What Is Authoritative Parenting?—A Guide To The Parenting Style Designed To Raise Confident Kids

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A parenting style wasn’t on your registry during your pregnancy but it’s an important choice to make to guide your path as a parent. The authoritative parenting style is an increasingly popular method for parents to adopt in their homes. Could it be the right choice for you?

Caring about how you parent your child is the mark of a good parent. You are putting in the effort to provide your child with a well-adjusted childhood and teach them skills they can benefit from later in life. The fact that you are interested in researching and choosing a parenting style, means you are a good parent. You just need the right resources to help you along the way. 

What Is The Authoritative Parenting Style?

Authoritative parenting is sometimes referred to as gentle parenting, and you might recognize the phrase if you are active in online parenting groups or follow other parents on social media. This style of parenting is one of the four most common parenting styles, the first three of which were presented by developmental child psychologist Diana Baumrind in the 1960s. The last style was added later by researchers.

Listed below are the four parenting styles and a brief explanation of what each type of parenting looks like.

  1. Authoritative, nurturing but firm
  2. Authoritarian, strict disciplinarians with high expectations
  3. Permissive, lenient with minimal rules
  4. Uninvolved or Neglectful, children are ignored and often must raise themselves

Parents who choose the authoritative style will set firm, healthy boundaries with their children while giving them the freedom to make their own choices. Should they make mistakes, these parents lean into the learning aspect of the experience instead of reaching straight for discipline. 

Children who are raised by an authoritative parent tend to find better mental health, happiness, and success in their adult life. They are often more responsible, maintain high self-confidence, have the skills to regulate their emotions, and are assertive. They usually have close relationships with their parents as they have been treated with respect and proper nurturing since childhood. There is a strong bond that forms when this type of parenting is used in the home.

Authoritative parenting can sometimes be confused with permissive parenting. There is a major difference between the two: boundaries. Authoritative parents set healthy boundaries and rules for their children, such as teaching healthy eating habits. Permissive parents, on the other hand, often don’t set limits and tend to give their children whatever they want, no matter the consequences.

father playing with toddler daughter in bedroom
Courtesy of Tatiana Syrikova (via Pexels)

Authoritative vs. Authoritarian Parenting

Authoritative and authoritarian parenting styles are two of the most commonly utilized parenting styles and it’s easy to confuse the two as the words appear quite similar. The approach and results of each are vastly different.

Authoritarian parents are strict with enforcing rules for their children and are quick to discipline them as they deem fit. These parents take on all the decisions for the family and leave very little room for children to be independent. Authoritarian parents are not usually nurturing. Children of authoritarian parents struggle with social skills, are indecisive, have low self-esteem, and have difficulty expressing their emotions. 

Authoritarian parents don’t view parenting as a collaborative effort with their children. They generally believe it is “their way or the highway” and are less likely to admit their mistakes or adapt to their children’s needs. Authoritative parents model proper behavior with their children by showing them that they make mistakes, have a growth mindset, and are open to adapting to their child’s needs. 

How Do I Practice Authoritative Parenting?

Adopting authoritative parenting practices can be challenging for some parents, especially those who did not grow up with an adult who used this style. Authoritative parents often need to parent themselves as they parent their children. This can look like learning to regulate emotions, practicing patience, and unlearning aspects of other parenting styles.

Below are a few common ways you can practice authoritative parenting.

  1. Validate your child’s emotions no matter what they are feeling. Help them label their emotions and tell them it is okay to feel the way they feel. Avoid dismissing their feelings.
  2. Be considerate of your child’s feelings. Recognize how any actions within the family could affect your child. Taking their feelings into consideration is a great form of respect that makes your child feel safe.
  3. Listen to your child. Children want to feel seen by their parents. Show that you are interested in them by offering your attention when they want to share a story or a joke.
  4. Allow children to make choices. Learning independence means making choices and as a parent, you can give your child the opportunity to learn that at a young age, such as by letting them pick their clothes. Making their own choices also teaches valuable problem-solving skills.
  5. Be a good role model. Authoritative parents model behaviors they want their children to adopt. Children are like sponges so they are more likely to learn proper behaviors when they are shown them.
  6. Set clear rules for the household. Rules are established that offer reasonable consequences. The reason behind the rules helps children establish healthy habits, practice safety, and learn proper moral and social skills. 

How Does An Authoritative Parent Discipline?

Using the authoritative approach does not eliminate the need for discipline. It is viewed differently compared with other styles, with a primary focus on teaching life lessons and reasonable consequences.

Below are a few examples of discipline in authoritative parenting.

  1. Use if, then statements. Instead of telling a child to stop an action that could cause them harm, parents use if, then statements to outline the consequences. For example, If you don’t get dressed, then you can’t go to the park.
  2. Use consequences to teach life lessons. Authoritative parents don’t shame or use corporal punishment. Consequences are used to teach a lesson that allows the child to develop self-discipline skills.
  3. Use mistakes as learning opportunities. Everyone makes mistakes and parents can use mistakes as an opportunity for children to learn. Then they have the skills to understand how to handle mistakes throughout life.

Parenting is certainly not easy and it can feel like a challenge. When you adopt a parenting style like authoritative parenting, recognize that it may come with a learning curve. Be gentle with yourself as you navigate this and trust that as long as you try your best, you are a good parent.

This article was written exclusively for Love What Matters by Kate Fann. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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