Main content

What kind of parent are you?


Photo: Nathan Russell 

There are three main styles of parenting and they relate to online parenting just as much as being a parent in the offline world. Which one best describes you? 

In 1966, Diana Baumrind identified three parenting styles that most experts have broadly accepted ever since:


Parents give lots of love and attention with few rules or constraints. Children are encouraged to explore freely without repercussions and to see their parents not as role models, but as a ‘resource’ for them to use as they wish.


Parents are highly supportive and highly demanding, offering a balance of rules and boundaries that are clearly explained, with plenty of opportunities to explore and develop.


Parents focus on controlling the behaviour of their children and believe that they should always ‘do as they are told’.

Which works best?

In practice, most of us slide between these styles, depending on circumstances. But it probably won't come as a surprise to learn that authoritative parenting is the one the experts believe works best. Research shows that parents who provide positive support and high expectations plus a lot of opportunities to try things out are more likely to raise children who are confident and motivated, with good critical thinking skills. Providing firm and consistent limits and a reason for the rules promotes social responsibility and the right kind of assertiveness, and enables children to regulate their own behaviour.

Authoritative parents make demands that tally with their children's ability to take responsibility for their behaviour, which makes children feel competent and self-reliant. This in turn helps to build self-esteem, cognitive development and emotional maturity.

‘Online, it enables children to behave sensibly when they are not being supervised’

Authoritative parenting works in all contexts, so online, it enables children to behave sensibly when they are not being supervised and to identify (and minimise) risks.

So teach your child to be independent online, but help them be aware of the risks they may face, and what to do if anything happens online that makes them feel upset or uncomfortable.

Further reading

The three types of parenting style


The advice published on Parent Info is provided by independent experts in their field and not necessarily the views of Parent Zone or NCA-CEOP.

First published: May 2014

Updated: May 2018



Related articles

  • Games, apps and tech

    Having a positive digital footprint

    Top tips on how to help your child make their online presence work for them and create a positive digital footprint

  • Games, apps and tech

    Online risk: myths and facts

    Separating online risk from things that could actually cause children harm: a parent’s guide

Explore further

  • Education and the future

    Why everyone should learn to code

    Simon Humphreys of Computing at School explains why coding is cool

  • Education and the future

    Games to help your child learn to read

    Learning to read is vital for most of what comes afterwards in school (and the rest of your life!) but it can sometimes feel like a chore. Neurologist Dr Judy Willis offers her top tips for making the process as smooth and pleasurable as possible while below, we look at some online resources you can download for your child at home