Parenting is hard.
We all know there is no How To manual, in fact, most of us simply parent the way we were parented. As educators who work with our students’ parents (or as parents ourselves) it is beneficial to learn about the different styles and personalities of parents so we can better understand those with whom we work and can communicate with them effectively. In the 60’s, clinical and developmental psychologist Dr. Diana Baumrind conducted groundbreaking research on parenting styles, identifying four different types:
Since Baumrind’s research, parenting has evolved and two additional styles have emerged: Snowplow Parenting and Helicopter Parenting. As the names imply, Snowplow Parenting ensures nothing is in our children’s way, while Helicopter Parenting means parents hover while making sure their children have everything they need, all of the time. Study the illustration below, and consider where you and other parents you know are on the parenting spectrum:
- The Executive Parent
- The MIA Parent
- The Soft Hearted Parent
- The Heavily Involved Parent
- The After-Schooling Parent
These parent personality types echo the characteristics of the parenting styles Dr. Baumind researched. Understanding both the different parenting styles and parent personality types provides insight and helps us to be more patient, effective, and empathetic, particularly when there is challenging news to share or during parent-teacher conferences.
This chart identifies parenting styles and parent personalities, and includes suggestions for communicating with your students’ parents:
|Parenting Style||Parent Personality||Potential Characteristics of Parents||Suggestions for working with parents|
|Authoritarian (brickwall)||The Executive Parent||• My way or the highway. • I’m in charge. • Punishing. • Autocratic. • Rigid.||Encourage parents towards a gradual release of responsibility. Emphasize students’ strengths.|
|Permissive (jellyfish)||The Soft Hearted Parent||• You decide. • Anything goes. • No guidelines. • Lenient. • Indulgent.||Gently remind parents that adding their knowledge, guidance and expertise is beneficial and helps children feel cared for and safe. Update parents about their child’s academic and in-school progress.|
|Neglectful (ghost)||The MIA Parent||• Difficult to reach, does not attend school functions or parent-teacher conferences. • Passive. • Distant. • Neglectful.||Encourage parental presence which helps children feel safe and loved. Provide meals or snacks to encourage attendance at events or conferences. Connect with parents using email and phone.|
|Helicopter||The Heavily Involved Parent The After-Schooling Parent||• Ever-present.• Protective. • Over-involved.||Remind parents children learn by doing, and are motivated by their needs. Explain how less pressure helps students excel.|
|Snowplow||The Heavily Involved Parent The After-Schooling Parent||• Parents clear the path so children don’t struggle and don’t learn how to overcome obstacles.||Encourage parents to allow children to make mistakes, starting small so they are prepared for the future. Support children as they work to overcome frustration and learn how to problem-solve.|
|Authoritative (Backbone)||• Present when asked/invited, supportive. • Demonstrates trust in the child’s abilities. • Assertive • Supportive • Flexible • Communication is key.||Encourage parents to continue to support their child, gradually giving them more responsibility as they get older. Remind parents that teachers are their students’ advocates and supporters, as well.|
|*Note, in cases where children have special needs, parenting styles would be modified.|
Whether our meetings are virtual, face-to-face, often, or infrequent, we want to be prepared when meeting with the parents and caregivers of our students. Understanding and learning about parenting styles and personalities can arm us with the knowledge we need to communicate effectively and efficiently.
- “Diana Baumind: Parenting Styles and Theory.” Study.com, Study.com, study.com/academy/lesson/diana-baumring-parenting-styles-theory.html.
- “How Teachers Can Work With 5 Different Parent Personality Types.” Teach, 27 June 2017, teach.com/blog/how-teachers-can-work-with-5-different-parent-personality-types/.
- www.icbits.com, ICBits Web Development. What’s Your Parenting Style?, www.parentchildhelp.com/BlogPost.cfm?BID=225.