Complete Guide to Parenting Styles for Every Family

I studied the four main type of parenting styles (authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and neglectful), for my undergraduate psychology degree.

But that was twenty years ago. I figured more had been added since.

“Seven parenting styles?” I mused, “…maybe ten?”

No, friends. In 2022, there are 19 types of parenting styles. And with so many options, it’s tough to know which one is right for you.

Let’s break down each parenting style: what it is, the history, pros and cons, and more.

Parenting Style Caveat

Whether you’re a new parent or have been raising kids for years, this list will give you a better understanding of the different approaches to raising children.

But! Keep in mind that there is no one right way to parent—what works for one family may not work for another.

Individual temperament, family structures, and situations all heavily influence parenting styles.

For example, authoritative parents are often more permissive when children are sick. Permissive parents may find themselves being more authoritarian when crossing a busy street.

Few parents find that they prescribe to just one parenting style. The different types of parenting styles will change throughout the day, let alone throughout an entire childhood.

Ish Mom
I’m not gonna judge ya
Ish Mom Guide to Parenting Styles
  1. Parenting Style Caveat
  2. The Four Main Types of Parenting Styles
  3. Authoritative Parenting
  4. Authoritarian Parenting
  5. Permissive/Indulgent Parenting
  6. Uninvolved/Neglectful Parenting
  7. The New Parenting Styles
  8. Attachment Parenting
  9. Free-Range Parenting
  10. Gentle Parenting
  11. Helicopter Parenting
  12. Lighthouse Parenting
  13. Narcissistic Parenting
  14. Non-Reactive Parenting
  15. Positive Parenting
  16. Reflective Parenting
  17. Slow Parenting
  18. Snowplow Parenting
  19. Spiritual/Holistic Parenting
  20. Tiger Parenting
  21. Toxic Parenting
  22. Unconditional Parenting
  23. Conclusion

The Four Main Types of Parenting Styles

In the 1960s, developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind coined three parenting styles: Authoritative, Authoritarian, and Permissive/indulgent. (In 1983, Stanford researchers Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin added the Uninvolved/neglectful style.)

Baumrind defined parenting style parameters with the terms responsiveness and demandingness.

  • Responsiveness is “the extent to which parents intentionally foster individuality, self-regulation, and self-assertion by being attuned, supportive, and acquiescent to children’s special needs and demands” (Baumrind 1991)
  • Demandingness is “the claims parents make on children to become integrated into the family whole, by their maturity demands, supervision, disciplinary efforts and willingness to confront the child who disobeys” (Baumrind 1991)
Star Wars figurines depicting authoritativeparenting style

Authoritative Parenting

Authoritative parenting is high in responsiveness and high (but reasonable and consistent) in demandingness; involving open communication and natural consequences.

The authoritative parenting style is child-centric, strongly focused on the individual’s development, milestones, and timetable.

Traditionally, this parenting style has been identified as the most effective and helpful to children. It’s the sweet spot between authoritarian (too strict) and indulgent/permissive (too lenient) parenting.

An Authoritative Parent:

  • Warm and responsive
  • Sets firm expectations, limits, and consequences
  • Listen to child’s viewpoint but doesn’t always accept it
  • Relies on positive enforcement
  • Encourages independence
  • Empowers child, rather than intimidate or befriend them

Pros of Authoritative Parenting

  • Studies show that children raised with an authoritative parenting style are more likely to have sharpened social skills, resiliency, academic performance, and more
  • Fosters secure attachment
  • Is collaborative
  • This is a well-established parenting style, so there are lots of resources available

Cons of Authoritative Parenting

  • Harder than other parenting styles (like indulgent/permissive), requiring more effort, consistency, and foresight from caregivers
visual representation of authoritarian parenting style
Authoritarian parenting involves lots of yelling

Authoritarian Parenting

Ever read Matilda by Roald Dahl? Think of those parents (portrayed in the movie by the delightfully awful Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman); that’s authoritarian parenting. On steroids, but still.

