The Really Useful Guide to Parenting Styles, Words and Phrases


The Really Useful Guide to Parenting Styles, Words and Phrases

As if parenting wasn’t hard enough it sometimes feels like we have to learn a whole new language.

Whilst writing this blog, I am not ashamed to say that I have had to lookup quite a few parenting words and terms to find out what they meant. 

Executive function? What the jiggins is that?

And it seems like there’s more words being added to this parenting language all the time.

But that’s why we’re all here – to learn!

So I decided to write this guide to parenting phrases to help others who may not be sure what self-reg means, or the difference between fine and gross motor skills. Or what on earth the Babinski reflex is?

Now I can’t promise that this will be the most exciting post I’ve ever written, but I hope some of you will find it useful!

So then, here we go:

Guide to Parenting Styles, Words and Phrases

I’ve decided to group the parenting words into sections to make it slightly easier to find what you’re looking for. Many of the words could fall into more than one category so I’ve just put them where I think they fit best.

There’s quite a lot of parenting phrases here so if there’s something you’re particularly searching for you can use ctrl+f to open a search function.

Child Development Words and Phrases

child development phrases

As this is a blog all about child development and parenting I thought I’d start here.

Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) – is a developmental disorder in which the child has significant difficulties when it comes to socializing and reading non-verbal communication. It is often accompanied by repetitive behaviours and interests.

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) – is a developmental disorder in which the child shows symptoms of inattention, these often include things like distractibility, disorganization, or forgetfulness and can be more prevalent in girls.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – is a developmental disorder in which the child displays symptoms of persistent inattention, hyperactivity, and sometimes impulsivity.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) – is a developmental disorder in which the child has difficulty with communication and interaction with other people, restricted interests and repetitive behaviors and symptoms that damage the child’s ability to function properly in school.

Bilateral Coordination – is the ability to coordinate both sides of the body at the same time. For example, holding the page with one hand whilst writing with the other.

Cognitive Development – is the development of how children think and includes knowledge, memory, decision making and problem solving.

Coordination – is getting more than one part of the body to work together to complete a certain task.

Crossing the Midline –  is the ability to reach across the middle of the body with the arms or  legs reaching the opposite side. For example, being able to draw a horizontal line across a page without having to switch hands in the middle (something lots of children find very tricky at first).

Development – is the sequence of physical, language, thought and emotional changes that occur in a child from birth until the onset of adulthood. 

Dexterity – is the ability to perform a difficult action quickly and skillfully with the hands.

Dyslexia – is a general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols. It does not affect intelligence.

Dyspraxia –  is a developmental coordination disorder affecting physical coordination which often makes the child appear clumsy.

Emotional Development – is the development of the abilities to recognize, express, and manage feelings and to have empathy for the feelings of others.

Executive Function –  is an umbrella term that includes a collection of processes that are needed for purposeful, goal-directed behavior. These processes include things such as anticipation, goal selection, planning, starting an activity, self-regulation, flexibility in your thinking, and attention.

Fine Motor Skills – are small movements such as pinching and grasping. These can help with everything from writing and holding a spoon to doing up a zip.

Global Developmental Delay (GDD) – is the general term used to describe when a child is diagnosed with having a lower intelligence than what is perceived as ‘normal’.

Gross Motor Skills – are large movements such as crawling, walking and jumping.

Growth Mindset – The concept of a growth mindset was developed by psychologist Carol Dweck, and is the belief that that most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work, perseverance and resilience (we are big on this at our school).

Language Development –  is the process by which children come to understand and communicate language during early childhood.

Learning Disorder – is a significantly reduced ability to understand new or complex information, to learn new skills and a reduced ability to cope independently.

Motor Skills –  A motor skill is simply an action that involves a baby using their muscles.

Neuroplasticity –  is the ability of the brain to change continuously throughout an individual’s life

Physical Development –  is a process that begins in childhood concentrates on the development of gross and fine motor skills

Physiological Development – is the development of a child’s normal bodily functions such as breathing and circulation.

Psychological Development –  is the development of a child’s cognitive, emotional, intellectual, and social capabilities.

Self Regulation (self-reg) – is a child’s ability to manage their emotions to suit their current situation. It includes being able to calm themselves down when upset and be able to handle anger and frustration without an outburst. 

Social Development –  is the development of social and emotional skills. It allows children to interact with and form positive relationships with family, friends, teachers, and other people in their lives.

Feeding and Weaning Words and Phrases

This section’s all about phrases to do with feeding and weaning. 

We used baby led weaning with our little boy, but before my sister told me about it I’d never heard of it. I did loads of research into it and added a fair few new words to my parenting vocabulary!

