The 4 Types of Parenting Styles Explained (+ PDF Quiz)

The 4 Parenting Styles Explained (+ PDF Quiz) By Such a Little While LLC Stock photo of two moms and young daughter smiling and sitting together on a brick bench.

Looking for the four types of parenting styles explained and with clear examples? You’ve come to the right place!

This post will discuss the differences and similarities between authoritarian, permissive, authoritative, and uninvolved parenting approaches.

We’ll also highlight which style is most favorable for short- and long-term childhood outcomes according to research.

The 4 Parenting Styles Explained (+ PDF Quiz)
By Such a Little While LLC
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Parenting Styles PDF Quiz, 11-Page PDF Workbook by Such a Little While
Check out our Parenting Styles PDF Toolkit at the end of this post. It’s packed with charts, examples, psychoeducational handouts, and activities to help explain the four parenting styles.

What are the 4 Types of Parenting Styles?

A parenting style is how a caregiver interacts with their child. It is the combination of beliefs, attitudes, techniques, and behaviors they use to raise their children. The differences between each parenting style are most prominent when comparing their approaches to discipline.

There are four primary parenting styles:

  • Authoritarian parenting (high on firmness, low on nurturing)
  • Permissive parenting (low on firmness, high on nurturing)
  • Authoritative parenting (both firm and nurturing)
  • Uninvolved/neglectful parenting (low on firmness, low on nurturing)
4 Types of Parenting Styles Explained (+ PDF Quiz)
Parenting Styles Chart with Firm/Nurturing Scale:
Authoritative parenting (high on firmness, low on nurturing)
Permissive parenting (low on firmness, high on nurturing)
Authoritative parenting (both firm and nurturing)
Uninvolved/neglectful parenting (low on firmness, low on nurturing)
*Download this chart in our parenting styles PDF toolkit
Graphic by Such a Little While LLC
Looking for printable charts and examples to help explain the four parenting styles? See our downloadable workbook.

Parenting styles significantly influence childhood development and long-term outcomes for kids.

While some may argue advantages and disadvantages among the four main parenting styles, research best supports authoritative parenting. Authoritative parenting is most likely to yield positive outcomes for children.

This post will discuss each type of parenting style, provide examples, and explore the implications for child development.

stock photo of mother and father walking hand-in-hand with young toddler.

Where did the theories of parenting styles come from?

Clinical psychologist Dr. Diana Baumrind, is regarded as a trailblazer for identifying distinct parenting styles in her mid-20th century longitudinal research on mothers.

Dr. Baumrind concluded there were three distinct parenting styles: Authoritarian, permissive, and authoritative. She championed authoritative parenting, which she described as both “responsive and demanding.”*

*Note: With decades of additional research, I (along with many other positive/gentle parenting educators) choose to swap the term “demanding” with “consistent” or “firm.”

Later, researchers Dr. Eleanor Macoby and Dr. John Martin added a fourth parenting style: Uninvolved/neglectful.

"If you want your child to treat you with respect in their moments of anger, show them respect in your moments of anger."
-Tana, suchalittlewhile.com
Children are much more likely to do what we do rather than we say. Authoritative parents walk the walk by showing children empathy.

A Deeper Explanation & Examples of the 4 Types of Parenting Styles

4 Parenting Styles PDF with Quiz Workbook by Such a Little While A look inside... -easy-to-understand chart & diagram -4 parenting styles explained -written by a seasoned parent educator and former counselor
Our parenting styles PDF workbook has grab-and-go, easy-to-read handouts to help explain the 4 parenting styles.

#1: Authoritarian Parenting

Authoritarian parenting is high on firmness and demandingness.

Authoritarian parents do not typically take a nurturing or empathetic outward stance, especially for discipline. They set strict rules and issue punishments with no room for collaborative problem-solving.

This parenting style typically uses fear, demands, and arbitrary punishments to control children’s behavior and emotions. Some authoritarian parents rely on physical discipline (e.g., spanking).

When it comes to problem-solving, authoritarian parents tell a child exactly how to make things right and often demand that they do so promptly (e.g., forced apologies). They do not spend much time teaching problem-solving or coping skills.