Authoritarian parenting is low in responsiveness and high in demandingness.

This style is adult-centric. Adults are to be obeyed at all times, regardless of a child’s developmental timetable, sensory processing ability, day at school, etc.

Disobedience is met with harsh punishments.

An Authoritarian Parent:

  • Demanding
  • Sets strict rules and punishments
  • One-way communication and rule-setting, little consideration of child’s social-emotional and behavioral needs
  • Doesn’t explore the rationale behind parental rules and boundaries
  • “Because I said so, that’s why.”
  • Lacks flexibility
  • Makes family decisions with zero input from children

Pros of Authoritarian Parenting

  • Obedience (???)

Cons of Authoritarian Parenting

  • Children are more likely to report low self-esteem
  • Children are more likely to struggle academically, socially, and emotionally
  • Children tend to be more aggressive, anxious, and defiant
Gummy candy could be dinner to an indulgent parent
With indulgent parenting, this could be dinner

Permissive/Indulgent Parenting

Picture Amy Poehler in Mean Girls: “I’m not like a regular mom. I’m a cool mom.”

That’s permissive/indulgent parenting. This parenting style is high in responsiveness, low in demandingness.

Permissive/indulgent parenting looks child-based, in the sense that the child may “run the show,” but this style of parenting is adult-centric.

The adult often avoid rules, boundaries, and follow through for their own comfort; to avoid the messiness of parent-child conflict.

This may help parents in the day-to-day but tends to be disadvantageous for children.

A Permissive/Indulgent Parent:

  • Warm and nurturing
  • Reluctant to impose limits
  • Overindulges child to avoid conflict
  • Rarely gives or enforces rules
  • Employs little to no boundaries with children
  • Ignores children’s negative behaviors
  • Typically gives in when children make a commotion
  • Doesn’t relegate many household responsibilities to children
  • Does not present self as an authority or role model
  • Describes child as their best friend (but, like, really means it)

Pros of Permissive/Indulgent Parenting

  • Comes from a good place (all the warmth and responsiveness)
  • Fosters secure attachment relationships (again, all the warmth and responsiveness)
  • Avoiding most of the “bad” parts of parenting (like imposing limits) can make parenting easier

Cons of Permissive/Indulgent Parenting

  • Children are more likely to have difficulties with authority figures
  • Children are more likely to have self-regulation difficulties
  • Children are more likely to be less responsible
  • More work for parents in the long run
Uninvolved parent constantly on phone instead of spending time with kids
Constantly being on your phone can indicate uninvolved parenting

Uninvolved/Neglectful Parenting

This parenting style is bad news; similar to permissive/indulgent parenting style but without the nurturing.

Uninvolved/neglectful parenting style is low in both responsiveness and demandingness. This parenting style is trauma centric. Nobody aims to parent like this.

Where uninvolved/neglectful parenting exists, larger mental health, addiction, trauma, or extreme poverty issues loom in the background.

An Uninvolved/Neglectful Parent:

  • Uninvolved and absent
  • Provides little nurturance, guidance, supervision, attention, or security
  • Indifferent to child’s social-emotional and behavioral needs
  • Struggling with own mental health/addiction/trauma

Cons of Permissive/Indulgent Parenting

  • Children tend to rank lowest across all life domains
  • Children lack self-control, self-confidence, and have less competence than peers
  • Children are actively harmed
piles of information
So much info (but we’ll sort through it together)

The New Parenting Styles

Why has the number of parenting styles more than doubled in such a short period?

Perhaps the intellectual powers realized that parenting styles change from child to child, day to day, life situation to life situation.

See also: the Internet.

Ish Mom doing baby wearing, a big part of attachment parenting
My second son practically lived in his baby sling for six months

Attachment Parenting

Popularized by pediatrician William Sears and registered nurse Martha Sears, attachment parenting focuses on being emotionally and physically in tune with a child from birth.

