Beyond the Helicopter: The Different Types of Parents Every Teacher Knows

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Not all parents are created equal. When you enter the teaching arena, you will quickly realize that there are several different types of parents–and a certain way to interact with each. Below are five different, distinct parenting styles. Learning to respond to these parents and their children will hopefully help create a harmonious school year for all involved.

1. The Helicopter Parent


Definition: Feels like they need to stay close, to literally hover, to be sure their kid is successful. They’re always hovering close by to make sure their child has what they needed, is free from danger and is doing things the “right” way.

How to spot them: Shows up first to open house but stays late to ask questions. Loads you up on supplies as a bargaining tool. 

How to work with them: Try to understand they have good intentions. Highlight their child’s independence by showing them tangible products they made on their own. 

2. The Lawnmower Parent


Definition: Determined to keep their child from experiencing any difficulty whatsoever. Literally “mows” over the obstacles. Also known as “bulldozing” or “curling” parents–literally scrubbing problems as their kids coast through.

How to spot them: Wants the rubric the summer before class starts. “Helps” with every project and homework assignment. Extended eye contact. 

How to work with them: Anticipate that their kids will shut down at the first sign of trouble so be prepared to cheerlead–but to hold them accountable. Keep communication with parents direct and prompt.

3. The Free-Range Parent


Definition: Encourages their child to explore the world with little parental supervision. Places a strong emphasis on their child’s developmental ability–accepts natural consequences.

How to spot them: You won’t. They trust their kid to handle things.

How to work with them: Reach out and introduce yourself before trouble hits. Recognize that free-range parents don’t always embrace traditional education. Be willing to acknowledge and praise strengths before addressing weaknesses. 

4. The Tiger Parent


Definition: Has very high expectations of their child. Wants to see them succeed in a traditional sense–excellent grades, excellent test scores, excellent athletic ability. 

How to spot them: Will email you about Johnny’s 89. Front row at the parent meeting but also sending emails from their phone. Yelling at the soccer game. 

How to work with them: Try to show the kid a little grace and don’t reach out to the parent over trivial things–they feel the pressure and they’re trying. When the parents do reach out, be concise but try to throw in some praise for the student.

5. The Amazon Parent


Definition: Really cares that their child succeeds but like, is also very busy. Will contribute to any fundraiser or activity they can participate in remotely but please do not send them a SignUpGenius.

How to spot them: You will know them by their email avatar. Their emails are warm and friendly because they’re “so so sorry they can’t make open house but can you please send home the rubric? Also, do you have an Amazon wish list?”

How to work with them: Email them directly as soon as problems arise, they’re on it but they’re not checking their kid’s backpack. Offer a phone conference. Share your Amazon Wishlist.

Beyond the helicopter: The different types of parents every teacher knows

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I am a Southern gal, mama to two kids (8 years and 6 months) and I have been teaching middle school for over 7 years. I love to go hiking or read a book in my free time. My favorite part of teaching is connecting with kids over things beyond just academics--teenagers are awesome!

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