What is Authoritative Parenting and the Best Ways to Achieve This

A child has a meltdown refusing to wear new clothes to a relative's wedding. A middle-schooler has an altercation with the basketball coach and wants to quit the team and change schools. Scenarios such as these are challenging for the most experienced parents. Seeking advice presents a barrage of conflicting information.

There is a parenting method that withstands changing times and fads. Four decades of research show a style of parenting that works for both young children and teens. It works well in families that differ in structure, education, income, and ethnicity. Authoritative parenting deserves your attention.

Kim Fox
what is authoritative parenting

Studies show children raised with the use of authoritative parenting are:

  • Psychologically well-adjusted
  • Creative and intellectually curious
  • Intrinsically motivated to achieve
  • Have good social skills
  • Remain connected to family and friends
  • Manage themselves well
  • Take initiative

What is Authoritative Parenting?

Using this style, you:

1. Listen to your kids
2. Provide love and warmth
3. Set limits
4. Use fair discipline

Children raised by authoritative parenting gain self-regulatory skills, self-confidence, and pleasing attitudes. Diane Baumrind, a developmental psychologist, describes this parenting style as 'democratic' and involves a child-centered approach in which parents have high expectations for their offspring.


1. We are role models and exhibit the behaviors expected from our children. Kids are more apt to internalize behaviors they witness in their parents.
2. Parents showing emotional control and understanding teach children to manage their emotions and to understand those of others.
3. Consistent rules and discipline let kids know what to expect.
4. We allow children to act independently, which teaches them that they are capable of accomplishment on their own.
5. It fosters strong self-confidence and self-esteem.

Authoritative parenting is a combination of responsiveness and demanding qualities. Responsiveness refers to the empathy, understanding, love, and warmth you offer a child. You accept a child's unique perspectives, abilities, and needs. Age and temperament are matters of consideration. The responsive parent delights in a child and stays attuned to his or her feelings.

Demand or control refers to limits that are age-appropriate, boundaries, and set expectations. Standards and guidelines clarification occur through explanation and discussion. When the discussion takes place ahead of time, the child exercises the ability to reason rather than obey blindly. Power-assertion and discipline are last resorts, preferably used for safety issues. As children get older, they become more autonomous. Parents celebrate children's small steps toward independence.

Authoritative parenting is a developmental vehicle for protective behaviors and relationships. It is a package of elements promoting healthy development. It contains:

What Are the Characteristics of Authoritative Parenting?

Authoritative parents want kids to use reasoning and work independently but have high expectations. Breaking rules earn punishment administered fairly and consistently. You also have to be flexible. When extenuating circumstances arise, allow kids to explain what occurred and adjust your response accordingly. Offer consistent discipline in a way that takes into consideration all the variables of the child's behavior and the situation.

The style of authoritative parenting has followers that are mostly modern middle-class families. It is a style that is both demanding and responsive. As an authoritative parent, you demand your kids follow the rules, but understand the children's problems with those rules.

Provide clarity on what you expect and communicate those expectations to your kids. Help a child work toward those goals. Ensure the demands are reasonable based on the kid's ability to meet them. Being firm about meeting the goals needs a dose of responsiveness if a child faces problems in the process. Support a child as he or she crosses barriers.

The communication between parents and kids consists of verbal give and take. Explaining the rationale behind house rules helps children understand why certain things have a particular way of accomplishment. The understanding makes kids follow, rather than question, rules. Solicit children's opinions. The solicitation encourages them to talk about the things they don't like. Open discussions avoid secrecy.

Involvement in the growth and progress of a child is a necessary characteristic of authoritative parenting. Help kids with studies and activities. Assess their weaknesses and strengths, their positive and painful points of behavior, and the opportunities made available to them.

Reasonable freedom is a necessity for kids to become independent and make minor decisions on their own. Freedom with no strings attached is detrimental. Allow kids some freedom, but monitor actions in case they get side-tracked. Freedom is age-appropriate and given in stages.

Expressing love for your kids reassures them, especially teenagers most susceptible to vices. Setting limits is also part of a child's reassurance of your love. The feeling of being love binds them. The limits keep them from taking the wrong path. They know if you approve of their actions. Not wanting to hurt or disappoint you keeps them from making poor decisions.

