What Type of Parent Are You? Learning about Productive and Unproductive Parenting Styles

Somewhere along the way, you learned how to be a parent. Maybe your own parents served as guidance for what to do or not do with your own kids. Maybe you looked to other parenting styles from those you found yourself spending time with. Maybe you were an avid reader as a new parent, taking in all of the best ideas you could find. Or, maybe you default into it based on your personality.

Regardless of your role models or guidance, and regardless of what your best intentions are, the world has a lot to say about whether parenting today is productive or unproductive. Parents have been assigned some pretty interesting titles – helicopters, lawnmowers, bulldozers. None of these have a particularly warm and fuzzy feeling associated with them.

In the wake of the troubling college admissions scandals, I decided to revisit my list of parenting styles, a list I devised after the years of work I’ve done with parents and their children.

Important to note: though society may say some parenting styles are “good” or “bad,” I prefer the terms “productive” or “unproductive” because I believe parenting should be measured based on the impact on the kids, not how the parents view themselves.

In other words, productive parenting types encourage kids to discover who they are, learn about their talents, passions and values, start to get clear about what opportunities in work, school and life fit them, learn to accept, value and treasure who they authentically are all while building a trusting and loving lifetime relationship with the parent. Unproductive types interrupt building a bond as well as the encouragement of a child’s awareness and development of his or her talents, strengths, passions and interests.

In my list of parenting styles below, notice that most of the unproductive parenting styles are fear-based. Notice that most of the productive parenting styles are love-based. As you read through this list, stop and notice when a parenting style sounds like you. Don’t judge. Don’t criticize or justify. Just acknowledge that you now have more information to help you wisely decide what you could do next.

Unproductive Parenting

  • Lawnmower Parent – You are ready to mow anyone down who gets in the way of your kids’ achievement, success or happiness.
  • Helicopter Parent – You constantly hover over your kids, ensuring you’re involved in all decisions, choices and directions. You assist them on everything, from homework to hobbies to life skills, because you don’t trust them and/or you don’t trust the world.
  • Blackhawk Parent – You come to all situations with guns blazing and demanding action. You take control of your kids’ situations, challenges and obstacles. This often happens in conjunction with the Drill Sargent Parent.
  • Fairytale Parent – You only see the good in your kids. You are not realistic about their abilities, interests or behaviors. This can often happen in conjunction with the Cinderella Parent.
  • Google Parent – You have the answer for everything. You act as a definitive source about everything and rarely, if ever, let your kids discover, learn or try things on their own.
  • Cinderella Parent – You allow yourself to be treated like the hired help. You jump and respond to the whims and wishes of your kids as if they were royalty. This often happens in conjunction with the Fairytale Parent.
  • Tiffany Parent – You are convinced that giving gifts equals love. You have few, if any, limits with regard to material gifts given to a point where your kids have no concept of value.
  • Thunderstorm Parent – You are the rain on your kid’s parade. You are constantly critical and lead with what is what is wrong, not good or disappointing about them.
  • Crystal Ball Parent – You tell your kids how to live, who to be, what life and work should be like and what will make them happy without consideration of their own talents, interests and passions. This is often seen in conjunction with the Google Parent.
  • Drill Sargent Parent – You take control of every situation, barking orders, demanding, confronting and challenging. Your child has no ability to have a perspective, voice or to respond back because you are the boss. You are the one in control. This is often seen in conjunction with the Blackhawk Parent.
  • Pageant Parent – You make everything in life a competition or a comparison, often using words like worst, best, richer, nicer, smarter, better. You always talk about winners and losers and constantly compare your kids to others, both positively and negatively.
  • Secret Agent Parent – You are always checking up on your kids, monitoring their social media activities, what’s happening with their friends, grades and homework. You’re often searching their room and/or phone for clues to support your suspicion that something is amiss. You are not good at giving or allowing privacy in the home.
  • Prosecutor Parent – You interrogate your kids with no boundaries on the type or amount of questions. You want to know everything and in great detail.
  • Parrot Parent – You constantly repeat what your parents said or what you’ve read from parenting books as your way of parenting, whether meaningful or not.
  • Mouthpiece Parent – You constantly answer for and make decisions for your kids. Can happen in conjunction with Drill Sargent Parent and Google Parent.

We all have traces of these, especially when certain events call for a little more hands-on involvement, but are there some that really frame your parenting approach? Can you see it in you and how each of these takes away some authenticity, independence and clarity from your child? Our kids can’t be ready for life if our parenting does all their thinking and living for them.

Productive parenting types, on the other hand, are motivated by helping kids discover and be who they really are, not who parents need or want them to be. These parenting types believe the greatest way for a child to be happy and successful in life is to be authentic, aware and supported in making meaningful choices. You’ll notice there are far fewer of these types of parents because each type is so much more expansive.

Productive Parenting

  • Improv Parent – You are able to find something good in or make a success out of any situation and are able to be fully present to deal with whatever comes in a calm, sane and solutions-minded way.
  • Coaching Parent – You regularly use questions to get your kids thinking and owning their choices, decisions and directions.  You tune in and listen carefully to the responses before re-engaging.
  • Zen Parent – You manage your emotions to focus on what is happening. You have the ability to separate your child from his or her actions to address behaviors and maintain affection for each child.
  • Professor Parent – You encourage your kids to constantly learn, think and grow. You introduce them to their world, ideas and opportunities. You like to discuss new things and share ideas.
  • Internship Parent – You encourage and support your kids to go out in the world and try new things to discover their abilities and interests, and to help them discover and embrace what matters most to them.

Realize that your parenting style tells a lot about what you believe and know about yourself. The clearer you are of your greatest abilities, the more confidently you can show up to your parenting, and the more significantly you focus on providing loving support and guidance instead of fear-based directing and controlling.


It’s true. You may know more than your kids about a lot of things, but they know more about themselves than you ever will. Including them, encouraging them, coaching them and guiding them helps them tap into their own minds to see what unique abilities they came packaged with that will help them not only find their way in life, but to determine how to succeed, be happy and be responsible in life.

By Jay Forte

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