Parenting Tips
What Is Authoritative Parenting?

What Is Authoritative Parenting?

Inside this post: A look at what Authoritative parenting really looks like and the benefits and pitfalls of using this parenting strategy.

Raising kids is not an easy task, and choosing a parenting style can be daunting.

Most people don’t CHOOSE their parenting style; they just go for it and try to be a good parent right out of the gate.

That’s what I did. I initially followed the advice of a relative who told me this is how you raise kids, and there is no other way.

Hanging onto every word she spoke, I made many many parenting decisions that were not my style, not the way I wanted to parent, and that made me smarten up, do some research and make my own parenting decisions.

During my research, I stumbled upon the term Authoritative Parenting. While reading what it was and how it worked, I instantly knew, this was the kind of parenting I wanted to do.

Hopefully, I can put my research into an easy-to-understand article for you, and help you find your way in your parenting journey.

This post may contain affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

What Is Authoritative Parenting?

At first, I thought authoritative parenting was referring to harsh discipline and lots of yelling. Honestly, it kind of sounds like that…authoritative makes me think of authority.

I was pleased to discover that this is not the case. It’s the opposite of what I thought.

It is, in a nutshell, positive parenting. It is parenting your children with love, kindness, warmth, sensitivity, strength, and support.

Authoritarian parenting is characterized by strong attentiveness and high demands. Authoritarian parents are sensitive to their children’s emotional needs while maintaining high standards. They establish boundaries and are extremely persistent in maintaining them.

After decades of research, child development specialists have determined that authoritative parenting is the best of the four Baumrind parenting styles.

Parents who use these methods are often very supportive of their children, have high expectations of their children, and are there to provide lots of resources so their children can find their way in life, with a little help (but not too much!).

This parenting style is all about using fair discipline and positive reinforcement, which is fantastic because that’s what I am all about too!

Research and science say that children who grow up with authoritative parents turn out to be independent, self-reliant, and socially accepted.

Parents who fall under this style of parenting are often seen as ones who set limits and provide consequences but also use warmth and communication tactics when it comes to discipline.

Parents who use this parenting style provide their children with respect, and encourage independence, but avoid the use of bribing as a regular tactic for discipline.

According to research, toddlers reared by authoritarian parents:

  • Tend to be happy and content.
  • Are independent and self-reliant.
  • Develop good social skills.
  • Have good emotional regulation and self-control.
  • Express warmth and cooperate with peers.
  • Explore a new environment without fear.
  • Are competent and assertive.

Authoritarian parents are more likely to have children who:

  • Achieve higher academic success.
  • Engage more in school activities.
  • Develop good self-esteem.
  • Have better mental health — less depression, anxiety, suicide attempts, delinquency, alcohol, and drug use.
  • Interact with peers using competent social skills.
  • Exhibit less violent tendencies.
  • Are well-adjusted.

Parents will talk to their children about issues and guide how to solve them. Typically, a teaching moment will arise from a difficult situation, rather than a need for punishment and hard discipline.

Sounds a whole lot like positive parenting to me!

Difference Between Authoritative Vs. Authoritarian Styles

Authoritarian parenting is a lot different than authoritative, don’t get them confused!

These are the two most common parenting styles, and I hate that they sound so similar!

The only thing these parenting styles have in common is the ability to set high standards and expect children to follow them. Everything else is quite different.

Authoritative parents are warm and nurturing, while authoritarian is cold and unresponsive.

Authoritative parents encourage independence and exploration, while authoritarian parents discourage independence-seeking activities.

Authoritative parents use love and connection to discipline children, while authoritarian parents rely on fear-based parenting strategies.

Characteristics and Benefits of Authoritative Parenting

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” –Ralph G. Nichols

It seems to me like Ralph Nichols is dead on point! Children often imitate their parents, therefore having happy and loving parents make happy and loving children. 

Children who feel understood have fantastic connections with their parents and, in turn, develop listening skills that not enough people in this world possess.

Characteristic: Realistic Requests

Authoritative parents often request their children to perform practical tasks. They often set expectations and expect children to meet them with a little love and guidance, of course.

Because the requests they make are reasonable, these types of parents are strict about their child meeting these expectations.

If there are any issues in performing specific tasks, authoritative parents will be there for support and guidance to get over barriers.

Characteristic: Communication

A characteristic of authoritative parenting is open communication.
When parents are setting up expectations, they explain the why behind the expectation.

When expectations have an explanation, children tend to follow them and not argue about them because they are aware of their importance.

Another part of open communication is the expectation of children to talk to the parents if something is not right, which helps avoid secrecy in the home.

characteristic: Involvement And Growth

Parents often assist their children with studies and other activities. Parents are often able to identify the child’s strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for growth and improvement.

