The Definitive Guide to Authoritative Parenting and How to Do It Right
The primary purpose I have here is to help parents, especially young and new parents, understand how to interact with and relate to their children in a way that positively impacts their development. There are many trends, terms, and different parenting styles including gentle parenting, respectful parenting, positive parenting, etc.. But there are so many misconceptions when it comes to each of these, while autoritatve parenting remains at the root of all of these desires.
Are parents always gentle, respectful, or positive?
However, I believe that all of these deals fit under the framework of being authoritative. They all acknowledge that there is a family structure with parents and children, there is a natural progression of learning and brain development from birth to around ages 21-26, and that working together results in better outcomes for everyone.
I believe though that as humans no one is perfect, but that we do learn from our mistakes. This goes for both parents and children… not just one or the other and that we can learn to better extend grace to one another through an authoritative parenting model.
Why authoritative parenting is considered most effective
There is a lot of debate about what constitutes effective parenting. In fact, it’s important to understand that the smaller details of raising children day-to-day are not and cannot be the same for every family.
It’s the over-arching idea how how a parent deals with the smaller stuff that is what constitutes a “type” of parenting.
An authoritative type of parenting is not authoritarian. There is no dictatorship, but there is a person in charge.
As adults we can think of this in terms of the type of boss that is empathetic and nurturing vs. one that is harsh and punishment driven.
Authoritative parenting creates a balance in which parents respect their children as little humans with emotions, needs, and desires, but also set limits. This type of parenting has been shown to be the most effective way to raise children because it helps them develop self-discipline, confidence, and higher levels of achievement later in life.
They have the stability to fall back on while also the ability to spread their wings a little.
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Understanding how empathy with boundaries influences child development
The authoritative parenting style is the most effective one because it gives the child the freedom to explore and learn new skills, while still having their parents to provide support. It values the person over just having instant behavior modification.
Research in the field of psychology indicates that during childhood development, parents that are involved and empathetic will positive contribute to self esteem or self worth, thus improving mental health in the authoritative style.
The stronger the attachment, the more independence a child develops over time. More about attachment theory here.
Authoritative vs Permissive parenting
The permissive parenting style, in which parents are nonchalant, lenient, and give children lots of independence, does not have a positive effect on child development. It can often lead to behavioral problems because children don’t learn the boundaries that will keep them safe and rarely gives them the structure to understand societal expectations.
One study found that children raised in permissive households were more likely to engage in delinquent behavior than their peers raised in authoritative households. Permissive parents also had less interaction with their children whereas supportive and affectionate parents that help guide in the authoritative model are less likely to express deviant behavior. [source]
And just a quick side note: a permissive and neglectful parent are different as permissive parents are still involved even if they do not provide good boundaries or high expectations.
Authoritative vs authoritarian
There are some key differences between authoritarian parenting and authoritative parenting. Authoritarian parents are strict, demanding, and rigid with their children. They also resort to an expectation of blind obedience without question which typically leads to anxiety and depression. Authoritative parents allow for a child to flourish in the way they want him or her to grow up, while still having someone there for guidance.
In our household, we still teach our children about obedience, but it’s from the perspective that if we share with them what we want or need for them to do, we do so from the perspective of keeping them safe or helping them understand proper boundaries.
This is often why research indicates why authoritative parenting is best — there are boundaries but when those lines are crossed, children are guided in learning from what happened whereas the authoritarian model emphasizes “I am boss and you will do what say with no questions asked.”
What does authoritative parenting mean and how does it work?
The underlying outcome of this style of raising children is associated with the following:
- Helping children find security in their parents.
- Thoughtful response to a child’s needs with positive reinforcement that guides the child’s behavior in a given situation/
- Developing self-confident, self-regulated, and high-self esteemed kiddos because of clear expectations instead of vague rules that aren’t explained.
- Guiding children in making wise and thoughtful decisions as well as learning natural consequences.
- Teaching morals or values and explaining the “why” instead of just telling a child “no” or offering “because I said so” when asked why.
- Creating a broader sense of community so that a child knows where they fit in the family and “village” structure.
If we understand those 6 main aspects, then it shifts how we interact with out children from mere reactions to gentle and/or thoughtful responses that have warmth to open up conversation instead of shut it down like an authoritarian figure.
When we recognize that our children are small humans with big emotions and that they live this life in an adult-sized world, our perspectives change. It’s what I like to call the “law of parenting proportions”. In relating to our kids proportionally, we can meet them where they are and help our children navigate those big emotions, long days, and those tantrums and outbursts because it comes from a place of love and understanding instead of shutting down their feelings.
Need help with handling your child’s big emotions?
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Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 5 children living on a farm in New England. She believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience and has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development. She is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!