From helicopters to snowploughs - will you admit to having a parenting style?

Every parent has their own distinct style, and now there are helpful terms to enable typecasting. Any sound a little familiar?

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  • The snowplough parent

    The most recent parenting style to be given a catchy name (followed by media outrage), the snowplough parent not only shouts words of encouragement from the sidelines, but also leaps in and remove any obstacles that might thwart their child's path to success.

    While the snowplough parent doesn't quite speed down mountains, clear snowdrifts and single-handedly stop avalanches in order to give their child a clear run, they're not far off.

    An omnipresent force in their little one's life, they will take over and micro-manage every detail, from completing their child's homework to their own high standards, to overseeing extra tuition and training. But while doing all this, the snowplough leaves their youngster in no doubt as to what accolades and triumphs are expected from them.

    Teacher and author David McCullough (who coined the term) claims snowplough mums and dads put the pressure on their children to achieve, and remove every obstacle to encourage them to do so. This doesn't sound so bad until you note that he also deems this aggressive parenting which leaves kids 'anxious, dependent, narcissistic and careerist'.

    Hmm, not to mention damaging to kids' self esteem, confidence and independence. Time to put away that snow shovel and ditch the salopettes, then...  

  • The tiger mum (or dad)

    Ah it's a well worn phrase - usually dished out sarcastically to mums who are doing no more than asking their kids to crack on with their homework or practise their recorder.

    But the REAL 'tiger moms', are strict and pushy matriarchs who constantly strive to have their children out-perform everyone else and succeed in all they do. Not via their own steam or natural abilities though, oh no -  through a barrage of timetabled activities, extra tuition and study over play.

    But let's not heap all the blame for this style of child-rearing on mums – there are plenty of dads capable of tigering too. They're most often spotted on sports' fields, 'coaching' from the sidelines, or demanding hours and hours of training or practice, determined perhaps their kids will achieve all that they haven't?

    Whether it's a tiger or a tigeress doing this type of parenting, it's just as damaging – it might work in the jungle for big cats, but it doesn't do small kids in suburbia an awful lot of good. While we're all capable of 'I'm a mummy, hear me roaaar' behaviour (it's needed sometimes), it's probably best to leave the actual tiger mums in the wild... 

  • Free range parent

    Ah, the free range parent! You might not easily spot them at the school gate, or at children's parties at the weekend – not because their style of parenting is not immediately apparent, but because they are so hands-off and child-led that their little one has probably made their own way across town on their scooter, or is still walking from the station...

    Free range parents will of course tell you that their way builds confident, determined children who are able to fend for themselves in the big wide world and make their own decisions and way in life. Probably great when they are 18, less so at 4. Free range can be good when it's about learning through play, exploring and discovering - just as long as it's not totally free rein! 

  • Helicopter parent

    Is it a bird, is it a plane? Is it superman? No, it's the helicopter parent hovering over their poor child, never leaving their side, and overseeing all that they do.  

    Know how annoying it is when you have a police helicopter buzzing over your house when you are trying to sleep? That's life 24/7 for the child of this particular breed of parent.  

    If the youngster is trying to forge new friends in the park, choose a book in the library, or even attempting to tie their own shoelaces, mum or dad are there, butting in, interfering, hovering... Out and out warfare is needed to deal with these over-protective examples – if you spot a helicopter parent, shoot 'em down people, shoot 'em down! 

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  • Average parent

    The average parent will be the one occasionally spotted haring back to school after drop-off with a PE kit and pencil case under her arm.

    They might sometimes do the school run in their PJs, and slip forbidden items in lunchboxes when they haven't had time to go to the supermarket. She will be the mum who occasionally buys cakes from M&S on the morning of the bake sale because it slipped her mind that cake day was today.

    She's the parent whose youngster sometimes exceeds, sometimes comes a bit further down; who has good days and bad days and goes with the flow, encouraging without pushing, and disciplining without military style regimes and punishments. Mostly her kids are a delight to be around, occasionally they incite the consumption of wine and the thumping of pillows...

    She probably sounds very familiar...

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