Parenting Styles and Their Effects on Kids

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Ladies and gents -it’s time to dive into (or just dip our toes a little bit) into the parenting style debate. First, a disclaimer is in order:

There is no one right parenting style.

For all we know, the “correct” parenting style is a salad bowl of all parenting styles mixed together -and much more. Trying to get a prize for perfect parenting is like hoping to get an Oscar for improv theater.

Actually, scratch that. It’s easier to be a perfect parent – if you assume at the very get-go that perfect parenting is full of mistakes, learning from those mistakes and trying your hardest. Tears, laughs, hugs and tantrums are all a part of perfect parenting. Diana Baumrind, a clinical and developmental psychologist, researched and identified 4 typical parenting styles. Here are 2 of the most modern stereotyped parenting styles to think about, as surveyed in a group of 100 moms of 3 to 5 year olds.

The ‘Crunchy Granola’ Style

The extreme stereotype of this species can be seen at Whole Foods or a local farmer’s market, picking the most gluten free species of kale for an organic toddler smoothie. Well -maybe not. We all want the best for our kids, and sometimes it’s easy to forget to slow down a bit. Sometimes we pay too much attention to slowing down at all costs.

We can all include a bit of nature in our busy lives, and the benefits of being a bit “crunchy” are proven to be very beneficial for kids. Outdoor day cares, or “forest” preschools, natural playgrounds that organically include rocks, wood and other elements from the wild, getting dirty, muddy, going hiking -these are all great ideas that we can “steal” from the average “granola mom”.

“In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand and we will understand only what we are taught.”-Baba Dioum

A great effect of raising a nature aware kid is that they will carry that knowledge and love forward and bring it to others. If you’re concerned about the state of things in the world, there is no better way of bringing about change than teaching your child how to recycle, and educating them about local plants and animals and their conservation.

It’s about teaching them how to feel at home in nature by taking them on a hike or providing chances at unstructured, natural play. Here are some natural parenting style aspects that you can let inspire you:

  • Walk more
  • Recycle
  • Eat local (and explain why/what)
  • Eat whole foods and teach your kids how to cook
  • Get them to play with natural toys and to invent their own games
  • Teach them how to garden

The effect: Your kids will pay it forward with Mother Nature. They will be happier, less likely to get depressed, and more likely to engage in healthy hobbies like hiking and camping. Most importantly, they will pass it on to their friends, and to their own children.

Children are naturally inquisitive, and letting them play outdoors will help them grow their creativity.

Helicopter Style Parenting

Helicopter parenting has gotten a very bad rap, but there are some good points to it that we can adopt without becoming a human embodiment of a Blackhawk.

The stereotype goes like this: a helicopter parent is someone who hovers over their child, not letting them make any decisions by themselves and plans their whole life, which results in helpless adults entering university, the work force, and not being able to maintain grown up relationships.

Whew. That’s a steamer trunk-sized piece of baggage if we ever saw one. The thing is, there are some healthy aspects of helicopter parenting that we can adapt to fit our own relationships.

Bonding – keeping gentle tabs on your kids helps to build a close relationships. We don’t mean herding them through ten extracurricular activities per week with a whip and a timer. We mean talking to them about their interests, their goals and helping them in building a framework to achieve whatever they want. They are kids after all -they need the structure. What they don’t need is telling them every minute detail of how to grow around that structure.

Goals – when you provide good structure to your child, they will feel safer when taking risks. Indiana University’s Center for Postsecondary Research were actually better engaged in learning and communicating. This is because they feel like their goals are clearly defined and they don’t feel as “lost”. Teenage years are tough, and the last thing you want is to navigate the social and academic pressures all by yourself without a rock-hard background.

Parenting Styles -In Conclusion

Don’t stereotype! We all try our hardest and our parenting styles will depend on how we were raised ourselves.

Sometimes, if we had overbearing parents we will be overbearing ourselves – but sometimes, we will swing the other direction and don’t give our kids enough support because we want to spare them the pain we ourselves have experienced.

It’s hard to start from scratch. Remember to be open minded -especially when it comes to parenting. But try to see if there are some benefits to parenting styles that you have completely written off.

In the end, parenting IS one big improv. Your kids are their own human beings and you know what’s best for those beautiful individual humans – if you only get to know them.


Agata Miller is a history teacher on hiatus, part-time creative writer, full-time mom of four, occasional traveler and an aspiring photographer. She believes in natural upbringing and spends at least a month out of the year camping with her family.

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