Baby Led Weaning (BLW)Baby led weaning is a weaning method that skips the pureed foods often used in standard weaning. It goes straight to solid foods when the child is developmentally ready and focuses on positive, interactive meal times. 

Breastfeeding – is simply feeding a child milk from their mother’s breast.

Bottle Feeding – you guessed it, feeding children milk from a bottle (this is something the dads may be able to help more with).

Breast Pump – is a device which can get milk from a woman’s breast using suction.

Breast Engorgement – this is when a mother’s breasts are overly full with milk. It can be painful and uncomfortable and breasts can feel firm. It can occur when your child is drinking less milk that you can produce.

Complementary Feeding – this is the period when both breastmilk and other foods are fed your baby as breastmilk alone isn’t nutritionally enough. 

Dream Feeding – is when you feed your baby while they are still asleep. It’s done in an effort to reduce middle-of-the-night wakings and feedings.

Expressing – is the process by which a woman gets milk from her breast, often with the aid of a breast pump. The breastmilk can then be stored and fed to her baby at a later point in time.

Foremilk –  is the milk produced in the first part of a breastfeeding session. It often contains less fat than the milk at the end of the session.

Formula – is a substitute for breastmilk.

Good Latch – is when both the nipple and a large part of the areola are in the baby’s mouth. This should feel comfortable for the mother as well as allowing the baby to feed well.

Hindmilk – is the milk produced at the end of a breastfeeding session. It often contains more fat than the milk at the beginning of the session.

Latching On – this refers to how the baby connects and fastens to the nipple during feeding.

Mammary Glands – are the glands which produce milk. They are located in the breasts.

Mastitis – is a condition which causes a woman’s breast tissue to become painful and inflamed. It can be caused by a blocked milk duct.

Nipple Confusion – is when babies that have been fed from a bottle have a hard time going back to feeding from the breast.

Nipple Shield – is a thin, flexible silicone cover which a mother can place over her nipple before breastfeeding. It can help if breastfeeding has become painful.

Prolactin – is a hormone that is responsible for stimulating milk production after childbirth.

Psoriasis – is an inflammatory condition that affects the skin and can be very itchy. The most common form in children is plaque psoriasis and can be treated with ointments or lotions.

Reflux – is when food comes back up from a baby’s stomach and causes them to spit up. The condition is rarely serious and becomes less common as a baby gets older.

Spoon-fed Weaning –  is when you spoon feed your baby. It normally starts with smooth pureed foods and progresses to thicker foods as the baby gets older.

Weaning – is the process of introducing food to a baby’s diet while withdrawing the supply of breastmilk.

Parenting Words and Phrases – Baby and Toddler Related Phrases

When you have a baby for the first time everything is new!

You have to learn how to feed them, how to change them, how to look after them. And you have to learn words, loads of new words…

Bum Shuffling –  is a type of movement by children which is more developmentally advanced than crawling and consists of shuffling around on their bottom.

Babinski Reflex – is a reflex in babies and happens after the sole of the foot has been stroked. The big toe then moves upward and the other toes fan out.

Baby Gym – is a wooden or plastic arch with small toys hanging from it. They are often very colourful and have different textures and sounds to stimulate your baby. These days many also feature music and lights.

Baby-wearing – is the practice of carrying a baby close against your body in a sling or similar carrier.

Burping / Winding – is when you help your baby to release air trapped in their stomach. It’s often accomplished by patting or rubbing a baby’s back.

Colic –  is an attack of crying often accompanied by what appears to be abdominal pain in babies. It is a common condition and is estimated to affect up to 1 in 5 infants during their first few months.

Colostrum – is the first secretion from the mammary glands after giving birth. It is rich in antibodies.

Co-sleeping –  is a practice in which babies and young children sleep close to one or both parents – often in the same bed but not always.

Cradle Cap –  is a skin condition sometimes seen in babies. It is caused by an excessive production of sebum and characterized by areas of yellowish or brownish scales on the top of the head.

Fencing – is when newborn babies position themselves with one arm flexed and the other extended with their head turned toward the extended arm. It’s called this because they look like someone doing the sport of fencing.

Ferberizing – is a sleep training technique invented by Dr. Richard Ferber. It involves training children to self-soothe by allowing the child to cry for a certain amount of time before they receive comfort from their parents.

Fontanelles – are the soft areas between the bones of the skull. They allow for the baby’s head to pass through the birth canal and the baby’s brain to grow.

Fourth Trimester – is a term describing the first three months of a baby’s life after being born.

Palmar Grasping Reflex – is a reflex which is caused when an object is placed in a baby’s hand or the palm of the child is stroked. The reflex causes the fingers to close into a grasp.

Gynecomastia – is a condition which causes the enlargement of a baby’s breast tissue. It occurs because oestrogen passes through the placenta from the mother to the baby. It is temporary and will disappear a few weeks after the baby is born.

