How Do You Feel About These Parenting Buzzwords?

The language of parenting is constantly evolving, and these changes often occur in tandem with new parenting movements and styles. The early 20th-century authoritarian style of parenting gave way to a more permissive parent in the ’60s and ’70s.

The ’80s and ’90s parent became more intricately involved and focused on building their children’s self-esteem. Trophies for everyone! Now, in the early 21st century, the focus seems to be shifting to building grit and character (along with more independence) as parents move from over-parenting to a slight loosening of the reins. Here’s a look at the top parenting buzzwords and how they reflect these shifting parental tendencies.

1. Helicopter parenting

This probably needs no explanation, but we’ll use it as a jumping off point to our list. In general, these moms and dads have a tendency to hover over their kids’ lives in more ways than any previous generation is known to have done … and this parenting style has taken its fair share of criticism. It often involves “rescuing” and micromanaging. So much so that the academic world has cried, “Enough!” in an effort to turn out young adults who are more capable and more independent.

2. Lawnmower parent

Although a lawnmower parent paves the way for helicopter parenting, the phrase hasn’t quite caught on the way the latter has. A lawnmower parent is one who clears the way of any possible hurdles and might even take proactive steps to help their child achieve maximum gain in anticipation of any of life’s curveballs (such as writing a college essay for the applicant, ahead of time). Some experts see this as a danger equivalent to applying weed killer to a budding bloom.

3. Tiger mom

The phrase tiger mother or tiger mom was popularized by writer Amy Chua in her memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Those who criticize tiger moms note the possible negative effects of restricting kids’ social lives and using emotional threats and punishments as motivation. Those who support it say it nurtures self-discipline and a drive to achieve. Maybe there is room for some middle ground … cat dad, anyone?

4. Crunchy, granola mom 

This term applies to moms who take the time to make their own organic (perhaps vegan) baby food, use cloth diapers, espouse “clean eating” and extended breastfeeding, and partake in any kind of lifestyle that could be defined as “natural.” Sometimes used derisively by those harried parents who work 14 hours a day, the term is clearly rooted in the 1960s counterculture, when granola defined all things hippie.

5. Attachment parenting

This technique gained favor several decades ago and is a part of any righteous granola mom’s pantheon of tools. Baby-wearing, or carrying one’s baby as much as possible, and bed-sharing are thought to produce a tight bond and also to produce children who feel secure and confident. Some supportive theories refer to other cultures that have long advocated a “family bed” and its benefits.

6. No-rescue parenting

As all trends do, the parenting pendulum seems to be swinging away from intense involvement to styles that put some distance between parents and children. No-rescue parenting makes a concerted effort to resist swooping in to save the day, to allow children to learn from their mistakes on their own.

7. Lighthouse parenting

Like no-rescue parenting, this style is meant to provide an alternative to hovering over the kids like a helicopter. Its proponents say the lighthouse is the perfect metaphor for parenting, as children need “stable beacons of light on the shoreline.” Lighthouse parenting gives children the autonomy to make choices and mistakes but also provides structure.

8. Free-range parenting

Back in the day (more than a few decades ago), latch-key kids were a thing … meaning they were allowed to let themselves into the house after school and stay there alone until a parent got home from work. This fell out of favor in the 1980s, though. Now, free-range parenting is on the rise: children might walk to school or neighborhood parks alone, hang out at home on their own, or roam the neighborhood without a parent setting up supervised play dates.

9. Free play

In these times of over-scheduling kids with sports and debate and math club, playtime is often planned and squeezed into what’s left of the day or week. Structured playtime is giving way to child-directed free play, meaning kids are let loose to play on their own or use their own devices. Funny that it now has a name. A certain generation (or two) of readers will certainly remember when their parents just pushed them out the door to “free play” with no motive behind it.

10. Positive parenting 

This approach puts reward for good behavior ahead of punishment for bad behavior. Positive parenting is loving and gentle, and, well, positive. It’s also referred to in some circles as peaceful parenting. Parents must learn to keep their own emotions in check, refrain from threats and time-outs, and help the child learn the benefits of good behavior. This might be easier said than done, especially when a long, rainy day indoors can push the buttons of even the best of parents.

11. “French” parenting

In Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, journalist Pamela Druckerman argues that French children sleep, eat, and behave better in part because their parents don’t rearrange their lives to accommodate their every whim. Kids respect the household and its set routines, so parents also enjoy the children more.

12. Oversharing

This isn’t a parenting style so much as a parental behavior. You know parental oversharing—when every detail of a 5-year-old’s soccer game must be told and literally every photo of an adorable newborn finds its way onto social media. You can’t say we didn’t warn you about this one.

13. Dolphin parenting

It’s not as well known as the others, but who could resist learning more about a style named after these charming mammals? (There’s also jellyfish parenting, but we’ll pass.) Dolphin parents use the acronym POD (pod is also the name for a group of dolphins) to prioritize a child’s activities: P = play, O = others or community, and D = downtime. Hmmm, sounds a bit like our ideal day, too.

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