This also helps parents know their child’s limitations and can advise the child to go easy if needed.

characteristic: Criticism

This sounds mean and not positive at all, but it is actually a good thing.
When parents point out a lack of interest in an activity or see their child becoming “lazy” and unmotivated, they can alert the child that they are, in fact, aware of the situation.

This helps the child be more motivated to complete tasks because they know mom and dad are watching closely.

Characteristic: Praise

If the child has done a good deed, parents are not shy about giving praise. Praise, when it is well deserved, is a great way to instill self-esteem and confidence!

Related: How To Instill Confidence In Children

Characteristic: Freedom of choice with limits

Parents encourage independence and allow children to make choices. The catch is, they also limit the amount of choice the child can make, in order to keep them safe.

I mean, freedom with no strings attached is kind of risky when it comes to children, don’t you agree?

Characteristic: Quality Time

It is essential for parents to spend quality time with their children daily. This kind of quality time fosters deep connections, and these deep concoctions make the whole parenting thing a whole lot easier. 

Benefit: Secure Attachment

Children are often very secure in their connection with their parents because parents nurture and listen with kindness and respect, making the child feel safe and comfortable.

There was a study completed in 2012 on how different parenting styles result in healthier relationships overall. It also confirmed that children with these types of parents have higher self-esteem, higher self-confidence, and are generally more friendly.

Benefit: Better Self-Regulation Skills

We all deal with big emotions like anger, sadness, and frustration at different points in our lives, but we learn to deal with these emotions and learn to control our behavior through self-regulation.

Self-regulation is a learned skill, and it is something that authoritative parents focus heavily on. Children with parents who focus on self-regulation during the early stages of life tend to have stronger emotional regulatory skills.

Related: How To Teach Kids Self-Regulation Skills

Benefit: Higher Academic Performance

Parents often pay attention to the child’s studies and are very involved in their school work.

Parents help children achieve their highest potential by providing resources and helping during difficult times, leading to better academic performance by the child.

Benefit: Boundaries Leading To Better Behavior

While these types of parents do not use harsh punishment like other parents, they do set boundaries for the kids and provide appropriate consequences for not following the family rules.

Because of this, children cooperate and behave better than those with strict, punishing parents.

Doesn’t this remind you of that one episode in the “Big Bang Theory” where Sheldon gives penny candies every time she does something right, and this increases her desire to continue to do good things?

I feel like that episode explains how boundaries lead to better behavior quite accurately!

Benefit: Open Mindedness

Parents often provide explanations to help children understand the how and why behind specific rules.

This helps children build positive communication skills and social skills.

This can also lead children to grow up to be open-minded with others too.

Authoritative Parenting Examples

Authoritative parents:

  • Are kind, attentive, and nurturing.
  • Pay attention to the children.
  • Allow for autonomy while encouraging independence.
  • Instead of demanding mindless obedience from children, reason with them.
  • Set firm boundaries for your behaviors.
  • Set and enforce boundaries on a regular basis.
  • Instead of punitive, coercive tactics, use good discipline.
  • Children’s respect should be earned rather than demanded.

Example 1: After School Activity

In this example, a child has a desire to get involved with an after-school activity.

An authoritative parent talks to the child about which type of activity they would like to do, and together they would decide if this is a good option for that child.

They would even ask if that child needs any help to get started and ensure that the child has all the things they need to get started.

They would also follow up frequently on progress after they start their activity.

Authoritarian Parenting Style Example: High responsiveness entails being friendly, welcoming, and supporting.

Hugging, applauding, and smiling are all examples of parenting behaviours.

Example 2: Child Doesn’t Follow Rules At School

In this example, the parent has been called to the school in the middle of the school day due to the child misbehaving in class.

An authoritative parent would not punish the child immediately, but approach the situation calmly and gently talk to the child.

If the parent appears aggressive, the child will not be willing to talk about the incident, which is why this approach works so well. 

Once the child is comfortable enough to talk about the situation, the parent can then explain the natural consequence of what has happened.

If needed, the parent can set up boundaries to prevent the incident in the future, but further consequences would not be set since there were natural consequences already in play.

Example of Authoritarian Parenting Style: High demandingness implies high standards and boundaries.

Different parenting techniques include requiring a kid to perform chores, obtain high grades, and demonstrate etiquette.

Additional Parenting Styles

Authoritarian

Authoritarian parenting is characterized by excessive demands and minimal response.

Authoritarian parenting, like authoritative parenting, has high expectations.
In contrast to authoritarian parenting, authoritative parents do not expect their children to comply completely or blindly.
Although both authoritative and authoritarian parents impose high demands on their children, their methods of control differ.

Both types of parents want their children to follow parental standards and act correctly.

Authoritarian parents, on the other hand, want their children to blindly obey without inquiry.

