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What Is Authoritative Parenting?

parents congratulating and praising their son

The term authoritative parenting was coined by Diana Baumrind, an expert in developmental psychology, who studied different parenting styles.

In her research, Baumrind D. came to the conclusion that authoritative parenting is all about reasonable demandingness and high responsiveness.

Simply put, this parenting style takes the best elements of all other styles (authoritarian, uninvolved and permissive parenting) and combines them into one style. Basically, it is a balance between warmth and nurture on one side and rules and limits on the other.

Sounds perfect, doesn’t it? Well, authoritative parenting really is the best parenting style because it helps your children grow into healthy, successful, and happy adults.

After all, that is your parenting goal, isn’t it? Well, here is a step-by-step guide towards practicing this parenting style.

12 Ways To Practice Authoritative Parenting

Before using this guide, keep in mind that every child is unique and special. Therefore, there is no universal rule that works like magic for all children.

However, here are some authoritative parenting examples that can help you out. Stick to the basics but adapt these steps to fit your kid the best.

1. Positive parenting: unconditional support and love

happy smiling mother hugging daughter over green natural background

First and foremost, your child has to know that you will always love them, no matter what. This is actually the basis of positive parenting practice and a technique that helps your kid develop a secure attachment.

You might think that this is implied and shouldn’t be doubted because what parent doesn’t feel like this towards their child?

Well, it appears that you might not then have heard about neglectful parenting practices and parents who don’t meet their child’s needs, including their need for secure attachment.

After all, you need to keep in mind that children are little humans that don’t have fully developed emotional intelligence yet. Therefore, they can’t be certain of your feelings for them, especially if you behave in a way that makes them doubt it.

Besides, you need to remember that you’re literally everything your child has. You’re their role model, the person they rely on the most, and someone whose love they count on.

Considering this, please, provide them with your unconditional love and support. Your child’s behavior doesn’t and shouldn’t have any effect on your feelings for them.

No, this doesn’t mean that they’re allowed to do whatever they want. It doesn’t mean that there will be no consequences for their actions, because you love them so much.

The point is: Your child has to be aware that you will always love them the same, at their best and at their worst behavior. You’re there for them, no matter what they do.

You have their back and you’ll never abandon them, even if they do something wrong. Just because you need to discipline them from time to time, doesn’t mean that you love them any less in that specific moment.

You’re their parent and you’ll always remain their biggest fan. Your love is there to give them the safety they need to grow up as emotionally secure adults.

2. Talk to your child

Mom talking to unhappy boy while they are sitting on sofa

One of the things all types of parents need to engage in is, without a doubt, healthy communication. Even though your child is not yet an adult, don’t talk to them in a way that will make them feel inferior.

You see, the number one mistake most parents make that impacts their child’s behavior is a lack of communication. This is especially the case with uninvolved parents and those who engage in neglectful parenting techniques.

I know that you live a busy life and that you’re tired. When you pick up your kid from child care or school, all you want to do is fall into bed and get your exhausting day over with.

However, that’s when your child starts talking to you the most – after all, that’s the only real chance they have to communicate with you properly.

Nevertheless, if you’re honest, you’ll admit that them sharing every single detail of their day sometimes annoys you. This is not something you should feel guilty about because it happens to every parent out there.

The point is that you really should TALK to your kid and I’m not just referring to small talk here.

I’m not referring to you ordering them around, giving them chores, or giving them lectures about their behavior. I’m referring to actual conversations, similar to the ones you’d have with your best friend.

Of course, adapt each conversation to your child’s age. Most importantly: It should have a point.

Instead of guiding your kid towards already made conclusions and making them learn your views, opinions and attitudes by heart, the point of your communication should be to turn your kid into a critical thinker.

Inspire them to come to their own conclusions and learn how to differentiate between right and wrong.

3. Pay attention to what your child is saying

father and son talking at home

Another basic principle of this type of parenting style is allowing your child the opportunity to speak. No, I don’t mean, literally letting them talk. Instead, I am referring to allowing them to speak, uninterrupted.

In authoritarian parenting, the kid is never heard. The children don’t know what they want and need and have absolutely no clue about pretty much anything in their life.

In addition to this, probably the most significant difference between this approach and the authoritative parenting style is the idea that every child has an opinion of their own. In fact, the authoritative style encourages children to speak up.

Basically, the point is that a child should have a say in their own life but, as the responsible adult and parent, you’re still the one who makes the final call.

