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From panda to koala: What parenting terms really mean

If you're expecting your first child or perhaps are thinking of sending a little one to pre-school, you've probably encountered terms like "helicopter" parenting.

While parenting styles are very individual, and many mums and dads probably incorporate various types every day, we spoke to parenting expert and educationalist Leon Hady of Guide+ ( for a breakdown of exactly what each term means.

Helicopter parenting

This style refers to parents who "hover" over a child in every aspect of their lives.

"Helicopter parents are parents who are overly involved, despite having good intentions at the heart of it. Whilst I'm sure this is a great method for some when children are younger and incapable of making decisions, it can actually become too involved as children get older and head into adolescence," he shared. "The helicopter parenting effects include lack of confidence and self-esteem, undeveloped coping skills, increased anxiety, sense of entitlement and undeveloped life skills."

Koala parenting

Also known as attachment parenting, this style describes the way in which a parent may look to form a close bond with a child from day one. This could mean breastfeeding for as long as possible, sleeping with the baby close by or co-sleeping when safe to do so, and babywearing.

"Again, this is a parent's personal choice and one where they feel as if they're bonding more closely with their child, but no two children are the same. Some babies and children demand independence and prefer to try things on their own and others require the closeness and are comforted by the need of parent close by and to cling to the parent in order to feel secure," noted Leon.

Panda parenting

Panda parenting is all about nurturing and gently encouraging a child to form their own decisions.

"It is named after the animal because whilst pandas are known to look cuddly and appear friendly they are also from the bear family and have claws. Therefore, as a parent you are gentle but you also allow the child to guide themselves to a degree even if this on occasion is perhaps the hard/wrong way. However, you are always there to nurture and protect," the expert continued.

Drone parenting

Similar to helicopter parenting, this style refers to an almost obsessive desire of a parent to control every aspect of a child's life without them ever knowing it's happening.

"Drone parents will use technology to their advantage, using apps, blogs, groups and the Internet in order to organise and control their child's life and potential. This style of parenting can confuse a child. A lack of confidence and independence and unable to make decisions independently will become evident," warned Leon.

Free range parenting

No matter where you live, you've probably encountered at least one free range parent.

"The idea is that you raise your children to become independent by way of encouragement and with limited parental supervision," he explained. "While there are some extreme scenarios, this style usually refers to allowing a child to explore different situations and environments without supervision in a controlled way."

Lighthouse parenting

Coined by Dr Kenneth Ginsburg, lighthouse parenting describes a style in which a parent is akin to a guiding light.

"In other words, it's about encouraging your child, allowing them to feel safe but also being open to discussion, even if it's an uncomfortable topic," added Leon. "Lighthouse parents set good boundaries, can reason in a calm manner, offer support, and respond to a child's emotional needs."


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