In contrast, authoritative parents utilize argument and allow for debate.

Permissive

Permissive parents are parents who mean well but do not follow through on their well-meaning behaviour.

Often these parents set rules, but do not enforce them if they are not being followed, they set consequences but do not follow through on them. Permissive parents are lenient.

Often these types of parents use statements like “kids will be kids” and often act more like a friend rather than a parent.

Children of permissive parents do often struggle with academics and have reported having bouts of sadness and low self-esteem. 

Uninvolved

Uninvolved parents often do no ask their children about their school work, touch base with them after a hard day or a lost sporting event, and do not spend a lot of quality time with their children.

These types of parents have very few rules in the home, and the children receive very little guidance.

These types of parents expect children to raise themselves, teach themselves hard lessons, and stumble through life on their own.

Usually, this type of parenting leads to self-confidence issues, and they tend to perform poorly in school.

Is Authoritative Parenting For Every Child?

It has been discovered that the authoritative parenting style benefits children of various temperaments.

In reality, children with challenging temperaments gain more from forceful child-raising than children with easy temperaments.

But aren’t all children unique, necessitating a variety of parenting styles?

Children are unique.

Different children require different parenting styles based on their “Goodness of Fit.”

The kid will thrive when there is a good fit between the child’s temperament and the parents’ personalities, attitudes, and parenting techniques.

However, when there is a lack of fit, the kid suffers.

There is a distinction to be made between parenting style and parenting practice.

The emotional atmosphere in which parents raise their children is referred to as parenting style.

A parenting practice is a specific activity that parents do to raise their children.

The authoritative parenting style is the most effective.

Parents should use the same authoritative parenting style as their kid, but with varied parenting techniques based on their child’s temperament.

According to Baumrind’s topology of parenting styles, authoritative parenting is not a stable collection of parenting behaviours.

A parent, for example, can adopt caring but somewhat less demanding behaviours within the “high responsiveness, high demandingness” range.

When parenting another kid with a different temperament, a parent can employ demanding but slightly less loving techniques.

parenting styles chart

12 Ways to Become a More Authoritative Parent

  • Listen to Your Child
  • Validate Your Child’s Emotions
  • Consider Your Child’s Feelings
  • Establish Clear Rules
  • Offer One Warning for Minor Issues
  • Use Consequences That Teach Life Lessons
  • Offer Incentives
  • Let Your Child Make Little Choices
  • Balance Freedom With Responsibility
  • Turn Mistakes Into Learning Opportunities
  • Encourage Self-Discipline
  • Maintain a Healthy Relationship With Your Child

Why Is Authoritative Parenting Style The Best Parenting Style?

Since all children are different, shouldn’t they be parented with varying styles of parenting?

Well, that would make sense, but the thing is, while temperament may be different, all children are human, and humans all need the same things in life—connection, understanding, warmth, and love.

Another thing to note is that the authoritative parenting style can be executed with many different methods.

One method may work for one child, but another way can work for another. Just because the style is the same, does not mean that the method used to implement that style has to be identical.

To understand why the authoritative method is the most effective parenting style, we must examine each component of it.

Authoritarian parents are aware of, nurture, sensitive to, and supportive of their children’s emotional and developmental needs. According to research, children who have attentive parents are more likely to build a stable bond. Children that have a secure connection are less likely to have internalizing issues. Infants raised by responsive moms have greater problem-solving abilities, cognitive competence, and emotional control.

Emotional control is the cornerstone for a child’s success. Parental responsiveness and autonomy support appear to give youngsters the opportunity to develop excellent self-regulation abilities. These youngsters

Authoritarian parents are helpful. They are more likely to be active in a child’s education through volunteering or supervising homework. Adolescent academic success has been demonstrated to benefit from parental engagement.

Authoritarian parents are also open-minded and collaborative. They encourage uniqueness via open conversation, explanations, and reasoning. These parents are demonstrating prosocial conduct that their children can emulate. These youngsters develop strong social abilities as they mature.

High Expectations: The high expectations placed on children by authoritarian parents keep their conduct in control.

Discipline: Baumrind discovered that authoritative parents were exceptionally consistent in enforcing restrictions in her study. One of the most crucial aspects of good home discipline is consistency. Children who get regular discipline from their parents have fewer internalizing and externalizing issues.

Although authoritative parents have high expectations, they do not employ punitive punishment to discipline their children. It has been shown that non-punitive punishment promotes children’s honesty and prevents violent conduct. Inductive discipline is used by authoritative parents to educate on correct conduct. When it comes to discipline, they are tough but gentle. They are rigorous, yet they are not cruel.

Authoritarian parenting strikes a compromise between excessive psychological control (authoritarian) and insufficient behavioural control (permissive).

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