Is Lighthouse Parenting Your Style? Is it Effective?

Each generation seems to have a new style of parenting; currently, the  lighthouse approach appears to be popular—but is it effective?

Parental Evolution

As we evolve as humans, hopefully so does our parenting style. In days of yore, it was commonplace to whip your child if he wasn’t complacent. You could even dole out corporal punishment to other peoples’ kids. Nowadays we call that child abuse. No parents are perfect. And for the most part, the majority of us try our best. Today’s parents tend to want to raise their children a bit differently than the way they were raised. Hence, this “new” concept of lighthouse parenting.

Parenting Philosophies

The idea behind good parenting should be to prepare your child for her independence in society. The goal should be that they become capable adults who manage their lives successfully. How to guide them to that end is a philosophy that will differ from parent to parent. No one can agree that there is one “right” way to parent.

Sociologist an author E.E. Masters listed five parenting styles back in the 1970s. He explained that parents often used a combination of these, depending on circumstances. They are: the Martyr (parents do everything their child wants); the Pal (parents don’t set limits- they’re buddies); the Police Officer (parents make kids obey rules and punish); the Teacher/Counselor (parents are the all-knowing); and the Athletic Coach (parents prepare kids for the game of life.) Parts of this theory still lives on…

Helicopter parenting seems to be dwindling but still exists. The term was coined back in 1969 when Dr. Haim Ginott wrote the book Parents & Teenagers. It became a dictionary entry in 2011. Basically, parents hover over their kids and over-protect them. They don’t allow their children to fail or succeed on their own. How will they fare later in life? Not always so successfully as studies are now showing.

Lighthouse Parenting

Lighthouse parenting sends a message to your kids that you trust them. This leads to their becoming confident and able. Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg has written a book titled Raising Kids to Thrive. He explains this parenting style as us being the lighthouse on the shore. The children are the ships on the sea. We keep an eye on them, but we’re distant helpers.

Dr. Ginsburg asked 500 teenagers across the country how they felt their parents could best protect them. The majority of the kids said parents should be watchful and available, but not intrusive. They don’t want their parents to treat them anxiously or angrily—they prefer calm and stable communication. Parents should have high expectations, but offer unconditional love if and when the child falls.

Gentle reminders and advice are encouraged so that the kids learn on their own, but still, have guidance when necessary. It’s an interesting and certainly an evolved form of parenting. Some of these tips may be worth implementing. Whether it’s effective remains to be seen. And, of course, each child is different as are boats. And no two lighthouses are identical either. Most importantly, let your children know you love them.

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A Complete Guide to Main Parenting Styles

Whether you are an expecting mama, a full-fledged parent, or an adult helping to raise children, learning about different parenting styles is important. No one can tell you what is best for you and your youngster, but knowing the effects of certain styles may sway how both you and your child act and interact. Take a look at our complete guide and see into which category your main parenting style is best described.


You’ve Got Style!

There are many different “titles” for the way people conduct their parenting. Many of us over the past couple of decades have heard the terms “helicopter mom” or “snow plow dad.” Other terms bandied about have been: attachment, free-range, and survivalist parenting.

Although all those types are recognized in society, psychology today focuses primarily on four main parenting styles. They are:

  • Authoritative
  • Authoritarian
  • Permissive
  • Uninvolved


Popular and Unpopular Perceptions of Parenting

Aside from the four main parenting styles, there are several others that come with a popular or unpopular perception. Some are:


  • Attachment Parenting has been touted for decades (even by pediatricians) as a way to create a safe, secure bond between parent and child. This approach begins even before the child is born. During pregnancy, the mother is encouraged to dispel all worries and fearful thoughts of parenthood. Breastfeeding is expected, along with sharing a “family” bed. All expressions of emotions by the baby are accepted; the parent should see behaviors as a means of communication. The benefit derived from such type of nurturing can hopefully create a child who grows into a secure adult who values and respects relationships. One disadvantage is that the parent never imposes his/her own will, and sometimes the child lacks discipline and the ability to conform when necessary later in life.