Immunisations – Are a series of injections given to your child as they grow to protect them from certain diseases.

Jaundice – is a yellow discoloration of a newborn baby’s skin and eyes. It occurs because the baby’s blood contains an excess of bilirubin. Most of the time it is not harmful, but in some babies an underlying disease may be the cause. 

Leap / Development Leap – is a term used for a big jump in your baby’s mental development.

Meningitis – is an infection of the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord.

Meconium – is the dark green substance which forms your baby’s first poo.

Moro Reflex – is a reflex that is present up to your child is 3–6 months old. It is a response to a sudden loss of support and involves your child spreading out their arms, pulling their arms in and is often accompanied by crying. 

Nappy Rash – is an inflammation of the skin in the area covered by a nappy. It is characterised by sore, red spots.

Neonate – a newborn child less than 4 weeks old.

Oral Thrush – is a common infection in the mouth of babies. It’s caused by a yeast like fungus, Candida albicans. It can be irritating but it is treatable. It looks like white spots or patches in the mouth and on the tongue.

Percentile – are measurements that show how a child’s growth compares to other children their age. Percentiles are out of a 100 so if your child is in the 25th percentile for height then 25% of children will be shorter than them and 75% will be taller. 

Pincer Grip / Grasp – is when a child (or you for that matter) uses their thumb and index finger to pick up and hold an item.

Postpartum – means following childbirth.

Self Soothing –  is when a young child ceases to cry without being comforted by a parent or carer. The term is often used when children fall asleep on their own.

Skin to Skin – This is when you hold your baby so that their skin is in contact with yours. It’s thought to help them adjust to life outside the womb and is great for bonding.

Sleeping Through – is when a child sleeps all the way through until morning without waking up (it’s what we all dream about!).

Swaddling – is a wrapping a baby tightly in cloth so that the movement of its limbs are restricted. It is thought to help them from being started by their Moro reflex.

Sleep Training – is the process of teaching and helping a baby to fall asleep and stay asleep all night.

Teething – is when the baby’s first teeth emerge through their gums. This can be painful for the baby and stop them from sleeping properly.

Toddling – The first, unsteady steps a child takes.

Tummy Time – is when your baby lies on their stomach whilst supervised. It’s thought to help build the muscle strength and coordination needed for rolling over and crawling.

Umbilical Granuloma – is a red ball of tissue that remains on your baby’s belly button after the umbilical cord falls off. Without treatment, it can cause irritation to your baby.

A Glossary of Play Related Words and Phrases

glossary of Parenting phrases about play

Play is just so important to a child’s development

It’s how they explore and learn all about the world around them. 

In the words of Kenneth Ginsburg – “Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children.”

Below are a few different play related phrases that may help you to understand the different types of play that children can enjoy.

Dramatic Play – is a form of play in which the child uses their imagination and pretends to be something they are not. It can involve costumes and props, and the development of storylines and other characters that inhabit their made-up world.

Free Play – is an unstructured, child-initiated form of play that allows children to develop their imaginations while exploring and experiencing the world around them. It doesn’t involve adult guidance – it’s all about letting children follow their natural curiosity. It can happen anywhere at anytime.

Messy Play – is a creative form of play which often involves messy materials such as paint, sand, mud, water, clay, playdough, glitter, glue, etc. It’s open-ended, i.e. it has no fixed outcome and is just a way for children to just get stuck in and experiment with different materials. It promotes creativity, imagination and experimentation.  

Parallel Play – is a form of play in which children play next to each other, often using similar materials or toys, but don’t try to actually play with the other children. In this kind of play they are usually playing alone but may show interest in what others are doing and use some of their neighbour’s ideas to influence their our play.

Risky Play – is a form of play which children find thrilling and exciting and involves a risk of physical injury. It provides opportunities for the children to challenge themselves, test limits, explore boundaries and develop risk management skills.

Sensory Play –  is a form of play which stimulates children’s senses: touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing and helps with sensory development. It can be a form of messy play but doesn’t have to be. Though sensory play, children learn to explore and naturally use experimentation while they play, investigate, create and discover what their senses are capable of.

Social Play – is a form of play in which children interact with other children. It normally has some structure which has been developed by the children involved. It often includes imagination and creativity and is great for developing social and language skills.

Symbolism / Symbolic Play – is a form of play similar to dramatic play in which a child pretends an object is something that it is not. For example a wooden block could become a phone when held to the ear, or an aeroplane when being swooshed through the air. This kind of play often starts to occur when the children are around 2-3 years old, and is an important part of language development.

A Quick Guide to Different Parenting Styles

Different Parenting Styles

It seems there are hundreds of parenting styles, with many being invented all the time. I guess this makes sense as there are so many ways to bring up children. 