4 Parenting Types Explained + PDF Quiz
"Disciplien is helping a child solve a problem.  Punishment is making a child suffer for having a problem."  -LR Knost
Graphic by Such a Little While LLC
Authoritarian parents take a punishment-based approach to discipline.

How do authoritarian parents approach consequences?

Authoritarian parents often use harsh punishments or arbitrary consequences unrelated to their child’s behavior. For example, taking away a child’s dessert because they hit a sibling.

Arbitrary discipline neglects to help children make a mental link between cause and effect and often fails to change future behaviors.

Examples of Authoritarian Parenting

The following discipline tactics fall under an authoritarian approach:

  • “Do it because I said so.”
  • “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!”
  • “Go to your room, I can’t even look at you right now.”
  • “No tablet for a week for how you just spoke to me!”
  • “Go apologize to your brother right now!”
  • Spanking
  • Yelling
4 Parenting Styles Explained + PDF Quiz
"Even though punishment and shame may stop behavior for the moment, the long-term restuls are usually negative...remember how you felt and what you wanted to do after someone inflicted blame, shame, or pain on you."  -Jane Nelson
Graphic by Such a Little While LLC

What is the impact of authoritarian parenting on child development?

A plethora of studies show short- and long-term negative outcomes for children raised by authoritarian caregivers:

  • Preschoolers raised with harsh discipline tactics (across both Eastern and Western cultures) are more likely to show challenging behaviors.  (Olson et al., 2011).
  • Parents who use harsh control methods are more likely to have children with challenging behaviors throughout their development. (Pinquart, 2017).
  • Kids raised by authoritarian caregivers are more likely to engage in bullying behavior (Luk et al., 2016).
  • Spanking is less likely to yield compliance in children (both short- and long-term), compared to non-physical discipline strategies (Gershoff, 2013).
  • The more often children are spanked during toddlerhood the more likely they are to exhibit aggressive behavior during their preschool years (Lee et al., 2013).
4 Parneting Styles Explained + PDF Quiz
"You have an amazing positive parenting superpower: Your instincts.  Ask yourself not only if a discipline a approach 'works,' but how you feel after using it."
Quote and graphic by Such a Little While LLC

#2: Permissive Parenting

Permissive parenting is high on kindness and compassion and low on firmness.

Permissive parents are typically comfortable expressing love for their kids but often fail to set clear limits and consistent boundaries.

This parenting style is also known as indulgent parenting. Permissive parents may be overly concerned with raising “happy children” and allow heat-of-the-moment emotions to drive parenting choices. They are often quick to give in and forgo rules.

Predictable boundaries provide feelings of security for children. Without this safety net of confidence, kids raised by permissive parents may struggle to learn and develop essential problem-solving skills.

How do permissive parents approach consequences?

Permissive parents typically forgo harsh punishments and may skip consequences altogether when their child engages in challenging behavior.

Furthermore, permissive parents may inadvertently reinforce challenging behavior with bribes or rewards.

4 Parenting Styles Explained + PDF Quiz
"Rome wasn't built in a day and neither is emotional intelligence!  Reminder: 'Quick fixes' for challenging behavior (e.g., bribes/rewards, threats yelling) do not build LONG-TERM self-awareness or intrinsic motivation."
Quote and graphic by Such a Little While LLC

Examples of Permissive Parenting

  • “Oh fine, you can have that!”
  • “If you do ____, I’ll give you ice cream.”
  • Ignoring difficult behaviors
  • Few or no rules regarding children’s behavior
  • Lack of monitoring or restrictions (e.g., screentime content)
  • Forgoing daily routines and rules (e.g., a regular bedtime)

What is the impact of permissive parenting on child development?

Cross-culturally, the impact of permissive parenting varies somewhat across research studies, likely due to an inconsistent definition of this caregiving style.

However, notable studies show that children raised by permissive parents are:

#3: Authoritative/ Positive Parenting

Authoritative parents, commonly referred to as positive parents, are both “kind and firm”* when it comes to discipline. Gentle parenting advocates may prefer the terms “nurturing and consistent.”

