“Tiger Mom”, “Backbone Parent”, “Jellyfish Parent”? What Are These Different Parenting Styles?

parenting styles

Who is “Tiger Mom”?

Amy Chua, Yale Law Professor and author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother has become a hot topic in the media and in daily conversations amongst parents.  Ms. Chua, a.k.a “Tiger Mom” states that “the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child”.  When her daughters were young, she didn’t allow them to play any instrument other than piano or violin, and it was mandatory that they play both!  Her oldest daughter did succeed in playing at Carnegie Hall, but also had to hear her mother say, “If the next time’s not PERFECT, I’m going to take all your stuffed animals and burn them!”

Authoritarian Parenting

Amy Chua describes her regrets and admits that as her girls got older she made adjustments to her approach.  Her parenting style is what the parenting  literature describes as “Authoritarian” or as Barbara Coloroso, well-known parent educator and author,  describes as “Brick-Wall” parenting.  Brick Wall Parents have high expectations for their children, which is important, but with little emotional support and empathy.  Authoritarian parents are strict, demanding, and controlling.

Permissive Parenting

Permissive parents, described by Barbara Coloroso as the “Jellyfish Parents”, are the other extreme.  They offer their children lots of support, but don’t have high expectations.  Jellyfish Parents don’t want their children to face any difficulties and don’t provide structure in their children’s lives.  These parents are not strict and the children of this parenting style often end up being disrespectful towards  their parents and other adults.

Uninvolved Parenting

Uninvolved parents or neglectful parents are parents who don’t seem to be able to give their children the love and attention they need.  These parents may be struggling with depression, being overwhelmed, addiction issues or narcissism.  If these parents have sufficient money, they may try to entertain their children with presents.  These types of parents are neither strict nor emotionally responsive to their children.

Authoritative Parenting

Lastly, the style that research supports for raising the most  well-adjusted kids, is known as “Authoritative” parenting, also referred to by Barbara Coloroso as the “Backbone Parents”.  This parenting style offers children lots of love and support, along with high expectations.  These parents have age-appropriate expectations and are involved with their children’s lives.  They expect family dinners, monitor screen-time, have open communication, and expect responsible behavior.  Moreover, they offer support and show their children  love while they experience disappointments, and watch them grow as they successfully navigate the challenges they face.  Backbone Parents are encouraging and help children structure themselves to find their passions.  Children in these families receive unconditional love and are taught to think for themselves.  These are the families that are more likely to raise resilient children as described further in my post Raising Resilient Children & Youth: What are the key individual, family and community factors that affect resilience? 

Authoritative parenting focuses on the 4 crucial C’s as described by Alyson Schaefer in her excellent parenting book Honey I Wrecked the Kids.  She describes the four C’s as:  Connected (belonging), Capable (able to manage), Count (worthwhile and have a voice), Courageous(make mistakes and handle the outcome).  In a light-hearted manner, Alyson Schaefer describes the many challenges of parenting and practical tips for handling specific behaviors that may be rooted in attention, revenge, power struggles or feelings of inadequacy.

I hope this article, helps you gain some insight as to how we can help our children achieve their potential with support versus shame.

Warmly,

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