Abu Dhabi: If you’re a parent, chances are you’ve come across the many labels that describe today’s guardians, from tiger moms to helicopter parents to jellyfish parenting. Not only have these new terms crept into the parenting playbook, but parenting styles have transformed as well.

Speaking to Gulf News, psychologists said these changes in child-rearing obviously play a role in determining what kind of adults these children will grow into.

“In the science of psychology, we classify parenting into four basic styles: authoritarian, uninvolved, permissive and authoritative. But the terms can seem daunting for lay people, so those who write parenting books and articles have used more descriptive labels,” Dr Diya Albert, specialist psychiatrist at Universal Hospital, told Gulf News.

Parenting should be a consistent art

“At its heart though, parenting still remains an art that makes use of the instincts within each of us. We all have a parent inside us, but what we need to do is ensure these instincts are suited to the temperament and needs of our children,” she added.

Dr Dolly Habbal, clinical psychologist at Advanced Cure Diagnostic Centres, explained that parenting is not the only factor influencing children’s outcomes, yet it often has the biggest effect.

“Psychologists will usually recommend authoritative parenting as the most effective at raising well-balanced children, since it allows children to express themselves and discuss the consequences of their actions. But even if parents do not follow these methods exactly, consistency is the most essential parenting tool,” Dr Habbal said.

Consistency means that parents reward and punish certain behaviours every time so that children gain an understanding of the rules that are in place. So even as parents mix various styles to adapt to differing situations, it is important to be consistent, both psychologists advised.

The prevalence of permissive parenting

“These days, with parents working long hours and the pervasiveness of marital conflict, most households see a permissive parenting style in which children get pretty much everything they ask for, especially in material terms. Parents gratify their children to make up for the limited time they can spend, and this usually means that children end up with an abundance of gadgets and screen time at their disposal,” Dr Albert said.

In the long run, this can cut down on children’s opportunities for social interaction, and limit their emotional maturity.

“Eventually, ineffective parenting is reflected in the performance of youngsters when they grow up. These adults are unable to cope with major challenges, leading to the kind of rise in incidence of anxiety and depressive disorders that we see today,” she said.

An innately happy and successful child is often largely the outcome of apt parenting methods used by the parent. Rebellious, defiant, problem children all point towards inefficient parenting.

“As parents, we should remember that our goal isn’t to help our children get good grades or gain admission into top universities. Instead, we should strive to recognise and develop their inborn talents because doing so promotes happiness and success,” Dr Albert advised.

Parenting labels

The science of psychology classifies parenting into four broad types, but layman’s terms are often used by experts and writers to better describe each style.

1) Authoritarian: These parents place high demands on their children, and do not often consider children’s viewpoints when setting down rules. They also punish their children every time rules are broken. This style is also often referred to as tiger parenting. In cases where parents involve themselves in all children’s affairs, it is called helicopter or lawn mower parenting. Children raised in this manner can be disciplined and obedient, but exhibit low self-esteem and internal happiness. They are also unable to deal with challenges later in life, or set and achieve goals for themselves.

2) Uninvolved: Under this style, parents fulfil their children’s basic needs, but are detached from their children’s lives. They leave decision-making to children, and may even neglect some of their requirements in extreme cases. Children reared under this free-range parenting style, another term for this kind of parenting. end up developing low self-esteem, become less competent than their peers and are often prone to neurotic disorders.

3) Permissive: This is a very common parenting style today, and is otherwise referred to as jellyfish parenting. Children receive too much autonomy at an early age, and little instruction. Discipline is rarely enforced. Children grow up unable to self-regulate and face difficulties with authority figures. They can also perform poorly, be afraid to explore and be unhappy.

4) Authoritative: Also known as dolphin parenting, this style incorporates children’s viewpoints into decision-making without compromising on discipline and limits. Scientific evidence suggests this is the style, not to be confused with authoritarian, is best suited to raise well-balanced children who think critically, set their own goals and are good at social interaction and collaboration.

Is your parenting style not working? Look out for the signs:

Parenting should be suited to children’s temperaments, as well as to varying situations. When the approach is not right, children display certain tell-tale signs that are essentially a call for help.

a) Phobic behaviours, including anxiety before exams and assessments.

b) Declines in academic performance.

c) Unexplained changes in appetite and sleep patterns.

d) Mood changes, including irritability.

e) Excessive somatic complaints for which there is no medical reason, including nausea, headaches, and abdominal pain.

f) Aggression, both verbal and physical.

g) An aversion to social interaction and situations.


A parent’s perspective

Nyarai Nemacha, Zimbabwe, Dubai resident

“I do not believe in any parenting style. Parenting also differs with cultures.

I conform to my own style of parenting that works for me and my children. I am flexible but firm with them, I am friendly but I am not friends with them because I need to be able to set rules and boundaries. Because of my background in Early Childhood Education, I am able to find the balance between flexible and firm.

“Parenting can be instinctive and a learned skill. A lot of what I do is subconsciously based on how I was raised - for example, I talked back to my parents so I expect the same from my children. But we knew when our mother was being firm.

“Two pieces of advice that really worked for me as a parent: 1) Have a proper sleeping routine for your child. 2) Don’t have too many choices for them in food. Both my children get a good night’s sleep and do well the next morning. I only cook one meal and we all eat that. If you do not want to eat, it’s okay. You will have to wait for the next meal.”