The Sears advocated for the seven Baby B’s:

  • Birth Bonding
  • Breastfeeding
  • Baby-wearing
  • Bedding close to the baby
  • Belief in the baby’s cry
  • Balance and Boundaries
  • Beware of baby trainers

An Attachment Parent:

  • Actively institutes the 7 Baby B’s
  • May breastfeed longer than “normal”
  • Does not believe in “cry it out”
  • Relies more on child’s directives, less on schedules
  • May be “crunchy”
  • Is more likely to listen to their instinct than authority figures

Pros of Attachment Parenting

  • Advises emotional responsiveness and attunement
  • Encourages interaction and closeness
  • Fosters child’s trust
  • Focuses on quality relationships
  • Warm and murturing

Cons of Attachment Parenting

  • Caregivers often confuse secure attachment with attachment parenting; one does not guarantee the other, there are many ways to form secure attachments
  • Puts a lot of pressure on parents, particularly mothers
  • Bed-sharing is controversial and not recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics
  • The focus on early childhood can leave parents grappling for new techniques as children grow
  • Can mutate into parent blaming
  • Attachment parenting requires a level of privilege that not everyone has (for example, it’s harder for a young single mother working retail to feed on demand)
  • Attachment parenting can be reductive: “do this, this, and this so your baby will be happy,” parenting is rarely that simple
Toddler playing outside to practice free range parenting
Free-range parenting advocates for lots of outside playtime

Free-Range Parenting

Introduced in Lenore Skenazy’s Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Have Without Going Nuts With Worry, free-range parenting is considered the opposite of helicopter parenting, embracing the motto “let kids be kids.”

However, free-range parenting isn’t a total abdication of rules (that’s permissive parenting).

Free-Range parenting aims to foster independence in children by giving them greater autonomy and less adult supervision.

For example, Skenazy famously allowed her 9-year-old son to find his way home alone on the New York City subway system.

A Free-Range Parent:

  • Lets children come up against their limits naturally (as opposed to enforcing consequences)
  • Provides children with a sense of freedom
  • Allows for plenty of unscheduled activities
  • May homescool or “unschool”
  • Tries not to parent out of fear

Pros of Free-Range Parenting

  • Encourages problem solving and resourcefulness
  • Builds children’s self-confidence and self-sufficiency
  • Promotes active, outdoor play
  • Less parental pressure

Cons of Free-Range Parenting

  • Laws vary from state to state about when children can be left unattended, do your research
  • Kids face increased risk with decreased supervision
  • Some parents have been accused of neglect
  • Less “village:” 20th century parents felt more comfortable letting children wander, as they knew everyone in the neighborhood, many find that sense of community diminished in the 21st century
Gentle parenting style in the wild
Gentle parenting is all about nurturing

Gentle Parenting

Gentle parenting seeks to strike a balance between too-strict parenting styles (like tiger parenting) and too-lenient styles (like permissive). This parenting style focuses on fostering a positive and peaceful parent-child relationship.

Often, gentle and attachment parenting is used interchangeably, but they’re slightly different.

Gentle parenting is more about parental mindset and ethos, rather than parental methods. Attachment parenting takes its methods rather seriously.

The gentle parenting ethos is characterized by four tenets:

  • Empathy
  • Respect
  • Understanding
  • Boundaries

A Gentle Parent:

  • Encourages good behavior rather than discouraging bad behavior
  • Does not see children as “mini-adults”
  • Views child’s behavior through a developmental lens
  • Doesn’t sleep train
  • Tries to have reasonable expectations of children (and their undeveloped brains)
  • Models the behavior they want to see
  • Is always non-violent

Pros of Gentle Parenting

  • Encourages positive bonding between parent and child
  • Discipline focuses on learning rather than punishment
  • Very warm and nurturing

Cons of Gentle Parenting

  • Being consistently patient and empathetic is difficult
  • This style can be misinterpreted as a lack of discipline for children
  • Gentle parenting multiple children at once can be overwhelming (particularly the lack of sleep training)
helicopter to represent helicopter parenting style

Helicopter Parenting

Helicopter parents were first described in the 1969 book Parents and Teenagers, but the term didn’t get much attention until the early 2000s.

