What type of mom are you? Helicopter? Lawnmower? Dolphin? Permissive?

I’ve been called a helicopter mom by teachers, coaches, other parents, my kids and myself. I’ve admitted it and even reveled in it at times, because I thought it meant I really cared. It actually meant I was approaching parenting in a way I thought would help my child at the time, without considering how it would impact them later in life or impact me and the rest of my family.

I dismissed criticism of helicopter parenting because I thought labels are silly anyways. Why do we care what we call our style of parenting? After two decades of motherhood, I realize that once you identify what you are doing and why you are doing it, you can evaluate the advantages and disadvantages. And it’s easiest to identify your method of parenting when you can give it a name.

So I decided to research these parenting labels, and I found a dozen of them along with descriptions explaining the impacts of each parenting type. I believe all parents want the best for their kids, but we have different opinions about how to give our children what they need or want. Some parents are strict, while others are lenient. Some are vigilant, while others are distant. Some hover and demand achievement, while others cuddle and negotiate.

Is there a “right” way to parent? Psychologists point to one of these methods as the best for raising mentally strong, well-rounded and successful kids. I also have my own opinion about the optimum style which I am trying to model after 20 years of mistakes. I’m sharing both of those along with a summary of each parenting type I’ve borrowed from other sources.

Helicopter parent

Parents tend to hover, and this can continue through college. These parents may be overly involved and always assessing risk, which prevents children from developing that skill. 

Tiger parent

The tiger parent is known for putting excellence in academics and carefully chosen extracurriculars above leisure time. Parents have high expectations. Children are expected to respond to challenges.  

Lawnmower/Snowplow/Bulldozer parent

These parents mow down a path for their children by removing all obstacles that may cause discomfort. This parent not only helps their child but probably does a lot of the work for the child or at least checks to make sure that everything is correct. These parents have a strong desire to protect their child from any type of struggle. They may even complete homework projects for their child.

Dolphin parent

These parents seek collaboration, flexibility and balance. This type of parenting prioritizes POD — P for play and exploration, O for others, and D for downtime, which includes rest, exercise and sleep.

Free-range parent

These parents allow their kids to walk to school or a nearby playground alone. Young children may be allowed to ride public transportation or shop alone. Free-range parents believe this freedom promotes independence and self-reliance. Others think it can be dangerous.

Attachment parent

Attachment parents desire close contact through baby wearing, breastfeeding and co-sleeping. These parents use natural closeness rather than the clock to determine their child’s needs. They also emphasize role modeling and positive discipline by using praise and rewards for good behavior and loss of privileges for poor behavior.

Elephant parent

These parents are the opposite of tiger parents. They value emotional security and connection. These parents seek not to raise their voices and value encouragement over academic or athletic success. 

Permissive Parent

These parents are highly responsive and communicate openly. They let their kids decide for themselves, rather than giving direction. Rules and expectations are either not set or rarely enforced. They go through great lengths to keep their kids happy, sometimes at their own expense. Parents may move into this approach when they worry their child is vulnerable because of a disability like mental illness or ADHD. Permissive parents are more likely to take on a friendship role, rather than a parenting role, with their kids. They prefer to avoid conflict and will often acquiesce to their children’s pleas at the first sign of distress. These parents mostly allow their kids to do what they want and offer limited direction.

Neglectful/Uninvolved Parent

These parents don’t demand much from their child but also don’t respond much to their child. They let their kids mostly fend for themselves, perhaps because they are indifferent or overwhelmed with struggles in their own lives. They offer little nurturing or attention. They may be battling with their own self-esteem issues and have a hard time forming close relationships. Neglectful parents have limited engagement with their children and rarely implement rules. They can be seen as cold and uncaring, although they may not be intentionally neglecting their children.

Authoritarian Parent

These parents demand a lot from their children but don’t offer a lot of support. They enforce strict rules with little consideration of their kid’s feelings or social-emotional and behavioral needs. Communication is mostly one way, from parent to child. This rigid parenting style uses stern discipline, often justified as tough love. In attempt to be in full control, authoritarian parents often talk to their children without wanting input or feedback.

Authoritative Parent

These parents are highly responsive to their children’s needs, but they also demand a lot of their kids. They set clear rules and expectations for their kids while practicing flexibility and understanding. They communicate frequently, being careful to listen to their kids and take into consideration their children’s thoughts, feelings and opinions. They often allow natural consequences to occur, like a kid failing a quiz when he didn’t study. These parents use those opportunities to help their kids reflect and learn. Authoritative parents are nurturing, supportive and often in tune with their children’s needs. They guide their children through open and honest discussions to teach values and reasoning. Kids who have authoritative parents tend to be self-disciplined and can think for themselves.


Experts say authoritative parents have been found to have the most effective parenting style in all sorts of ways: academic, social emotional, and behavioral. Authoritative parents expect a lot from their children, but also they expect even more from their own behavior.


Happy Parent

When parents are happy, their home is calm and conflict is minimized, though not hidden. Children see how their parents cope with disappointment and stress in a collaborative way, and how they enjoy life without worrying about every little detail.

One way to become a happier parent is to form your own friendships and reach out for help when you need a break. You can meet more moms and join a community of moms who help each other with emotional support, carpools, childcare trading and more by getting the MomSub app at this link: https://known-play-9308.glideapp.io/.

With the app, you can quickly and easily meet mom friends near you, schedule time to get together with them, and offer and find help from other moms in a judge-free environment.

As founder of the MomSub app, it may seem strange for me to write about parenting labels like these, but I recognize that understanding our own style and that of others can sometimes be helpful in reducing stress, guilt and self-criticism and increasing calm, confidence and clarity. The idea of examining labels is to foster self-reflection in a positive way and not comparison with other moms, who may appear to have the perfect life that shows up on their social media feeds because all we’re really seeing is their highlight reel.

Besides the camaraderie, one value of meeting new moms is the wonderful possibility of adding new friends to your village whom you can get to know and trust enough to have a drop off playdate, where you get some time to yourself. You can meet more friends in our tribe by joining our private Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/momshelpingmomssupport.

We also have weekly virtual gatherings sponsored through the Naperville Area Moms Support Group on MeetUp that you can join here: https://www.meetup.com/Naperville-Area-Moms-Support-Group/.

The more moms you know, the more insights you can get from others. That’s why I discuss different parenting issues every Friday at noon Central Time during “Dose of Inspiration” on Facebook Live @MomSub. I share the mistakes I’ve made and the lessons I’ve learned through the ups and downs of my life.  Sometimes it helps to hear how other moms face crisis and handle issues. I hope it’s helped you.

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