Authoritative parenting is characterized by high expectations, warmth, and respect. This affects the parent-child relationship and child outcomes, such as academic success, social skills, self-regulation, and psychological well-being.
Parenting is a multifaceted journey, and no two parents approach it similarly. In her studies, Diana Baumrind identified several distinct parenting styles, with authoritative parenting being the most effective in raising well-adjusted children. An authoritarian parenting style has consistently been associated with positive developmental outcomes in youth, such as psychosocial competence (e.g., maturation, resilience, optimism, self-reliance, social competence, self-esteem) and academic achievement (e.g., Baumrind 1991; Lamborn et al. 1991; Steinberg et al. 1994). This child-centric approach emphasizes responsiveness, communication, and structure, creating a healthy balance between affection and discipline.
This looks like setting limits around behavior and what is acceptable but doing so with kindness. So this doesn’t involve punishments such as time outs or withdrawing privileges. When parents and children have a good relationship and feel connected, they have more incentive to behave kindly and compassionately towards one another. Of course, things don’t always work, and repairing, apologizing, and taking responsibility for mistakes are also a part of this.
Difference Between Authoritative and Authoritarian Parenting
Authoritative parenting, in a nutshell, provides the appropriate boundaries to teach and provide safety and security for a child while empathizing and validating a child’s emotional experience and perspective. The parent is the leader and sets the limits, but they do so while acknowledging and appreciating a child’s inner life and emotions. Conversely, authoritarian parenting focuses too intensely on exerting parental control and child compliance, while permissive parenting does not set enough boundaries for children. Authoritative parenting is the sweet spot, honoring both the role of the parent and the child.
Authoritative Parenting at Home
They have stricter rules than other parenting styles but are balanced with love, support, and open communication. Authoritative parents demonstrate the following qualities:
- Active listening and open communication with their children
- Clear and structured rules, accompanied by explanations
- Warmth, nurturance, and affection
- Encouragement of problem-solving and decision-making skills
- Consistent and positive discipline with logical consequences
Children raised with authoritative parenting tend to display the following traits:
- Adaptability and strong social skills due to open communication and discussion
- Effective problem-solving abilities
- High self-respect and self-control
- Eagerness to learn, fostering self-confidence and independence
- Respect for rules and guidelines, as they understand the reasons behind them
A prime example of authoritative parenting can be seen in how parents handle their child’s bedtime. Authoritative parents would establish a consistent bedtime routine, explain the importance of getting enough sleep, and offer choices such as which story to read or which pajamas to wear. If the child refuses to follow the routine, the parent will implement logical consequences, such as an earlier bedtime the following night. Through this approach, the child learns the value of structure, communication, and decision-making while feeling nurtured and supported.
This approach aims to create an environment where children can become independent problem solvers. Authoritative parenting refers to a combination of consistent expectations and discipline with warmth and understanding. It balances providing structure and allowing children to develop their sense of self-reliance and independence. For instance, when a parent utilizes authoritative parenting, they may set reasonable expectations for their child and provide discipline when those expectations are unmet. This does not mean that the child is punished severely. Instead, it means they are guided positively, and their behavior is corrected. The child’s feelings and input are also taken into consideration by the parent.
Advantages of Authoritative Parenting
Authoritative parenting is a style of child-rearing that combines warmth, firmness, and a focus on positive reinforcement. Parents who practice this style offer rules and clear expectations around behavior but also provide warmth, understanding, and encouragement for their children. The pros of authoritative parenting include a higher academic performance from the child, greater emotional intelligence, improved self-esteem and self-confidence, and better social skills with peers and adults.
The advantages of this approach include having children who adhere more closely to rules while feeling supported to face challenges independently; they also tend to be better behaved in school. Generally, it’s agreed that it means being flexible with children; listening to them and respecting their point of view; having clear rules and boundaries, but having the willingness to discuss and negotiate with them when appropriate.
There’s a further struggle for parents who might be focused on the short-term results of their parenting choices. Children who are raised with authoritarian parents do tend to seem more well-behaved. And children who are raised by permissive parents may seem to get along with their parents better. In other words, it’s understandable why parents make their choices because authoritarian parenting — the flexibility, the willingness to revisit decisions, the understanding that different kids have different needs at different times — is a lot of work! It means lots of critical thinking. It means being willing to change direction.
Disadvantages of Authoritative Parenting
On the downside, some children may feel overwhelmed with all the expectations or feel that their autonomy is not valued or respected enough due to strict rule enforcement. Research has shown that children raised through authoritative parenting tend to do better in life overall than those raised under authoritarian methods (where rules are enforced without regard for feelings).
On the downside, strict rules enforcement can lead to resentment or rebellion from children if their needs and feelings aren’t acknowledged. They may also become too dependent on their parents if they need to be given more freedom to explore and make mistakes. It can lead to children feeling frustrated, confused, and anxious.
The cons are that it can be challenging to maintain consistency between parents off limits in all areas due to different values or opinions from those adopted by one parent or the other. There may be increased pressure for perfectionism placed on the child’s behavior if the parent has unreasonable expectations for them. Another disadvantage could be either because the parent has received parenting themselves that was either damaging in some way or did not meet their needs and have not yet admitted it or because the cost of doing the emotional work required to adopt this style feels too high.
When this happens, it’s hard for people to admit that there were problems with the parenting they received, either because it hurts too much or because unpicking this relationship will cause ripples that affect other relationships. So if you marry someone cold and distant, and you start addressing the cold, distant relationship with your parents, this might cause instability in your marriage and cause you to start questioning this behavior in your marriage.
Authoritative parenting strikes a delicate balance between love and discipline, creating an environment that fosters communication, independence, and respect.
A high emotional cost means that because of your parenting, you don’t know how to deal with your own emotions. Since it takes a lot of energy, patience, processing, and persistence to parent from a traditional approach, you either won’t know how to do it or will judge yourself too harshly when you make mistakes. You will need to be able to manage your own emotions since children can be particularly triggering. Furthermore, you risk being challenged by your family, who might suggest that your kids are spoiled or that “we did this, and you turned out fine.”
By establishing clear expectations and engaging in open dialogue, authoritative parents empower their children to make informed decisions and develop crucial life skills. This democratic approach to parenting yields well-rounded individuals who are confident, adaptable, and socially skilled. Embracing the principles of authoritative parenting can help pave the way for a brighter and more fulfilling future for both parents and children..
The good news is that if you are willing to put in the work, learn and work through your childhood, all this can be known. And it means you offer your children the best potential for good mental health. Ultimately, authoritative parenting can be a very effective way to raise confident, independent, and resilient children.