mum with child
What is the Goldilocks style of parenting? Find out… Image Credit: Fring

Dubai: When your child is stuck with a math problem or a puzzle, what do you do? Do you sit down with your child and help them by solving the problem together? Do you leave them to solve the problem on their own? Or, do you wait for them to ask for help and encourage them to find a solution by themselves?

Who knew that the answer to a parenting question would lie in a 19th-century fairytale – remember the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears?

In the story, young Goldilocks, who ends up in a house where a family of bears lives, tries their three porridges – the first one was “too hot”, the second “too cold”, but, the third was “just right”.

This is exactly the idea behind what parenting experts call the Goldilocks style of parenting – a balance between too much and too little – it should be “just right”.

According to Praseetha Y, a CDA (Community Development Authority, Dubai) licensed psychologist in Dubai, findings suggest that when parents are able to strike that balance, children develop healthy and realistic self-esteem, which is why it is known to be an effective parenting style, in most cases.

What is the Goldilocks style of parenting?

“The style of parenting that is ‘just right’ is popularly known as authoritative parenting style,” Praseetha told Gulf News.

The term “authoritative parenting” was one of the three parenting styles researched and introduced in the 1960s by Diana Baumrind, a clinical and developmental psychologist. Baumrind, who was known for her research on parenting styles, introduced the three parenting styles – authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive styles – to describe differences in normal parenting behaviours.

Praseetha added: “Perhaps the word that best describes the authoritative or Goldilocks parenting style is ‘and’. These parents set rules and develop warm relationships with children, they set high expectations and are mindful of their child’s needs, they push their children to be independent and also make sure they have support when it is needed. With this parenting style, there are choices, boundaries, and consequences, which make both parents and children feel safe."

How is it different from the other styles of parenting?

According to Praseetha: "The ‘too hot’ parenting style is referred to as the authoritarian style in which parents love their children but place a lot of emphasis on rules, boundaries, and discipline, which may lead to a cold and distant relationship between parents and children."

Explaining the style of parenting that would be ‘too cold’, called permissive parenting style, she added: “Permissive parents love their children but also want to make sure they experience no pain or discomfort, and therefore try to fix and rescue them from all their problems. These kinds of parents strive to be their children’s best friends, which may mean that they do not draw any boundaries for them. As much as they are warm and nurturing parents, this makes children less self-reliant. Children may not seem like it, but making sure children have boundaries makes them feel safe, and protected and they even thrive as they know what is expected of them.”

Striking that fine balance of ‘just right’ parenting is easier said than done, the psychologist added.

“There may be so many instances when parents may not be able to find that balance, and that is okay. Decades of research have pointed out that parents do not have to respond ‘correctly’ all the time to their children – it is far from reality. Some days can be chaotic and it can be hard to find the ‘just right’. But parents definitely need to be consistent in their responses and follow a pattern so that children know what to expect.”

Why is it an effective style of parenting?

Speaking to Gulf News, Abu Dhabi-based clinical psychologist, Nesma Luqman, explained why the Goldilocks style of parenting is an effective parenting method.

Luqman said: “The Goldilocks parenting style, which balances tolerance with firmness, can be effective for several reasons. It inspires independence and self-control in children while sustaining authority and providing structure. This style also boosts mental health outcomes, such as higher self-esteem and lower rates of anxiety and depression.

The Goldilocks parenting style balances tolerance with firmness...

- Nesma Luqman, Clinical Psychologist, Priory Wellbeing Centre, Abu Dhabi

“The Goldilocks parenting style encourages children to develop positive qualities such as self-esteem, responsibility, independence, social competence, academic achievement, and emotional regulation. This parenting style creates a nurturing and supportive environment that benefits children throughout their lives.”

Anthony Nhlapo, a clinical psychologist based in Dubai added: “It is important to acknowledge that parents are the most influential figures in the lives of their children. Therefore, parenting style will most likely affect the children's perceptions of themselves, how they interact with others as well as their overall self-esteem.

“Goldilocks' parenting style balances parental involvement and takes into consideration the children's views, opinions, and feelings. It can be regarded as a developmentally healthy way of raising a child who will be happy and confident in solving problems.”

Children who are raised by parents who predominately use the Goldilocks style of parenting are more likely to grow up to become happy and successful as adults, Nhlapo added.

Parenting style to avoid

Both, Nesma Luqman and Anthony Nhlapo said that the most problematic type of parenting that parents should avoid is authoritarian parenting.

“These (authoritarian) parents are often highly demanding and directive, but not responsive to their children's needs or emotions. They often use harsh discipline and expect their children to follow strict rules without question. Research shows that children growing up in such environments may be at greater risk of developing behavioural problems, poor social skills, and difficulty regulating emotions. In contrast, the Goldilocks style of parenting (authoritative) balances high expectations with emotional support and responsiveness to children's needs, making it the most effective,” said Luqman.

Nhlapo added: “Any parenting style that does not support healthy growth and development of a child should be avoided at all costs. Parenting styles that do not allow the child to be heard, or where parents insist on their way of doing things should be avoided. Neglecting the child’s feelings and emotions is a sign of unhealthy parenting. Equally, parents who are too lenient in their parenting style are more like to raise children with low self-esteem and struggle with taking responsibility for their behaviour.”

parental neglect
'Neglecting the child’s feelings and emotions is a sign of unhealthy parentin,' explained a UAE-based expert.

Mentioning a fourth style of parenting, called neglectful parenting, Nhlapo added: “Neglectful parents are mostly uninvolved in the lives of their children… parents who are uninvolved in their children’s lives can expect to have children with low self-esteem, poor problem-solving skills and a lot of behavioural problems. “

Is the Goldilocks style effective in all cases?

Parenting experts often say that one parenting style may not necessarily work for all families. Luqman explained: “It's essential to note that Goldilocks parenting might not work with every child or family. Parents and caregivers should modify their approach based on the child's sole needs, nature, and personality. Professionals and experts can provide guidance and support to help parents become effective caregivers.”

And, Praseetha Y. added: “Like most things in life – there is no formula to knowing the right parenting style for you. But, I do invite parents to recognise that along with their children, parents too are growing and learning. Having that awareness will help parents check in with themselves every now and then and to try and make changes as per your children’s ever-growing and changing needs.”

Have you ever tried the Goldilocks parenting style? What has your experience been? Tell us on