Either way, this parenting style achieves a healthy balance by setting limits from a place of love, empathy, and respect.

4 Parenting Styles Explained (+ PDF Quiz)
Venn diagram showing permissive parenting as "kind," authoritarian parenting as "firm," and authoritative /positive parenting as a balance of both.
Note: "Kind and firm" originates from Dr. Jane Nelson's Positive Discipline framework.
Graphic by Such a Little While LLC

*Note: The term “kind and firm” originates from Dr. Jane Nelson’s Positive Discipline framework.

Authoritative, positive parenting is the antithesis of authoritarian parenting, which relies heavily on punitive discipline. Authoritative/positive parenting forgoes punishment altogether (more on that later).

Yet at the same time, authoritative parenting is not permissive parenting.

4 Parenting Styles Explained (+ PDF Quiz)
"Contrary to popular belief, setting limits is not 'off-limits' for positive parents."
Quote and graphic by Such a Little While LLC

While permissive parents are kind to their children, remember they lack the limits, boundaries, and structure children need to build resilience and problem-solving skills.

Authoritative/positive parents empathize and validate their children’s emotions; however, do not always support the behavior that comes with it. 

Authoritative/positive parents empower children with freedoms and choices within set parameters and limits.

Additionally, they support children as collaborative problem-solvers rather than telling them exactly how to make things right after a misstep.

With a supportive sounding board to rebound from mistakes, children are more likely to change their future behavior.

4 Parenting Styles Explained + PDF Quiz
How to Raise a Problem-Solver
Rather than, "Go say sorry right now!" 
Consider, "Tell me more about what happened...What are your ideas for making things right?"
Quote and Grahpic by Such a Little While LLC
If you have been forcing apologies or handing out punishments without results, I invite you to learn key questions to ask your child instead.

How do authoritative parents approach consequences?

Believe it or not, authoritative/positive parenting does not use punishments at all!

Authoritative parents allow natural consequences to unfold. In some instances they may also implement logical, non-punitive consequences.

Types of Consequences: 
-Arbitrary (does not directly relates to behavior, adult-imposed, not in line with positive parenting)
-Natural (directly relates to behavior, not adult-imposed, in-line with positive parenting)
- Logical (directly relates to behavior, adult-imposed, sometimes in-line with positive parenting if non-punitive)
Graphic by by Such a Little While LLC
Interested in learning more? Read our ultimate guide to positive parenting consequences.

Examples of Authoritative/Positive Parenting

  • “It’s okay to feel mad. It’s not okay to hit. What are your hands trying to say?”
  • “It makes sense to feel disappointed. You wanted another cookie and there was one with lunch today. If your belly is still hungry would you like yogurt or apples?”
  • “How can you and your sister fix this problem?”
  • “You didn’t want to wear your coat and now you feel cold. How can you solve this problem next time?”
  • “The timer just went off. What was our agreement about turning off the tablet?”
4 Parenting Styles Explained (+ PDF Quiz)
15 Winning Examples of Authoritative (Positive) Parenting (You'll Want to Use Today!)
Graphic by Such a Little While LLC
Be sure to check out our most comprehensive list of authoritative parenting examples!

What is the impact of authoritative parenting on child development?

Despite some minor differences across cultures, an authoritative parenting style is most supported by research due to associated positive childhood outcomes.

Children raised with an authoritative parenting style :

"There is no such thing as perfect parenting...There is always room to reconnect after a rupture."  -Dr. Dan Siegel
Graphic by Such a Little While LLC

#4 Uninvolved/ Neglectful Parenting

Uninvolved/neglectful parenting is a caregiving style in which the parent is not physically or emotionally involved in their child’s day-to-day care, supervision, or activities.

Uninvolved parents lack both responsiveness and firmness. They avoid meaningful and connected interactions with their children.

Uninvolved/neglectful parenting often results in a lack of emotional connection and healthy attachment between parent and child, with significant short- and long-term implications on development and well-being.

The impact of uninvolved/neglectful parenting is most concerning when the child does not have a secure attachment to another involved parent or caregiver.