Spending time together as a family is important. The time spent together lets kids know you are not too busy with work to ignore them. They understand the importance of family bonds.

raise a child

Real Life Examples of Authoritative Parenting

Common things authoritative parents do include:

  • Check what teens watch on television
  • Observe internet activities
  • Place restrictions on purchased CD music
  • Know where kids go after school and on weekends
  • Expect children to be truthful
  • Are aware of academic progress
  • Set curfews
  • Make clear pot is not an acceptable means of recreation
  • Eat as a family most nights
  • Turn television off during dinner
  • Assign household chores
  • Ensure an adult is home when kids come home from school

Case A
Imagine a child caught shoplifting. Authoritative parents assign a punishment that fits the transgression such as a two-week grounding, returning the merchandise, and apologizing to the store owner. Yelling, using corporal punishment, and a time out in a bedroom without dinner offers little love or support, and give no guidance or feedback as to why stealing is wrong.

Case B
You make a reasonable demand that a child is top in his or her class, based on consistent success in the classroom and an understanding of the child's capabilities. The child misses class for some reason such as illness that makes meeting the goal difficult. You seek the child's opinion and help achieve the mission or revise the expectation.

Case C
A child wants to gain a spot on an athletic team. You help the child strategize, search for internet information, construct a plan, and provide a balanced diet needed for physical fitness. Have a conversation with the coach to discuss your child's strengths and weaknesses. Support the child to overcome shortcomings.

Case D

A child loses focus on studies and performs poorly in class. After several conversations, the child remains adamant. This is an appropriate time to reprimand for lack of effort and criticism of attitude. When the child realizes the mistake, and tries to mend the situation, make no quick congratulatory comments. Do let the child know you are aware of the effort. Give praise at the right time because words of appreciation mean a lot to kids.

Case E
A teen wants to party beyond a curfew to celebrate success. Allow the indulgence after asking about where the party is, who is attending, and the intended time to be home. If something seems amiss, make follow-ups to prevent the teen from making a mistake.

Case F
A child wants an age-appropriate toy, but you fear friends have an influence that has the potential for misuse. Make it clear the use of the toy is not to exceed limitations you set. Monitor the use of the toy.

Ensure cellphone use at the dinner table is not acceptable and the television is turned off. Meal time is ideal for family bonding and learning about each other's day.

raise a child

Pros and Cons of Authoritative Parenting to Raise a Child

Positive parenting is good not only for a child but the whole family. Benefits include:

Harmony in the home When expectations, responsibilities, and rules are well-known, parents avoid unpleasant situations. Parents are not harsh; children are not rude. Open discussions about contentious issues occur rather than shouting at one another. The child develops into a human being sensitive to others.

A balancing act between discipline and love Parents, not wanting to spoil a child by over-indulgence sometimes realizes the balance is out of whack and sets it right again.

Performance motivation Encouragement and support motivate kids to work hard to attain results. Parents recognize a child's effort and use the child's sincerity as a measure of success rather than the final result.

Result-oriented, assertive kids Kids learn to say 'no' without hurting the feelings of others, because parents modeled the behavior. The child is confident in dealing with and taking control of a situation.

Positive discipline Extreme punishment is not the result of deviation from the path. Ignoring the deviation also is not an occurrence. Positive discipline delivers a message without battering a child emotionally.

There are disadvantages to authoritative parenting done incorrectly. Maintaining a balance in child rearing prevents being too strict or too lenient. Some problems include:

Heavy rule dependence Some families become so dependent on rules that without a rule for a particular situation the child has no idea what to do.

Self-esteem issues Without a balance of demands and responsiveness, heavy emphasis on demands cause low levels of self-esteem.

Rebellion Placing extreme importance and seeking a child's opinion on everything makes a child fail in seeing the importance of listening to you. He or she becomes over-confident and rebels at home, especially as a teenager.

Burdensome Setting a procedure for every situation, consulting children before you do, having several discussions before making a decision is time-consuming.

Unprepared for willfulness Authoritative parenting assumes a child will be as amicable as a parent. Society, school experiences, and friends are external influences that sometimes cause a child to be arrogant, rude, and stubborn. A pleasant home atmosphere is necessary for the wholesome development of children. It is parenting from the inside out. Loving parents and siblings give a child emotional support to trudge through difficult situations.

Many experts consider authoritative parenting to be the best model. There is an evolution from benevolent dictatorship when children are infants to a democracy when they are older. There are fewer behavioral issues and better psychosocial development. Independence is a focus from an early age.

The approach carries over. These children become adults and have children of their own and use the same parenting model. The children achieve more and have few problems than child rearing of other styles. Authoritative parenting changes as scenarios change. It does require a strong will to implement.

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Kim Fox

I am a parent and an educator, so anything having to do with children and parenting/teaching interests me. I have an e-book on Amazon called 5 Tips for Parents to Get Their Child Ready for Kindergarten.

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