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The Definitive Glossary Of Parenting Styles, From Attachment To Wolf

As Jon Stewart said, “Parenthood is an amazing opportunity to be able to ruin someone from scratch.” As you embrace it, consider the method by which you will go about said destruction. Will you hover, smother, or let the inmates run the asylum? Whether or not you realize it, your actions will place you firmly in one camp of parenting style or another. If you want to know what type of parent you are, here’s how it breaks down in the eyes of actual psychology professionals. If you want to know what type of parent your Facebook friends think you are, read on …

Parenting by the psychological model of attachment theory, where the primary caregiver keeps an infant extremely close and responds to their every signal to form a strong emotional bond. Claims to foster secure relationships and independence later in life. Either the ultimate expression of love between parent and child … or the ultimate example of a self absorbed, entitled generation over-indulging their kids. Core tenets include breastfeeding, babywearing, and co-sleeping — and a father invented this? Really?

The opposite of Attachment; Babywise parents create schedules for feedings and sleep that fit their lifestyle and the whole household’s needs, and then they’re like, “Fall in, baby!” The difference between this and simply establishing a routine is that if babies don’t eat or nap at the allotted time, they miss out until the next one. As with Attachment parents, Babywise parents claim this results in confidence and independence later on, so someone’s lying, although neither side likely has the energy to argue.

Brick Wall
Places highly restrictive barriers around their children to maintain power and control. Basically, a questionably kinder nickname for a Tiger Mom (see below).


Concerted Cultivation
Making a dedicated effort to build kids’ talents by enrolling them in as many organized activities as possible. Do the kids actually want to participate? Doesn’t matter! Because they generally end up more successful academically and financially, just like the generally high-income parents who generally tend to espouse this style. No connection there whatsoever …

Middle ground between the Tigers and the Jellyfishes: social and fun, but also smart. Also known as “Backbone Parenting,” as in having one. Dolphin parents set expectations and rules but also encourage creativity and independence while working together to be positive role models. Just remember that all of these — even the most moderate and progressive — are parenting styles. Your kid will absolutely not benefit from having an actual dolphin parent.

Allowing chickens kids to pretty much roam free and fend for themselves — or at least play outside. The federal government actually thinks it’s reasonable for parents to trust their children (and society) enough for them to walk to school unaccompanied, but at least 2 Maryland youngsters have been picked up for “walking while kids.” Even if every state catches up, the U.S. will likely never match Japan’s bullet-train commuting, school-janitoring youth.

From the people that invented the word “blasé” comes a parenting style that’s pretty much that. These parents don’t fret so much about kids taking risks on the playground and punish bad behavior without rewarding the good, because it’s just expected that kids will be well-mannered, autonomous, and good eaters. Which, incidentally, French kids seem to be.

A power-driven style in which one parent takes it upon themselves to decide what relationship is acceptable between the other parent and child. Achieves their goals by controlling all household schedules, asking for help but giving explicit instructions, and criticizing, demeaning, or creating unrealistic expectations (for the other parent — the kid is spared the abuse but is basically a pawn, which seems just as bad). Commonly known as “A Dick.”



Parents who map out their child’s life from birth to Harvard graduation and hover over every movement out of an overwrought desire to protect and prepare them for the real world. Ironically, their kids tend to be anxious, heavily medicated, and generally un-self sufficient. The fact that the Japanese equivalent is the “Monster Parent” tells you everything you need to know about the effects of all that hovering, which is a bummer, because every kid deserves a lifetime of “Get to the chopper!” jokes.

Opposite end of the spectrum from the Tiger, the Jellyfish is the ultimate “Permissive Parent.” They overindulge their kids and are bereft of impulse control, rules, expectations, or vertebrae. Their kids, however, are super cute and squishy.

Kyoiku Mama
Refers to extremely education-focused mothers who encourage performance with motivational words and snacks, but nonetheless will push their kids to study into the wee hours without regard for their physical or emotional well-being. A Japanese “Tiger Mom-Lite.” Curiously, viewed negatively in their native Japan but extolled by the Reagan administration. Today, mostly focused on shepherding kids between school entrance exams, which any parent of a preschooler should relate to.

This type of parenting is guided by 2 main principles: First, give kids unconditional love, which doesn’t seem like something just one type of parent should be able to own. Second, let kids make and learn from their own mistakes. Parents are watchful shepherds; it’s up to the kids to avoid the big rocks. The key is balance: expectations versus independence, exploration versus guidance. Ideally, everyone ends up safely napping on the beach, because beach naps are the best.



How Northeastern Democrats refer to southern white guys during an election year.

An acronym for Resources For Infant Educarers (RIE), a nonprofit where the notion of giving babies respect originated in 1973. That’s right, the tiny humanoid with a peanut brain who just crapped their pants without realizing it deserves — nay, demands — respect. Methodologies include talking to kids like adults and eliminating things like sippy cups, bouncers, and Baby Bjorns, which stifle independence and are therefore disrespectful to kids. Wholeheartedly endorsed by guys who think wearing babies is emasculating.


Soccer Mom
Marketing term used to sell minivans to a subset of helicopter parents who give up their dreams and derive the entirety of their self-worth from driving the carpool to and from soccer practice, Cub Scouts, ballet lessons, coding camp, and any other activities that will supposedly bolster a college application 10 years down the line. See Also: Hockey Mom. The only difference is … lipstick? Something like that.

The crunchy set’s answer to Concerted Cultivation. Encourages kids to explore the world at their pace, not as directed by a tee ball coach or overzealous sensei. Pro-free play, pro-risk taking, anti-consumerism, anti-television … it was all sounding so good until they came after your Netflix.


Tiger Mom
The most famous — or at least the best selling — parent on this list. Those aforementioned professionals would consider her an “Authoritarian Parent,” which includes unrealistic demands and expectations, totalitarian strictness, harsh punishments for disobedience and failure, and total unresponsiveness beyond, “Because I said so.” Tiger Parents have surprisingly little in common with actual mother cats, other than having zero f—ks to give.

Sounds like: what most parents might like to do after that first sleepless, all-night wail-fest. Actually is: raising kids without rules, more or less letting them do whatever they want. Debatable: which is more desirable.

Wolf Dad
The male counterpart of the Tiger Mom, an all-around horrible sounding dude, and the parent on this list most likely to take Mr. Stewart’s joke way too seriously.