Examples of Uninvolved/Neglectful Parenting

  • Ignoring their child’s cries or requests for attention/affection/interaction
  • Inadequate supervision of their child
  • Neglects to meet their child’s hygiene, health, and physical needs
  • Withholding love and emotion
  • Lack of involvement and communication with their child’s school or activities
10 tools to help kids feel loved & valued

What is the impact of uninvolved/neglectful parenting on child development?

Experts typically regard uninvolved/neglectful parenting as the most detrimental to child development. Children raised with uninvolved/neglectful caregivers:

The 4 Types of Parenting Styles Explained: How to Use our PDF Workbook (+ Quiz)

Do you need help explaining the four types of parenting styles to others? Our 11-page Parenting Styles PDF workbook (with a quiz!) helps parents and parenting educators, coaches, and family therapists explore the four main types of parenting styles:

  • Authoritarian
  • Permissive
  • Authoritative/Positive
  • Uninvolved/Neglectful
4 Parenting Styles PDF with Quiz Workbook by Such a Little While
4 Parenting Styles PDF with Quiz Workbook by Such a Little While: You'll receive... -4 primary parenting styles explained -psychoeducational worksheets -parenting styles quiz -bonus: goal-setting and inspiration

This 11-page printable resource (instant download) includes nine activities to teach and explore the four theories of parenting styles, with a focus on encouraging parents to adopt a more authoritative, positive approach to discipline.

4 Parenting Styles PDF with Quiz Workbook by Such a Little While You'll receive: Parenting Styles Overview Chart Parenting Styles Overview Handout 2 Parenting Styles Examples Activities Positive Parenting Essentials Diagram + Handout Parenting Styles Quiz (Identifying Authoritative vs. Permissive Tendencies) Identifying Positive Parenting Qualities Self-Reflection BONUS: Goal-Setting Exercise BONUS: Parenting Inspiration Handout
4 Parenting Styles PDF with Quiz Workbook by Such a Little While A look inside... -parenting styles QUIZ -increase self-awareness -identifies potential authoritarian and permissive parenting tendencies
4 Parenting Styles PDF with Quiz Workbook by Such a Little While A look inside... -easy-to-understand chart & diagram -4 parenting styles explained -written by a seasoned parent educator and former counselor
4 Parenting Styles PDF with Quiz Workbook by Such a Little While A look inside... -parenting style examples and activities -self-identify existing positive parenting qualities -BONUS: goal-setting and parenting inspiration

Our Parenting Styles PDF Toolkit Includes:

  • Parenting styles overview handout with an easy-to-understand chart of the four approaches
  • Authoritative/positive parenting Venn diagram visual with examples
  • Identifying parenting styles exercise (with examples)
  • Parenting styles examples brainstorm activity (with fillable PDF forms)
  • Parenting styles quiz (helps parents identify potential authoritarian vs. permissive tendencies)
  • Positive parenting strengths self-assessment
  • BONUS: Positive parenting goal-setting worksheet (with fillable PDF forms)
  • BONUS: Positive parenting inspiration handout with motivational quotes
4 Parenting Styles PDF with Quiz Workbook by Such a Little While Downloads made easy! How it works: -Purchase resource -You'll immediately receive the PDF file on your checkout page. We'll also send a copy to the email address you provide. -Download your file(s) and print at home or copy center
4 Parenting Styles PDF with Quiz Workbook by Such a Little While About: Hi, I'm Tana! -Certified Positive Parent Educator -Former Professional School Counselor -Former Positive Behavioral Interventions & Support Coach -M.A. in Human Development & Education -B.S. in Human Development & Family Studies -Fellow parent "in the thick of it"

Take comfort in knowing a certified positive parenting educator, former counselor, and fellow parent of two young children thoughtfully developed this resource.  Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions about how this resource will best support you and the parents you serve!

My toddler refuses to brush their teeth blot post, written by Tana from Such a Little While
Hi, I’m Tana! I’m a mom, certified positive parent educator, and former school counselor. It’s my mission to help you foster social/emotional wellness through positive parenting.

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