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.

what is authoritative parenting

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.

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*This information is for educational purposes only, if you need medical attention, please consult a physician.

What Is Authoritative Parenting? 1

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

Two More Parenting Styles

Permissive

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

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 they 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.

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.

characteristics of authoritative parenting

References

The Influence of Parenting Styles on Children’s Cognitive Development: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/summary?doi=10.1.1.517.5266

Authoritative Parenting Style – Characteristics And Effects: https://www.momjunction.com/articles/what-is-authoritative-parenting_00376548/

Investigating Correlates of Self-Regulation in Early Childhood with a Representative Sample of English-Speaking American Families: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3602616/

Extending Research on the Consequences of Parenting Style for Chinese Americans and European Americans: https://srcd.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1467-8624.00381

Elizabeth is a mom of 2 and has a passion for helping children reach their human potential. She enjoys helping parents raise confident and healthy kids by explaining how to handle situations using positive parenting.

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