Parenting Buzzwords and What They Mean

Parenting Buzzwords: Definitions and Descriptions

Whether you’re new to parenting, or you’ve been at this job for quite some time, there’s a good chance you’ve heard a few parenting buzzwords tossed around. From helicopters and lawnmowers to tigers and free-rangers, there’s a label for almost every style of parenting you may encounter while raising kids.

And while you may see yourself in some of these descriptions, it’s important to remember that parenting is never a "one-size fits all" philosophy. In fact, licensed psychologist, Amanda Darnley, Psy.D points out that how you parent is going to change from situation to situation, child to child, and at different stages of their development, and that’s not only okay but necessary. 

While not an exhaustive list, the following parenting buzzwords are definitely ones you can expect to hear (or be called) at some point during your parenting journey. 

Spec Ops Mom

If you secretly stalk your teen or adolescent’s social media profile, you’re not alone. Clinical psychologist, Forrest Talley, Ph.D., says his history with the military makes him fond of the parenting buzzword, “special ops mom,” which refers to a parent (usually of a teen) who is using stealth and technology to spy on their child. “The spying typically takes the form of using a phone tracking device that provides information about location and driving habits (speed, sudden braking, etc.),” explains Talley.

While tracking your teen’s whereabouts is not uncommon, some special ops moms and dads will even befriend their children on social media using false ID’s, which allows them access into their son or daughter's social circle.

Snowplow or Bulldoze Parent 

“These parents will plow through anyone or anything that is perceived as an obstacle for their child's success,” says Darnley.

Bad grade in school? These parents are calling the teacher asking for an explanation, and then often blaming the school for making tests too difficult. Didn't get any playing time in the big game? These parents are sitting in the coach's office demanding their child play in the next game, threatening to 'take it up the ladder' if the coach doesn't comply.

Darnley says snowplow parents are so fixated on a "successful" outcome for their children, that they have a difficult time allowing their kids to experience failure.  

Helicopter Parent

If there is one term that created the popularity of parenting buzzwords, it’s the helicopter parent. “These parents hover around their kids to ensure that everything is just right,” says Darnley. “Their anxiety about the world lends itself to a lot of micro-managing and rescuing behaviors from these parents.” She explains that helicopter parents want to keep the illusion that their kid is "free to explore.” But in reality, they are often running right alongside their child, steering them clear of anything remotely unsavory.

Sharenting Parent

Cell phones, tablets, and social media accounts have given birth to a whole new type of buzzword: Sharenting. “These parents are the ones who constantly have their cell phones out, ready to capture the next moment to share with all their followers on social media,” says Darnley. They share pictures of their kids so often that if you’re friends with a “sharent,” Darnley says you'll probably know more about what is going on with their kids than you do with your own.  

Lawnmower Parent

When helicopter parents land, they often turn into lawnmower parents, who are known to mow every obstacle out of their child’s way. A lawnmower parent is seen as someone who clears all hurdles out of the way, so their child will experience success without having to maneuverer any obstacles.

Lawnmower parenting prevents a child from ever learning to deal with adversity or failure, which often sets them up for a lifetime of disappointment when mom or dad are unable to remove the hurdles. 

Tiger Mom

While this title is reserved for moms, there are definitely some dads that also fit this description. This parenting buzzword was born from a 2011 book called “Battle Human of the Tiger Mom” that describes a style of parenting centered around strict rules, tough discipline, and very little free time or fun. 

No-Rescue Parenting

Think of this style of parenting as the anti-helicopter. The no-rescue parent teaches their child about natural consequences and the very simple life lesson of cause and effect. For example, if your child forgets their homework at home, then they need to figure out how to solve the problem, which often means consequences at school. Not only does this style teach kids how to take responsibility, but it also empowers them to find solutions, and hopefully, make better decisions next time. 

Attachment Parenting

Versions of attachment parenting have been around for decades, but it’s only in the last decade that this philosophy has become a parenting buzzword. This style is rooted in the belief that babies thrive when they learn to trust their environment, which happens when caregivers (aka, parents) meet their physical, emotional, and psychological needs. Sounds like good parenting, right? So, why is it on the buzzword list? Well, this style gained attention and popularity when followers stressed the importance (and sometimes to the extreme) of extended breastfeeding, baby-wearing, and bed-sharing. 

Free-Range Parenting

Yes, this term is supposed to make you think of free-range chickens that roam the land with a lot of freedom. This style of parenting is a throw-back to the 70’s and 80’s when kids stayed home alone after school, walked to their friend’s house, and played without parental supervision. Free-range parenting has become more popular in the last several years, as many parents are looking for ways to let their kids experience the type of childhood they had. 

Positive Parenting

If you’re ready to say good-bye to time-outs and loss of privileges, this style might be just what you’re looking for. With a focus on rewards for positive behavior rather than doling out punishment for the negative, this parenting philosophy strives to shift attention on shaping behavior through positive means. 

Crunchy or Granola Parenting

Crunchy of granola parents, most often referred to as a “granola mom,” is a buzzword you will hear when people reference parents who typically make their own baby food, use cloth diapers, only purchase organic products and eat organic food, and live a “natural” lifestyle. While not necessarily a parenting style, many crunchy parents adhere to certain beliefs about how to raise kids. 

Authoritative Parenting

This buzzword might be one you frequently hear, especially if you read a lot of parenting books. That’s because authoritative parenting is often seen as the “gold standard” since it focuses on setting high standards while providing a lot of guidance, support, and love. 

Permissive Parenting 

Parents who are more concerned with being a friend to their child rather than mom or dad, often fall under the permissive parenting or laissez-faire parenting umbrella. They tend to lack follow-through on consequences and rules and have a difficult time setting limits. 

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  • Darnley, Amanda. Email interview. October 21, 2019.

  • Talley, Forrest. Email interview. October 21, 2019.