Helicopter parents are said to “hover” over their children (both literally and figuratively), sweeping all danger, disappointment, and hardship away.

Helicopter parenting has gotten a bad rap in recent years, and it’s not unwarranted. However, most researchers degree that it’s not the amount of parental involvement that can be detrimental, but the type.

If you don’t let your 12-year-old walk to school alone because you’re scared of kidnapping, eh, you’re probably just an overprotective parent.

If you confront that same 12-year-old’s teacher about a bad grade they received, demanding leniency, well…you might be a helicopter parent.

A Helicopter Parent:

  • Very, very badly wants success for their child
  • Micromanages their children’s lives
  • Is overly involved in their children’s lives
  • Excessively monitors their children
  • May feel really anxious; an obsession with dire consequences that drives them to remove all obstacles for their children in the name of “protection”

Pros of Helicopter Parenting

  • Comes from a place of warmth and nurture
  • Children have it easier, I guess
  • Parental involvement is a good thing

Cons of Helicopter Parenting

  • Can breed a sense of entitlement in children
  • Children can have undeveloped life and coping skills
  • Not having to experience or handle disappointment as a child makes it even harder to positively deal with it as an adult
  • It’s gotta be exhausting for the parent
lighthouse to represent lighthouse parenting style

Lighthouse Parenting

A form of gentle parenting, lighthouse parents aim to be “lighthouses” for their children, a source of light guiding them through the storms of life.

The thing about lighthouses, though, is that they’re far away from the ships. Typically up on a cliff. A lighthouse parent wants to be visible from afar, a beacon of stability and guidance.

Pediatrician Kenneth Ginsburg wrote, “I like to think of myself as a lighthouse parent, you know reliably there, totally trustworthy, making sure he doesn’t crash against the rocks, but committed to letting him learn to ride the waves.”

A Lighthouse Parent:

  • Watchful but trusting
  • Avoids extreme models of parenting styles (like tiger or free-range parenting)
  • Attempts to guide children towards adulthood without curbing their independence
  • Hosts family meetings to talk through problems
  • Lets children fail
  • Practices consistent self-care in order to keep “light” on

Pros of Lighthouse Parenting

  • The focus on unconditional love helps the whole family
  • Encourages positive bonding between parent and child
  • Discipline focuses on learning rather than punishment
  • Very warm and nurturing
  • Builds children’s confidence and self-sufficiency

Cons of Lighthouse Parenting

  • Striking a balance between parenting extremes can require a level of mindfulness and stress management that isn’t always possible
  • Consistent self-care requires a level of privilege not accessible to all
narcissism sticker to represent narcissistic parenting style
It’s the worst

Narcissistic Parenting

It’s bad news, man. And you’ve seen it portrayed a million times: Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest is the first figure that comes to mind.

A narcissistic parenting style is adult-centered, in the most negative of ways. A narcissistic parent is driven by their own needs, rather than what is best for their children.

A Narcissistic Parent:

  • More likely to see children as an extension of themselves, rather than actual, separate people
  • Drives children to succeed to make parents look good
  • Does a lot of gaslighting
  • Doesn’t respect boundaries
  • Has an inflated self-image
  • Is emotionally manipulative
  • Lacks empathy
  • See children’s independence as a threat
  • May be physically, emotionally, mentally, and/or sexually abusive (and if so, should be reported to authorities)

Cons of Narcissistic Parenting

  • Children are harmed
  • Children typically suffer low psychological well-being
Non-reactive parenting graphic
That’s right, this is the parenting style coined by *me*

Non-Reactive Parenting

Non-reactive parenting was coined in the last couple of years, by yours truly. It’s a style of parenting that relies on non-reaction and praise where “discipline” is concerned.

Non-reactive parenting is not an absence of reaction. It’s reacting strategically: neutrally when children misbehave and reacting happily to children’s positive behavior.