  • Helicopter Parenting is basically when the adult hovers over the child, fixes things, and makes decisions constantly. The parents feel they are protecting and assisting their youngster by keeping a close eye on all matters, especially educational issues. Conversely, according to the Medical Research Council, “Psychological control (by a parent) can limit a child’s independence and leave them less able to regulate their own behavior.” Because the parents do everything for them, helicopter-raised kids can also often exhibit behaviors of entitlement.


  • Snow Plow Parenting is similar to helicopter behavior in that the parent is always pushing away or clearing out obstacles from their child’s path. Again, the intent is to keep the youngster safe and out of physical and mental harm’s way—in hopes of creating an environment for their kid to achieve success. The result, however, can be that the child never learns to figure life’s challenges out on his/her own. This can lead to raising a person who will be ill prepared for the real adult world.


  • Free Range Parenting lets the child make decisions, trusting that they (the kids) know best—sometimes without even an adult monitoring them. Some believe this can be borderline or downright dangerous, while others insist that it’s a natural way for a child to learn how to navigate life exploring/using/practicing his/her own skills.


  • Survivalist Parenting is a straight-up style that basically says, “This is the best I can do right now.” Working moms and dads who love their kids and want to right by them often don’t have the time or means to provide the absolute best they’d like to. So, survivalist parents may let one of their youngsters play on an iPad for an hour while they cook dinner or help another child with homework. This type of parenting style has been around for centuries—every adult does his/her best to provide shelter, food, and love—and hopes the best for the kids while they allow the rest to fall by the wayside.


A Succinct Guide to the Main Four

As mentioned previously, there are four main parenting styles that are recognized as the “umbrella” of approaches. Response and demand are the two elements contingent in healthy parenting. According to modern psychology, there requires a balance between these two aspects in order to raise well-adjusted children and adults.

“Response,” as an element of parenting, entails such offerings to the child as: empathy, support, and warmth. “Demand” implies that the adult assists/teaches the child to learn and practice skills that control behaviors and impulses.

When there is an imbalance—or lack of either response or demand—the child can become at risk for developing low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and social displacement. Clearly, the most beneficial and effective form of parenting would attempt to balance “response” and “demand”. Unfortunately, these four most clinically-recognized parenting styles do not all entail the finest balance.


  • Authoritative Parenting. This may be one of the most well-regarded forms of parenting styles. These parents have high expectations for their youngsters, but also take into account their children’s feelings. Communication is key and this type of parenting is receptive to “listening” to the child’s perception of his/her world. There is support and an air of non-judgment, which can lend to the parents’ understanding of the child—and a mutual trust and respect. It’s with this openness the parent can assist, model, and guide. Yet, the parent still has an expectation of his/her child to follow rules. This mode of parenting lends to a proper balance of response and demand.


  • Authoritarian Parenting. This style connotes strict parenting. An authoritarian parent expects their youngsters to follow rules without question, and if they don’t, there will be a consequence/punishment. This style of parenting is pretty much all-demand and very-little response. As the child and future adult of authoritarian parenting, there tends to be a feeling of lack of self-worth (from not being heard) along with an unhealthy (or poorly projected) sense of rebellion.


  • Permissive Parenting. This style can, too, be construed as harmful for the exact opposite reason of authoritarian parenting. With permissiveness, there’s an indulgence in response and little-to-no demand. The parent often avoids conflict or rocking the boat, and allows the child to indulge him or herself to bend or break rules. There is often a lack of boundaries because the parent wants to “stay friends” with his/her offspring without showing authority. Loving is one thing, but allowing a youngster to run the show is another.


  • Uninvolved Parenting. It’s also sometimes referred to as “neglectful” parenting. This style lacks both response and demand. There is simply no adult (willing or able) to provide either necessary element of healthy parenting. This parent doesn’t show up for school meetings, sporting events, or even assist with basic life skills. He/she may believe that his/her child may eventually excel from “learning on his/her own.” Without nurture, guidance, or discipline, that type of mindset will most likely not produce a healthy adult equipped to face the world socially or literally. Additionally, poor trust in others will most often become a running theme throughout the child/person’s life.


In the best of all worlds, we would hope that every parent has the intention of doing his/her best in raising his/her child. With that as a given, each style of parenting will differ. There is no exact formula since each parent and each child is different. And, that is a wonderful thing!

With that said, hopefully you will have garnered some insight into your style from reading this piece. For more of best parenting info and tips, check out our family section in