What Type of Parent Are You?

In our previous article, we looked at one all-too-common mode of parenting: the over-protective kind. In this article, we focus on three more parenting modes…

Now, if you’re a parent with more than one child, you already know that no two kids are alike – even those who share the same DNA! The same goes for us as parents. And yet, while we are all different, and parent each child differently – experts agree that there are (broadly speaking) three types of parents.

Rather than boxing ourselves into just one though, we think it’s helpful and more common to see these different parenting types as ‘modes’ that we all tend to move between. Read on to find out more!


Also known as ‘authoritarian parenting’ – this is when you’re definitely ‘wearing the pants’. In this mode, you firmly call the shots and dish out consequences when kids fail to heed instructions. The underlying expectation in this mode is that kids should learn how to listen and obey – when it counts.

While this type of parenting is not very popular these days, if we abdicate control of our children’s behavior, we discover that what we tolerate seems to dominate… we let kids fight without intervention, and they only fight more, or we let them whine all the time, leads to more whining not less.

If we never challenge or confront disobedience, we neglect an important part of the parenting job. It’s not a pretty one – but somebody’s got to do it!

But do we parents of smaller kids have to stay in that authoritative mode all the time? Happily: no!

Our gift to our kids is not to only teach them to listen to us, but also to grow in them a sense of both their healthy autonomy, and relational connection to us.


In this mode (called ‘authoritative parenting’), parents seek to influence and guide their kids in a certain direction, but without such direct commands.

Pied Piper Parents are aiming to build up their child’s healthy autonomy so that they can appropriately assert themselves in the future when mom or dad are not around.

11 Signs Your Mom Was a Toxic Parent


Sometimes, parents seem more like pals (this is called ‘permissive parenting’). In this mode, parents avoid leading their kids at all, if anything, they let the kids direct the show. Here, the parenting goal is solely to strengthen the relational connection between parent and child.

Within any given day and certainly within any week, parents swap between these modes of parenting. While it might seem like one mode is right and all the others are wrong – the truth is that we need a little of each.

Think about it…

• Sometimes, parents need to be PANTS-WEARERS – when their kids break the big rules, or when it’s time to make big decisions. Of course, pick your battles – rather choose a few important rules that are clearly communicated to your child. Then, be kind to your child by being consistent with the consequences if they break these rules.

We’re talking rules such as…

o “Don’t endanger your life.”
o “Don’t disrespect or hurt someone else.”
o “Don’t damage stuff purposefully.”

While there are times when we will need to wear the pants, we needn’t stay in perpetual boss mode…

• Parents should look for as many opportunities as possible to move into PIED PIPER mode—gently guiding kids but in an indirect, non-coercive, and voluntary way. Ideally, we should aim to spend most of our parenting time in this mode. This means that every step of the way, kids are using their ‘choosing’ muscles. Instead of using force, fear, or threats, skilfully usher your kids in a direction where they feel like they still chose that direction.

Some examples:

o ‘You can walk to the table, or I can carry you there – which one?’
o ‘You can get out of the bath in a few minutes and use the brown towel, or you can get out now and use the Spider-man one.’
o ‘You can go to bed now and I’ll have time to read you two stories, or, you can go to bed later and there will be just one, or none – you choose.’

In this mode – rather than fixating on what your child is doing wrong, you’re focused on where you would like them to be – and guiding them there. Far from being a push-over – this is the one mode that seems to have the best results in the long term.

Based on 3 decades of study, Dr Alan Kazdin, director of the Yale Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic, concludes that:

‘Giving attention to undesired behaviours increases undesired behaviours, while giving attention to good behaviours increases good behaviours.’

• Parents can also be PALS. We need to create spaces (both in the house and in the calendar) to have some fun together – where we’re not wearing the pants or playing any pipes – we’re simply enjoying one another’s company. One dad says he knows when he is in this mode because his small kids are usually laughing and saying the words, “Again, Daddy! Again!”

Although all 3 modes are required by us until our kids become adults, some modes should be more dominant at certain times. In a child’s earliest years, they need constant guidance and require us parents to often be Pants-Wearers.

As they move through adolescence though, they need us to be Pied Pipers, giving them more and more space to make their own decisions and live with the natural consequences of those (while we still gently guide where we can). By the time they leave home, we cannot be either Pied Pipers or Pants-Wearers anymore – now, our best hope is that they want to be our Pals.

What about you, moms? Which of the 3 modes comes most naturally to me? What mode does your child need from you right now?

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36 thoughts on “What Type of Parent Are You?

  1. Liza J. says:

    Thank you for the great article. I think we as parents do all three options.
    My question is why the kids ignore mum at times or throw tantrums but listen to their dad when he arrives..
    Our authoritative parenting ensures that our children can assert themselves when mom or dad are not around.

  2. Miranda M. says:

    Pants wearing parents..ons wbo calls the shot..im a single parent to boys and i have do bê firm incase they take advantage..but in soft too and a good listener when comes to them wanting to share..

  3. Mbali M. says:

    I am a Pied piper parent definitely, 😂😂 I am raising my kids to be good citizens. I need them to be able to be independent and well grounded with good morals!

  4. Lorraine N. says:

    I’m more of all the mentioned above I do swap on each day. I must admit sometimes I find it hard parenting at some days I am a pants wearing parent and feel guilty if I am hard on my kids and swap to pal parenting. Being a parent it’s a lot of work I must say

  5. annemarie j. says:

    I loved how different everyone can look at something
    I liked the way they say your child is in the bath and if they get out now they can use their favroute towel