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Authoritative Parenting

What is authoritative parenting, and how can you become a more authoritative parent?


Authoritative parenting values reasonable demands and high responsiveness in your children.


Authoritative parents have high expectations for their children.  But they also provide the support their kids need to succeed.


This parenting style equally values love and warmth in addition to limits and fair discipline.


Studies have shown that parents who use an authoritative style tend to have children with strong self-regulation skills, self-confidence, and happier attitudes.


Which is not to say it is the one style that fits all.  Parents should also be flexible based on their personal goals and the unique attitudes of their children.


The history of authoritative parenting


During the 1960s, a developmental psychologist named Diana Baumrind proscribed three distinct but related parenting styles: authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive.


“Authoritative” parenting is also sometimes referred to as “democratic” parenting.  It revolves a child-first approach in which parents set high expectations for their children and hold them accountable.


Defining characteristics of authoritative parenting


According to Baumrind, authoritative parents hold some core principles in common, including:


Encouraging their children to discuss options.


Placing limits, consequences, and expectations on their childrens’ behavior.


Expressing warmth and nurturance.


Encouraging independence.


Allowing their children to express their opinions.


Listening to their children.


Administering fair and consistent discipline.


Parents who practice the authoritative parenting style encourage their children to use reasoning and work independently.  But these parents also have high expectations.


When their kids break the rules, they are disciplined fairly and consistently.


These parents also employ flexibility.  They allow their children to explain things and treat each situation as unique.  They offer consistent discipline in a way that takes into account all variables.


Effects of the authoritative style


Child development experts influenced by Baumrind’s work have generally identified the authoritative parenting style as the most effective approach to parenting.


Research has shown that authoritative parents tend to produce more capable, happy, and successful children.  Obviously, that does not apply to all parents and children raised in the authoritarian style.


According to Baumrind, children of authoritative parents:


Develop healthy social skills


Have happier dispositions on average


Are well-balanced and display emotional control


Are self-confident when it comes to learning new things



Why authoritative parenting is effective


Authoritative parents serve as role models.  They possess and exhibit the same behaviors they expect to see from their children.  As a consequence, their kids are generally more likely to internalize these behaviors and exhibit them in return.


Enforcement of fair rules and consistent discipline also allows their children to know what to expect.


Authoritative parents are warm and loving, but do not over-praise or lionize their children.


These parents tend to display healthy emotional understanding and control.  Their children also learn to manage their emotions and learn to understand others as a result.


Authoritative parents recognize the importance of letting their kids operate independently.  This teaches children that they are capable of accomplishing things on their own.


Authoritative vs. authoritarian parenting


The authoritative parenting style stands in contrast to authoritarian parenting.  Authoritarian parenting is characterized by exceedingly high expectations with little guidance or positive reinforcement.


Authoritarian parents tend to assume their child is in the wrong in any situation.  Their approach is parent-centric.  The child adapts to the needs of the parent, or else.


There is little warmth or re-assurance in the authoritarian parenting style.  It tends to produce less well-balanced children.


For more tips on how to become a more effective authoritative parents, also check out these 10 helpful tips.


10 ways to become a more authoritative parent


1. Listen to your child


Good authoritative parents welcome their children’s opinions, no matter how off-the-wall.  They listen to their concerns and allow them to share their thoughts.

2. Validate your child’s emotions


Authoritative moms and dads help kids label and also understand their emotions.  They teach them to recognize how their feelings affect their behavior.


So the next time your child is upset, try to avoid minimizing their feelings by saying “it’s no big deal.”  To him, it is a big deal.


Validate his emotions by saying something like “I know you are really upset right now.”

3. Consider your child’s feelings


Demonstrate to your child that you are in charge.  But make it known that you care about how decisions affect everyone in the family.


Make your child feel included in the conversation instead of just being impacted by the results.

4. Establish rules


Authoritative parents use well-defined house rules.


For instance, they would not say “Go to sleep because I said so.”  They would say, “Go to sleep so you can feel rested and help your body grow tomorrow.”

5. Use consequences that teach lessons


Avoid shaming and never use corporal punishment when your child screws up.


Consequences should be logical in nature.  So a child who refuses to shut off the TV may lose his TV privileges for 24 hours.

6. Offer reasonable incentives


Use rewards to motivate children as long as they are reasonable.


Consider how you can use rewards to teach your child new skills. A simple reward plan is a fast and efficient way to change your child’s behavior.

7. Let your child make small decisions


Authoritative moms and dads give options for minor choices.  This empowers kids in the short-term and prepares them for bigger decisions in the long-term.


Leave things like what sides to have for dinner or what book to read before bedtime up to your child.

8. Encourage self-discipline


The goal is to have your children realize like they are in control of their own behavior.


Also, don’t rush to calm your child every time he’s upset.  Teach him how to calm himself down when he needs to.  Allow him to recognize the feeling of a loss of control and reel his emotions back in check.

9. Establish and maintain a healthy relationship with your child


No parent wants to be constantly telling their child “no” or nagging insistently.  We want to be role models.


Authoritative parenting is about loving and nurturing.  Set time aside to give your child attention, and really listen.


Spend quality time with your child and also make sure they know they are loved and accepted.  Help the, feel confident about who they are and what they can become.