Non-reactive parenting is going off autopilot where adult feelings are concerned; to feel anger and consciously not react.

A Non-Reactive Parent:

  • Warm and nurturing
  • Works hard to better understand child by better understanding developmental milestones, stages, and psychology
  • Does not see children as “mini-adults” (very cognizant of children’s undeveloped brain)
  • Tries to see child’s negative behavior as more situational than personal
  • Eats more homemade snacks, as sugar messes with kids’ behavior
  • Aims for a semblance of a schedule (i.e., “we do x, y, and z every time we take a bath, though it may not always be at the same time”)
  • Appreciates and institutes free time and unstructured playtime, too
  • Is trying to limit screen time (you too? is it just me?)
  • Champions non-reactive toys
  • Doesn’t yell, beseech, or question, regardless of the child’s behavior
  • Employs mindfulness techniques to better control reactions
  • Outsmarts decision fatigue (lays out outfits the night before so as not to think about it later)
  • Is always nonviolent
  • Fails at not reacting often
  • Apologizes when that failure happens
  • Keeps striving for non-reaction, understanding that’s the most important thing
  • Trusts the process

Pros of Non-Reactive Parenting

  • Due to the presence of mirror neurons, a calm parent can inspire calm children
  • Seriously, even with autistic meltdowns, my house is strangely and wonderfully calm
  • Reduced fighting and yelling
  • The discipline of non-reaction is constant: you’re always trying, building resilience and self-awareness
  • That discipline spills over to other areas of your life and that’s pretty great
  • Bolsters secure attachment
  • Non-reactive parenting works with adults, too

Cons of Non-Reactive Parenting

  • The consistency and self-control that non-reactive parenting needs can be hard to summon
  • And the failure rate can feel disheartening (chin up, I love you)
smiling yellow balloons to represent positive parenting style
You don’t have to be this positive, but you get the idea

Positive Parenting

Positive parenting is an off-shoot from the positive psychology movement.

This parenting style focuses on building and growing inner strength, rather than shaming or punishing negative behavior.

Proponents of positive parenting say that “… all children are born good, are altruistic and desire to do the right thing …” (Godfrey, 2019).

A Positive Parent:

  • Brainstorms solutions to behavioral problems with children
  • Maps out and practices new situations with children beforehand
  • Is always non-violent
  • Promotes children’s autonomy
  • Warm, yet firm

Pros of Positive Parenting

  • Warm and thoughtful without being permissive
  • Encourages personal development for all involved
  • Bolsters secure attachment
  • Reduced behavioral problems
  • Increased compliance and emotional regulation in children

Cons of Positive Parenting

  • It’s hard to be positive all the time
  • If one has low self-esteem it can be hard to champion others
selfie of Megan Imhoff, also known as Ish Mom
Just thinking real hard about why my kid is acting like that

Reflective Parenting

Reflective parenting is an ethos that springs from reflective functioning, a concept defined by psychoanalyst Peter Fonagy.

Reflective function is the uniquely human capacity to attempt to imagine another person’s mental state.

(A fancy concept for empathy, basically.)

Reflective parenting subscribes to these five basic skills:

  • Push pause and slow down
  • Be present in the moment
  • Observe behavior and label it with words (even if not said aloud)
  • Reflect on the meaning of the behavior, both child’s and parent
  • Use the understanding gotten from skills 1-4 to guide response

A Reflective Parent:

  • Sees the child as a separate, autonomous individual with a mind of their own
  • Actively, purposely, and as often as possible tries to imagine what is happening in child’s mind, especially according to developmental milestones
  • Attempts to respond to child’s motivations, rather than actions
  • Reflects before disciplining
  • Is more likely to reflect individually (or with child) on child’s behavior, rather than in a family meeting

Pros of Reflective Parenting

  • Warm and nurturing
  • Teaches child reflective functioning
  • Promotes close parent and child relationship
  • Is easy to apply at any age
  • Doesn’t require many materials, charts, etc.
  • Children do better when they feel understood

Cons of Reflective Parenting

  • This is another parenting style that requires mindfulness and self-control, that’s hard to maintain in our stressful lives
slow down sign to visually represent slow parenting style
Here’s your sign

Slow Parenting

Stemming from the Slow Movement, slow parenting is also called simplicity parenting. The slow parenting style is the reactionary response to our culture’s “rat race” mentality.

