Exactly what kind of parent are you?
Snowplough, French or maybe jellyfish - so, which type are you?
It used to be so simple for parents. Every problem would be solved with one magical remedy: the wooden spoon.
Whatever the little monsters did or didn't do, their behaviour would come back online the instant they heard the cutlery drawer rattling open and the dreaded spoon being grabbed, ready to "redden your backside".
Nowadays, this sort of moderate violence is no longer acceptable in polite society. Nowadays you have do a thing called "parenting", which appears to involve immersing yourself in the child's life, over unendurably long days and even longer nights.
But that's where it gets complicated, as there are several different parenting styles to choose from. Here's a beginner's guide:
Helicopter: Also known as "over-parenting", these people are way too involved in everything the children do, hovering over them like an Apache attack chopper about to swoop. They want to control everything from college choices (already picked, even though the child's still in playschool) to making sure they don't boff their little head by stumbling on the rug.
Snowplough: An even more proactive version of the Helicopter, these micro-managing monomaniacs "snowplough" their children's lives by clearing a path for them to follow. Results in offspring who are professionally thriving but socially maladapted.
Tiger: The most extreme "pushy parent" of the lot, made famous by Chinese-American Amy Chua. Have the tots booked in for piano lessons at two, Ancient Greek at three, pre-Med at ten and intensive psychotherapy by 15.
Authoritarian: Mammy and Daddy know best. (Usually Mammy, although 100 years ago, it would have been Daddy, no question.)
Authoritative: As above, but a little less Victorian, a little more modern. As in, these parents listen to their child's desires, before ignoring that and telling them what to do anyway.
Permissive: Ah sure what do mammy and daddy know? Just do whatever you feel like doing.
French: Revolves around the core moral code of French life - behaving appropriately in a restaurant. Involves lots of raised hands, barked "Non!" and "Attends!", and surreptitious slugs from the wine bottle to damp down those queasy feelings of guilt that you're being a tiny bit mean.
Outsourcing: Pay someone else to do everything - wash them, change them, feed them, play with them, bring them to school, read with them, even potty train them. Begs the question, of course, as to why you bothered actually having them in the first place.
Attachment: Probably the most "natural" of the lot, this involves co-sleeping, long-term nursing, sling-carrying and lots of TLC… in short, being with the child pretty much 24-7.
Not recommended for the parent above.
Slow: Basically "downsizes" all aspects of life. A slower pace, more time for random exploration, kids developing their own interests in their own time, simple toys and very few electronics…sounds quite idyllic, really.
Jellyfish: Very lax and permissive. Few rules, little discipline, prone to over-indulging the child. You know those impulsive, bratty, often obese kids who shove other children off the swings at the local playground? Well, you can blame their jellyfish parents.
Dolphin: Attempts to strike a balance between freedom and boundaries (hence, like the aquatic mammal, they're "firm yet flexible"). Doesn't involve balancing a beach-ball on your nose as simple-minded tourists gawp and take photos.
Sloth: Lazier than a council worker on go-slow. Attitude can be summarised as "I couldn't be bothered." Not abusive to the kids as such, but don't do a whole lot for them either - plonking them in front of a DVD with a bag of sweets is easier than drawing with them or cooking for them.
Instinctive: Whereby you go with your gut feeling - which, let's face it, is generally right.
Narcissistic: This involved you putting your own needs first - frequent socialising, blowing all the money on yourself, generally acting as if the kid is a pest that has somehow inveigled itself into your life. Also known as "Selfish Idiot Technique."
Free-range: Allow them a lot of freedom and independence, eg walking to school alone. Tends to get a bad press, but despite media hysteria, it's probably safe enough.
Concerted cultivation: Every available hour is filled with organised (and "productive") leisure activities.
Positive: Lots of encouragement. Accentuate what's being done right, downplay what's being done wrong. And don't use the word "wrong", it's judgmental.
Close-to-perfect: The way I do it...