In Australia its been decades since anyone has had to navigate their children through a major health crisis that has been as serious as COVID-19.
Whether you are authoritative, permissive, indulgent or a disciplinarian, many have had to adjust their parenting styles to meet the impacts of school closures, job losses and sickness.
And experts say that the pandemic has seen the emergence of many new parenting trends in 2020 including ‘unschooling,’ French parenting, and gender neutral.
Dr Justin Coulson, one of Australia’s leading parenting experts says that the tumultuous year has brought many challenges for parents and in turn, an emergence of several new parenting trends.
“What has happened during 2020 is that some parents have actually discovered that they are not as reliant on the school system that they thought that they were,” he said.
“And some have realised that they need schools more than ever and they just want their kids to be at school all the time.”
Dr Coulson said that although there had been several new and sometimes wacky trends that have emerged recently – particularly on the internet in places like lifestyle blogs – his number one advice to parents is to ‘let their kids be kids’.
“Traditionally, the gold standard of parenting is what’s known as authoritative parenting, the idea behind that is that parents are high in demandingness but they’re also high in warmth.
“There’s lots of love but there’s also lots of clear limits, however in recent years, a style of parenting that I think is far superior is called autonomy supportive parenting.
“Autonomy supportive parents do three things really clearly, first of all, they spend time understanding their children’s developmental capacity and then they work out what their perspective is, what their interests are and what their view of the world is.”
Dr Coulson said parents were becoming very tightly wound when it cames to their children and “they’re increasingly anxious” about their kids and “increasingly controlling”.
“They’re not letting their kids go out and do what kids do,” Dr Coulson said.
“They’re putting more pressure on them to do well in school rather than let them follow their passion.
“Really, no matter what you want to call it, good parenting looks the same in any language and in any culture.
“Good parenting is, parents who love their kids and know how to communicate that to their children, so that child knows that they’re loved no matter what.”
Unschooling is a niche form of homeschooling, where the education of children is taught at home or at other places, rather than in a traditional school environment. It involves teaching children based on their interests rather than a set curriculum.
Dr Coulson says he does not advise parents to teach their children in this way.
“Unschooling is a pretty radical approach to education,” he said.
“The parents say, ‘you’re free to learn that’ and then they can learn the way want to learn and at their own pace; there are no time restrictions.
“Generally, the mainstream trend is to frown very heavily on unschooling and that’s because there’s just no curriculum, it’s very relationally based, and child centred.
“People who can do this are people who have the resources, so either the time or money or both, unschooling is not the type of thing that parents who are busy or stressed can do.”
With instinctive parenting, the only distinguishing factor is that it does not come with a set of rules. Instead, it’s characterised by parents who raise their children by relying purely on instinct.
“It’s influenced a lot by the parents’ own childhoods and upbringing,” Dr Coulson said.
“It’s got a lot to do with the early years.”
Parents who choose this technique say it’s all about “providing a good balance between the needs of the baby and the needs of the mother”.
The style is based on natural instinct as opposed a set of rules.
The French way is all about respecting the guidelines that parents set out for the child and it stems from the 2014 book Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman.
“It’s simple and it’s a hands-off approach where children are given autonomy, and the parents then support them,” Dr Coulson said.
“As parents, we don’t need to be constantly intruding.
“It’s actually quite a nice way to do parenting, I like it.”
Often perceived as strict, some of the tips that come from French Parenting include not letting the child interrupt conversations, banning the use of baby talk, no snacking and always dressing for an occasion.
According to advocates of this controversial style of parenting, gender neutral is “allowing children to be exposed to a variety of gender types” so children can explore their gender without restriction from society or the gender they were born with.
Dr Coulson said that although this parenting style can have it merit in some cases, there are a small minority of people who actually implement it.
“I think that it’s growing in popularity on the blogs, and among the far-left politically progressive latte sipping inner city mob,” he said.
“But I think most parents aren’t thinking about that, I think most are probably just trying to get their kids to eat their dinner without complaining and sleep in their own bed at night.
“They’re not worried about whether it’s a he or a she or a they because that’s not an issue for young kids, except in rare circumstances.”
Free-range parenting is the concept of raising your child in a way that encourages them to function independently and with limited parental supervision, based on their age of development while taking into consideration reasonable risks.
“Free range parenting is something I believe we need to get behind more and something I’m a really big advocate of,” Dr Justin Coulson said.
“The idea behind free range parenting is that you try to reduce the number of limits and boundaries that you set on children and their ability to do things.
“This is not about letting kids do what they want, it’s not about raising the white flag or letting them roam the streets.
“What it is about doing though is that it’s about stopping such overprotective parents.”
Hummingbird parents “hover but do not interfere too much” in the decisions of their children. They remain physically nearby to jump in if their children need them, but they don’t try to make decisions for them.
Steadily gaining popularity, it’s often been described the modern-day version of authoritative parenting – “the gold standard”.
Not too much is known about the success of the hummingbird style as it is too new, according to Dr Coulson.
“So, the hummingbird approach is a new one,” he said.
“But all these trends seem to be centring on the same kinds of ideas, and while there are variations of each of these styles, what the majority of them seem to be approaching is autonomy supportive parenting.
“The idea is that parents are recognising their children’s autonomy, they’re trying to empower their children to find the way to act for themselves.”
You’ve probably heard a lot from this group, who are known for being vocal about their stance on vaccinations.
Essentially, they’re a group who believe vaccines don’t work and do not vaccinate either themselves or their children or both.
Dr Coulson’s only comment was on the topic was: “They’re a very noisy minority” who don’t represent the vast amount of the population.
Throughout the course of the year, several WAGs have found themselves in hot water from their stance on vaccinations.
Originally published as Revealed: The new parenting styles that work and those to avoid