The slow parenting movement tends to keep things simple and advocates for a less scheduled, regimented childhood.

Critics of the slow parent movement worry that children won’t get enough learning opportunities. Slow parenting argues that children learn just as much (if not more) staring at grass for an hour than doing a Mommy and Me drum session class.

A Slow Parent:

  • Is typically anti-television, anti-electronics, and anti-consumerism
  • Teaches through play rather than structured activities
  • Avoids over-scheduling child at any age
  • Doesn’t really do schedules, actually
  • Avoids overstimulation in both parents and children
  • Advocates quality over quantity
  • Appreciates unstructured play
  • Isn’t overprotective
  • Takes frequent social media breaks
  • Champions non-reactive toys

Pros of Slow Parenting

  • Don’t have to spend money on electronic gadgets
  • Makes intentional space for interactive family time
  • Cherishes the art of being in the moment with children
  • Children explore options and mindfully choose the activities that are important to them
  • Less pressure for everyone, really

Cons of Slow Parenting

  • It can be hard to withstand the pressure of modern parenting that preaches structured play dates, early learning classes, etc
  • Slow parenting requires mindfulness, and it’s hard to be mindful when stressed
  • Can be a slippery slope to just straight-up lazy parenting
a picture of a snowplow to visually represent snowplow parenting
Snowplow parents sweep away difficulty like snowplows sweep away snow

Snowplow Parenting

Like helicopter parenting, but cold.

Snowplow parenting is more intense than helicopter parenting. Imagine a helicopter parent, hovering and swatting away difficulties as they arise.

A snowplow parent just drives ahead, smoothing the road of all obstacles for the child following behind.

Snowplow parenting has also been referred to as lawnmower or bulldozer parenting.

A Snowplow Parent:

  • Attempts to obliterate any and all obstacles to a child’s happiness, success, social standing, academic achievement.
  • Would likely confront a child’s teacher or coach if they didn’t agree with a grade if their child is benched.
  • Absolutely does not their want child to experience pain, failure, or discomfort (and so tries to make sure that they don’t)
  • Goes above and beyond to make their child’s life easier

Pros of Snowplow Parenting

  • Comes from a place of warmth and nurturance
  • Children have it easier, I guess
  • Parental involvement is a good thing

Cons of Snowplow Parenting

  • Can breed a sense of entitlement in children
  • Children can have undeveloped life and coping skills
  • Not having to experience or handle disappointment as a child makes it even harder to positively deal with it as an adult
  • Children are less likely to be able to problem solve as adults
  • It’s gotta be exhausting for the parent
picture of sage and crystals representing spiritual/holistic parenting style
I don’t think you’re supposed to sage your kids tho

Spiritual/Holistic Parenting

Spiritual/holistic parenting is rooted in eastern philosophy. This parenting style has three main focuses:

  • Emotional growth of the child
  • Spiritual awareness
  • Being present

The spiritual/holistic parenting style seems to overlap with gentle, attachment, and slow parenting styles as well.

A Spiritual/Holistic Parent:

  • Models the behavior they want to see, particularly where spirituality is concerned
  • Encourages child to find own spiritual path
  • Raises children in as “natural” of a way possible (editor’s note: treat this tenet with caution)
  • Avoids processed foods and toxic additives
  • Embraces green living
  • Tries to live as simply as possible
  • Would likely be described as “crunchy”
  • Limits children’s exposure to marketing

Pros of Spiritual/Holistic Parenting

  • Warm and nurturing
  • Encourages positive bonding between parent and child
  • Discipline focuses on learning rather than punishment
  • Seems healthier

Cons of Spiritual/Holistic Parenting

  • Sounds exhausting
  • It can be hard to withstand the pressure of modern parenting that preaches structured play dates, early learning classes, the latest gadgets, and the comparison traps
  • Requires the means to seek out knowledge about toxins, spirituality, etc.
Tiger Mom
Gonna tell my kids that this is a Tiger Mom

Tiger Parenting

The tiger parenting style is a strict, rigid system of parenting in which the parent is highly invested in their children’s success. In all areas of life. All the time. No matter what.