No child is one size fits all! 

Here are some that I have come across:

Attachment Parenting – is where the parent desires close contact with their child. They usually achieve this through baby-wearing, co-sleeping and breastfeeding. The parents will usually allow their child decide when to give up these things rather than be influenced by standard practices of their region. Parents also practise positive discipline and try to be strong role-models.

Dolphin Parenting – is a term coined by Shimi Kang M.D. This parenting style emphasizes strong role-modelling of collaboration and character values. Parents give instruction when needed but the focus is child-led learning through exploration and trial and error. PArents maintain authority but there are collaborative discussions of rules and consequences with a gradual increase in independence as the child grows older.

Elephant Parenting – These parents are very nurturing and protective of their children during early childhood. Mothers have a strong sense of community and believe in women helping women to raise children. Parents allow their children more flexibility in their choices rather than definitive guidelines that need to be strictly adhered to.

Free-range Parenting – These parenting style is based on encouraging children to function independently with limited parental supervision. They may allow their children to walk to school or the shop alone. Parents believe that this freedom promotes their child’s independence and self-reliance. The term was originally coined by Lenore Skenazy, but it’s not been without controversy as some claim it’s dangerous and even neglectful.

Helicopter Parenting – is so named because parents ‘hover’ just over the heads of their children and watch every aspect of their lives at all times. These parents are often overbearing and over-controlling. Parents will quickly get involved if they spot any challenge or discomfort to their child without allowing them to try and work it out themselves. This parenting style is thought to stifle a child’s independence.

Lawnmower Parenting – This is a parenting style where the parent is excessively involved in their child’s life. Parents will try to remove any difficulties or challenges that the child could face. This type of parenting could stifle a child’s independence and ability to deal with challenges.

Positive Parenting –  is a parenting style focused on developing a strong and committed relationship between parent and child. It is based on communication and mutual respect. Rules and consequences are explained thoroughly and discussed together. Parents focus on helping children become self-disciplined, rather than just obeying strict rules based on fear of punishment. Parents are open to listening to their children to understand their child’s thoughts and support a mutually respectful parent-child relationship that helps to build the child’s self-esteem.

Tiger Parenting – is a style of parenting that is strict and demanding of the child. The parent places excellence in academics and extracurriculars above the child’s leisure and play time. Parents are authoritarian and have strict sets of rules that they expect to be followed. This kind of parenting has been found to not necessarily promote superior academic performance.

Other Parenting Phrases

Attachment – is the emotional relationship between parent and child. It allows the child to feel safe and comfortable in their parent’s company.

Babymoon – is a relaxing or romantic holiday taken before your baby is born. Often taken in the second trimester.

Health Visitor – is a trained nurse who visits people in their homes to assist or advise parents with very young children.

Maternity – simply refers to motherhood.

Maternity Leave – is a period of leave from work granted to a mother before and after the birth of her child.

Paternity – simply refers to fatherhood.

Paternity Leave – is a period of leave from work granted to a father after or shortly before the birth of his child.

Paediatrician – a medical practitioner specializing in children and the diseases they may get.

Playdate – is a social occasion arranged so that children can play together.

Final Thoughts on the Guide to Parenting Styles, Words and Phrases

I Hope you found the Really Useful Guide to Parenting Styles, Words and Phrases.. well, useful!

I’m sure I’ve only just scratched the surface here as there’s just so many weird parenting words to learn! I’m sure I’ll add more as I come across new words.

If you know anyone who may find this guide useful, please share using the buttons below and if you want to join the Nurtured Neurons family you can subscribe for some great science-backed parenting tips and strategies!

If you know of any parenting styles, words or phrases that you wondered about at first (or are still unsure about), please let me know in the comments and I can add them to the list!

Let’s nurture those neurons!

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4 years ago

Such a great guide! Pregnant with my second here.

Lori Roach
Lori Roach
4 years ago

Wow, that’s quite a list! Very thorough! I am well past raising babies at this point, but reading through this list actually brought back some really great memories, so thank you!

4 years ago

There are truly so many words & phrases to this parenting thing. I tell ya. And it’s changing daily. What a great resource though. Parents new at this, or even veteran parents will find themselves in different situations with each child and at different ages/stages so this is super helpful!

🇨‌🇭‌🇷‌🇮‌🇸‌ 🇰‌🇴‌🇸‌🇹‌🇴‌🖊 (@ChrisKostoGB)

This is a super helpful collection of phrases that we cannot find easily anywhere esle. Really good job, well done 🙂

Casey | McCourtSkee
4 years ago

Oh my god – that was a ton of insightful information! I didn’t even know there were that many pratenting/childhood related phrases. Props on doing that research and thanks for sharing! This will be super helpful when I one day has kiddos!

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