Help. I Don’t Have A ‘Parenting Style’

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A new study came out this week on parenting styles, and it groups all parents into four distinct groups. I don’t seem to have a group. Damn near forty years old, and I’m still an outcast. From The Huffington Post:

The Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia has been examining the roots of parenting style in “family culture,” and today’s report sorts American families into four distinct groups. No two agree on what kind of world awaits their children, nor what morals, values and ideals will be needed to navigate it.

The study argues that parents don’t “choose” parenting styles at all. The way in which they raise their children is a direct reflection of the world in which they were raised and the morals they have. That makes sense if you think about it. In the best case scenario you are an independent adult with a whole range of morals and opinions by the time you have children. Of course you are not going to stray too far from whoever it is you are when you begin your parental journey.

So, what are the four styles? I anxiously devoured the study – only to realize that I don’t fit into any of these groups. That wasn’t a huge surprise, since there has yet to be a parenting label I’ve used on myself.  Helicopter parent? No. Free-range parent? No. Tiger mom? Not even close. Here are the styles outlined by the study:

20 percent of the parents studied fit into a group called “The Faithful.” These are parents whose lives revolve around religion, whether it be Jewish, Christian or Muslim. The Faithful’s most important value is morality. They pray over meals and believe in spanking and regular chores. These are parents who feel they have firm control over their kids.

I haven’t been to church in over a decade. I’ve decided I won’t be baptizing my child. I’ve never been hit or hit anyone else in my life, and I haven’t totally mastered controlling my toddler. This is definitely not me.

21 percent of the parents studied fit into a group called “Moral Progressives.” Their worlds revolve around tolerance rather than faith. Personal freedom is big here. They want to “prepare children to be responsible choosers, weighing alternatives, thinking carefully through courses of action in advance.” I sort of felt like these were my people until I saw the statistical breakdown. 71 percent are white and 80 percent are married. We have a blended family, and we also have a Goldie Hawn/ Kurt Russel thing going on. So, maybe not.

The next group depressed me a little. 17 percent of parents fall into a group called “The Detached.” They are described as,

“a group that feels marginalized, reticent, unsure of themselves and their place in society. A group adrift.  They are the least likely to believe they have the power to control their children’s technology or the right to know their children’s friends. “Their parenting strategy is to let kids be kids and let the cards fall where they may.”

I may not have mastered discipline – but I haven’t totally given up yet. Also, way too much of a control freak to align myself with these views.

“American Dreamers” make up 27 percent of the parents studied. The share the same type of educational and economic background as “The Detached,” but they have a more optimistic outlook. “They hope for much and invest even more,” the report says, “pouring themselves fully into their families’ futures.” They believe, “their children will be better off than they were. They will do anything to make that happen.”

Hmm. Maybe I do have a style after all.

(photo: Maryna Pleshkun/