This parenting style was made popular in Asia, where academic and intellectual success are very important.

Amy Chua introduced tiger parenting to Western culture in her 2012 book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Though she meant it to be more of a memoir than a how-to guide.

A Tiger Parent:

  • Is highly controlling and authoritarian
  • Has very high expectations for children
  • Is extremely invested in children’s achievement
  • Likely to harshly punish children’s lack of achievement
  • Can be seen as harsh, controlling, and emotionally unsupportive

Pros of Tiger Parenting

  • Can be well-intentioned
  • Encourages self-discipline
  • Children often succeed and possess a strong work ethic

Cons of Tiger Parenting

  • But at what cost? Idk, man, sounds intense
  • Can harm children’s mental health
  • Doesn’t recognize many standards of achievement outside of academic/vocational ones
  • Has got to be exhausting for the parent
Danger grafitti

Toxic Parenting

Toxic parenting is the blanket term for all parenting styles that are deemed “poor parenting.”

Basically a narcissistic, uninvolved, abusive smorgasbord of parental styles.

A Toxic Parent:

  • Puts their needs above children’s needs
  • Is neglectful
  • Is physically, mentally, emotionally, or sexually abusive
  • May be suffering from mental illness and/or addiction issues
  • Should be reported to authorities

Cons of Toxic Parenting

  • Children are harmed
  • Children suffer low psychological well-being
unconditional love sign
Forever and ever

Unconditional Parenting

Unconditional parenting is a relational view of parenting that’s also called conscious parenting. It’s based on holding children in unconditional support and positive regard, no matter what they do or say.

Unconditional parenting was coined by educator Alfie Kohn. In his book, Unconditional Parenting, he argues that the best way to gain children’s compliance is by unconditionally loving them.

Unconditional parenting models principles of:

  • Respect
  • Love
  • Non-violence

An Unconditional Parent:

  • Believes that praise and reward systems are detrimental (wants child to be “good” from intrinsic, internal motivation rather than parent praise or approval)
  • Doesn’t yell or punish
  • Radically accepts child as is
  • Consistently prizes child regardless of behavior
  • Gives children full, undivided attention as much as possible
  • Expresses empathy first
  • Seeks to love rather than control
  • Will not use “time-outs”
  • Doesn’t sleep train
  • Aims to collaboratively parent with children, rather than to children

Pros of Unconditional Parenting

  • Reduced arguing and yelling
  • Fosters close parent-child relationships
  • Helps child mental and emotional well-being
  • Promotes secure attachment
  • Children likely to have higher self-esteem
  • Love literally helps “wire” children’s brains

Cons of Unconditional Parenting

  • Requires a lot from parents, mentally and emotionally
  • Children can be jerks sometimes, making it hard to constantly hold them in high regard (just saying)
Woman holding parenting styles book in lap
There’s that book they’re always talking about


What is your favorite parenting style? Mine has changed over the years and will continue to change as my children grow and their needs evolve.

What has stayed consistent for me is the importance of being responsive to my children’s individual needs and being willing to adapt my parenting style as needed.

I hope this article provides some much-needed information that empowers (not overwhelms) you as a parent. Remember, there is no one perfect parenting style – what works for one family may not work for another.

Be patient with yourself, experiment, and, most importantly, be present with your kids.



Megan writes everything on Ish Mom. She possesses a bachelor's degree in psychology, a flair for theatrics, and a whole lotta nerve. She lives in the Midwest (and loves it) with her wonderful husband and three young boys.

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