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What is Authoritative Parenting?

By Elisha Baba

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Research developed by psychologists discovered that there are four parenting styles: authoritarian, permissive, neglectful, and authoritative. No parenting style is perfect and parents do not always share the same approach to bringing up their children.

Authoritative parenting is often thought to be the best of the four styles, but exactly what is authoritative parenting? This style is used by parents who have reasonable expectations and demands when it comes to their children’s behavior, while also enforcing fair discipline and limits where needed. An authoritative parent is nurturing and highly responsive, relying on positive strategies instead of threats and bribery, to guide their children in the right direction.

What is Authoritative Parenting?

Authoritative Parenting Definition

In the 1960s, Diana Baumrind began research into the different ways parents brought up their children. Baumrind studied pre-school aged children to develop her research and further study in the 1980s categorized parents into the four following styles:

  • Authoritarian
  • Authoritative
  • Permissive/indulgent
  • Neglectful

An easy way to define authoritative parenting is to think of it as ‘democratic parenting’. Parents who fall into this category listen to their children’s thoughts and opinions, value what they have to say, and provide effective ways to help their children behave in an appropriate manner.

These parents don’t lay down the law and expect no pushback. Authoritative parents are warm and nurturing but bring their children up in a home where firm yet fair rules and boundaries must be respected. Authoritative parenting involves being both warm and fair, responsive and consistent.

Traits of Authoritative Parents

There are many reasons why the authoritative parenting style is thought to be the ideal approach to raising children. Parents who bring their children up in this way often share the following traits:

  • Warm, nurturing, and loving
  • Set firm yet fair rules and boundaries
  • Set limits for their children’s behavior
  • Consistently enforce firm yet fair consequence
  • Use fair discipline when needed
  • Encourage independence
  • Highly responsive and can adapt appropriately to different situations
  • Listen to their children’s thoughts, feelings, and opinions

The main characteristics that bind authoritative parents together are reasonable expectations and high responsiveness. This type of parenting involves listening to your children, setting clear rules, and having appropriate consequences in place for when behavior doesn’t meet expectations.

Authoritative Parenting Examples

As this is often thought to be the best way to parent, we understand if you are eager to learn even more about the authoritative parenting style. We have shared the main characteristics, now let’s take a closer look at some examples of authoritative parenting:

  • When a child is upset, an authoritative parent will not tell them to stop crying or threaten them with discipline. Instead, the parent would encourage the child to tell them what is wrong and help them to feel better by listening and providing them with effective coping strategies.
  • When setting rules, if a child asks a parent why the rule is needed they will be given an honest answer. Authoritative parents tend to steer clear from phrases like ‘because I said so’. Instead of focussing on controlling their children with little explanation, these parents treat their children with respect and tell them why certain behavior is expected and why rules or boundaries are being enforced.
  • If a rule is broken, authoritative parents will use fair discipline to prevent this from happening again in the future. Parents will explain why the consequence is needed and remind the children of the expectations placed on their behavior.
  • To avoid the need for discipline, parents may choose to have a positive reinforcement system in place – such as a sticker chart. Praise for good behavior has been found to be effective and can prevent rule breaking in the future. Unlike permissive parents, authoritative parents will be consistent and not back down when fair discipline is needed.

Pros and Cons of the Authoritative Parenting Style

Apart from neglectful parenting, every approach to raising children has its own benefits. No parenting style is perfect and it is important to note that every parent is different, with their own unique ways of bringing up their kids. What works in one household won’t necessarily work in another.

Even though it is often described to be the most effective way to parent, the authoritative style does have some disadvantages. Let’s delve a little deeper into the pros and cons of authoritative parenting:

Pros:

  • Children raised by respectful parents learn how to be respectful to others.
  • By being given the freedom to express their thoughts and opinions, children feel safe to share their feelings.
  • Firm yet fair family rules encourage children to respect limits and boundaries.
  • Clear lines of communication allow parents to explain their expectations and gives children the opportunity to ask any questions they may have about house rules and their responsibilities. This also opens up communication further down the line.
  • Children of authoritative parents tend to be allowed to make their own mistakes and to learn from them. Authoritative parents don’t want to control their children, they are instead focused on raising their kids with respect, providing them with help, guidance and support wherever needed.
  • Authoritative parents are available to support their children in all aspects of life. As a result, children tend to be more studious as their parents play an active role in helping them complete homework and prioritizing their workload, for example.
  • A daily routine and structured schedule helps children to feel safe, knowing exactly what is happening in their life and when. Authoritative parents often invite children to participate in discussions and decisions involving the family unit.

Cons:

  • Requires a lot of time and patience from the parents. Children don’t tend to love rules, especially as they get older. Enforcing boundaries and family rules in a firm yet fair way can require a lot of patience and understanding.
  • It is not always easy to find the best strategies that work for your child. Often authoritative parents need to go through quite a bit of trial and error before finding the best solution. This parenting style requires a great deal more work than permissive parenting, where children are often left to do as they please without any consequences.
  • Natural stages of rebellion such as toddler or those teenage years can be challenging for authoritative parents. Often this style of parenting involves striking a balance between freedom and discipline. It can be difficult to keep this same attitude when children reach adolescence and go through phases of anger, apathy, and rebellious behavior.

Being an Authoritative Parent

Finding the right balance between discipline and freedom can be a tricky one to fathom out with your children. But once it is mastered, raising children in an authoritative style can lead to the best outcomes for children not only when they are young, but also throughout their adult life.

If you have realized you fall into one of the other parenting styles, it is not too late to change your ways. It takes effort to parent in this way effectively. Reaching for the cookie jar to distract a grumpy toddler is easy, sitting with them while they scream at you and helping them to learn to deal with their feelings takes a lot more patience and work.

Parents don’t always stick to one parenting style and the one they choose can often depend on many other factors such as how much coffee they have had that day. But as parents, we work hard on being consistent even if we do not always succeed.

Authoritative parenting is widely accepted to be the best parenting style. It helps children to learn consequences and behavior that is accepted by society, here are some tips on how you can work towards this style.

  • Set clear family rules and guidelines. Discuss the rules with your children and explain why they are in place.
  • Ensure consequences are fair and that you follow through with what you say. Make sure your children are aware what discipline will be implemented if they break the rules and don’t back down. Be consistent with your consequences and expect some pushback from your child, this is the reality of being a parent. A realistic and fair consequence may be taking away electronic devices for a specific amount of time. In comparison, using phrases like ‘if you do that one more time, you will never be allowed to play video games again,’ isn’t fair or realistic.
  • Don’t try to control your child or their behavior. Instead, focus on building a strong relationship that is built on honest communication, trust, and mutual respect.
  • Provide plenty of opportunities for your child to be independent. Giving your child the chance to make mistakes and learn from them is essential for their developing problem solving skills and self confidence.

Authoritative Parenting Style

No one knows how to be the perfect parent, and anyone who tells you that their child never has a tantrum, never screams back at them, or never refuses to do as they are asked is simply lying. Every family has their own way of doing things, dealing with conflict, and accepted behavior and what works for one won’t work for another.

The authoritative parenting style is thought by psychologists as the ideal approach to parenting for most families, but remember children don’t fit into those ideal boxes and parenting is the hardest job in the world.

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