the right balance between connection and correction. And here we find the Parent Coach, who treats their kids with love and respect, while also expecting them to take some responsibility for their actions.

Thinking about the attributes of a good sports coach can help inspire us in our parenting. What does a good coach do if a player lacks a skill? How do they handle a player who has made a mistake? How does a coach encourage the whole team and build a positive team atmosphere?

A Parent Coach draws out the best in their kids by providing them with clear rules and expectations while maintaining a consistent atmosphere where logical consequences are followed through on. Unlike the Sergeant Major style, however, a Parent Coach does all this while prioritising love and connection so kids feel valued, appreciated, understood and cared for. Parent Coaches are great cheerleaders, calling out the gold in their kids and relentlessly encouraging them to do their best.

Sounds ideal, right! Almost too ideal, but the good news is no coach needs to be perfect, and neither does a parent. In fact, there is no such thing as a perfect parent. Good enough is good enough!

This overview of parenting styles is helpful in that it encourages us in what to aim for. None of us will get it right all the time, but it’s nice to know that with some simple tweaking of the dials, we’ve got the power to change the atmosphere, re-evaluate our priorities and coach our kids to thrive. Plus hand out half-time oranges and wash endless loads of sports socks. Oh yes, a coach’s work is never done.

Parenting square

Parenting Place

For over 25 years, Parenting Place has been here offering support and advice to New Zealand parents. We think that with the right support, parenting any age and stage can be a relatively stress-free and fun experience. You're doing great!


Recommended Content

Join our mailing list for regular parenting updates direct to your inbox

Sign up