Does Parenting Ever Feel Like “Helter Skelter?”

Does Parenting Ever Feel Like “Helter Skelter?”

I am sure many of you have heard the famous song by The Beatles “Helter Skelter,” but perhaps you are not familiar with what helter skelter means.  According to Merriam-Webster it means “in undue haste, confusion, or disorder” (2019).  I think this can apply to how parents feel about parenting at times and whether what they believe they are doing is “correct” or not.  But is there really a way to “correctly” parent children? No, but discovering one’s parenting style can provide insight as to what will be most effective for their child(ren).

We are going to talk about the four major types of parenting styles and provide a link to a quiz that will show you where you fall on the continuum of parenting styles.

Authoritative Style

These parents are both highly responsive and highly demanding.  This creates a positive emotional environment for children and helps foster assertiveness and individuality (Broderick & Blewitt, 2015).  This means that these parents set clear expectations for their children and explain their reasoning.  They provide consistent emotional support and consistent discipline.  They both genuinely listen to their children and talk to them about their reasoning as a parent. One example may be a child who has lied about something in order to avoid getting in.  This parent may explore with their child their child’s concerns about why they felt they needed to lie, ask them what is going on with a sense of curiosity and understanding, explain what makes lying not okay, and instill a consequence.

Authoritarian Style

The authoritarian parent is generally low on responsiveness and highly demanding (Broderick & Blewitt, 2015).  This means that they have high expectations for rules without necessarily creating an open conversation with their children about the importance and meaning behind rules.  These parents are typically less affectionate.  Sometimes authoritarian parents fall into the category of “helicopter parents” which is when parents become over involved in their children’s lives and do not leave room for them to learn by safe trial and error.  Continuing with our example of the child lying, the authoritarian parent may discipline their child for lying without checking in with them and without explaining why lying is not acceptable.

Permissive Style

A permissive parent is generally high with emotional responsiveness but low on their demands for expectations.  Meaning they have less expectations for their children and they may be over attentive to their children’s needs (Broderick & Blewitt, 2015).  This may look like a parent who is a “pushover.”  This parent may “give in” to their child to avoid an argument or to avoid upsetting their child.  In our example this parent may attempt to set a limit and may forget about the limit due to their child complaining about the consequence.  Or they may not set a consequence/limit due to hearing their child was upset about potentially getting in trouble.

Uninvolved Style

These parents may show little effort to socialize their children, provide little emotional support, and have low demands and expectations for their children.  They generally are centered around themselves as the parent versus finding a balance of their needs and their children’s needs.  These parents may use more power assertive techniques when they do choose to set consequences for their children (Broderick & Blewitt, 2015).  For the example these parents may not even address the issue of lying.  If they were to address it, they may enforce a consequence without explanation.

What does this all mean?

Okay, take a breath just because we discussed these categories does not mean all parents must fit into one of these four.  So if you are stressing about where you think you fit it, it is okay to take a step back and see if there are areas in your parenting where you are more like the authoritative parent or maybe the permissive parent. This is to be thought of as more of a continuum so you can see where are places you think you are excelling and to bring attention to the places where maybe you need or want more growth as a parent. Also, if you have a person you co-parent with, how do your two parenting styles compliment or challenge the parenting of your child(ren).

Below is a link to a quiz to help you better see where you may fall on this continuum:

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about Parenting Skills and how you can apply your results from the quiz, Brightside Counseling Services will be hosting a new Parenting Skills Group (dates to be determine) to further address parenting styles and much more.  To reserve your spot please call Sarah Richards, MA, Registered Psychotherapist 720-923-2326 or Dr. Angela Schubert, LPC at 720-923-2323.

By Sarah Richards


Broderick, P. C. and Blewitt, P. (2015) The Life Span: Human Development for Helping Professionals.  Fourth Edition.

Sarah Richards, MA is a registered psychotherapist working towards becoming a licensed professional counselor in Colorado. She studied international disaster psychology at the University of Denver and holds a master’s degree. Sarah’s clinical training has primarily been with children who have experienced trauma and childhood adversity. Much of her work has focused on childhood bereavement and how to support grieving children. She uses a trauma-informed care lens to support her clients and meets them where they are. She has experience working with children as young as three years old through young adulthood. She utilizes individual therapy, play therapy, family therapy, and group therapy.