Nevertheless, listening to what your kid has to say won’t harm you. Give them an opportunity to share their thoughts and observations with you.

Listen to their ideas and solutions before making certain decisions and then actually implement some of the more workable suggestions.This will show your child that what they say matters and is actually taken into consideration.

Trust me: This approach will give your child a sense of appreciation. If what they have to say is important, then they must be important as well.

This is exactly how your kid’s brain works. Therefore, it’s up to you to start building their sense of self-worth and self-esteem from a very young age.

Show them that they can and will get tons of your undivided, positive attention whenever they need it. Otherwise, your child might start using different techniques to draw any kind of attention from you, even if it’s negative.

4. Have fun together

Cheerful man smiling and carrying excited girl on shoulders outdoors

A huge part of every parenting technique is teaching and learning. It’s training your child to be a good person and a well-functioning adult once they step out into the real world.

As a father or mother, it’s your duty to get the job done. Although there are several experts in your kid’s life, you’re still the one who pulls the most weight.

As a responsible parent, it’s your job to be your kid’s pediatrician, teacher, sports coach, psychologist, emotional counselor, personal chef, dentist… The list can go on forever.

However, in all of this, please don’t forget one crucial position. Don’t skip the part where you are your child’s best friend.

Yes, they should hang out with their peers. However, at a young age, a kid always prefers spending time with their parents over anyone else.

So please, don’t just use your time together as an opportunity for your kid to learn new lessons. Yes, raising a child is all about constant progress and pushing the kid forward but don’t forget to have fun together.

Among other things, your child should be relaxed and playful because they’re a child for a reason.

Your time together is and should be their safe zone. It’s the time of day they feel the best, where they can say whatever they think and they can express their feelings without the fear of being judged.

5. Have high expectations…

woman and daughter learning geography on a world globe

It’s actually pretty simple: Your kid will perform as much as you ask them to. The authoritarian parenting style is all about expectations and high demandingness.

However, the child rarely gets the support and the responsiveness they need to achieve all of this. They’re just shoved in front of the set demands they need to fulfill without any further explanation.

In contrast to this is the authoritative parenting style.

Yes, a lot is still asked and expected of children of authoritative parents.

However, you don’t do it because you’re strict. Instead, you put high expectations in front of them simply because you believe in your kids and because you want to improve your children’s behavior.

You know that they can achieve a lot and you’re there to guide them through their successes. You demand a lot from them but you’re the one who shows them how to make it.

It has been scientifically proven that kids act according to what is expected of them. They try hard to meet their parents’ expectations and it’s up to you to determine how low or high you will set the bar for your kids.

Show them that you’re perfectly aware of their abilities and that you want them to be, as well. No excuses – you know how much they can make it and you won’t give up on them until they reach their full potential.

Don’t act like you’re pressuring them to do more than they are capable of. Instead, explain to them that you want a lot from them because you believe in them and their capacity.

6. …but don’t expect them to be perfect

Mother and daughter together paint at home

However, please don’t, in any way, expect your child to be perfect. It’s one thing to have high expectations of them and it’s something completely different to ask them to be flawless.

Yes, they should be critical about themselves but you don’t want them to be too hard. You want them to avoid failure but you don’t want them to see it as the end of the world and something that cannot be repaired.

When your child perceives that you want them to be utterly perfect, they develop a sort of fear where you’re concerned. They think that you’ll love them less every time they show a certain flaw or that they will be disciplined for having imperfections.

Consequently, you two develop a dishonest relationship, one based on anxiety. The child becomes frustrated every time they don’t achieve perfection because they were taught that everything less than that is not good enough.

This way, you’re actually raising your child to become an emotionally insecure adult who has no self-esteem at all. You’re teaching them to hate parts of their personality and to eventually, hate themselves every time they feel they’ve underachieved or didn’t fulfill your expectations.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that you should encourage your kid to make mistakes, but, they should know that every mistake can be repaired one way or another – as long as they try hard enough.

7. Give your kid responsibilities…

child doing chores while mom is being with him

No matter how old your child is, they need to have a set of responsibilities. These responsibilities prepare them for real life and help them develop a sense of self-control.

I know you’d be happiest if your kid could live completely carefree and that is possible, but only until they reach a certain age.

Once they go out there, far away from your protection, they will be completely lost if you haven’t taught them what it means to be responsible.

Of course, these responsibilities should be in accordance with their age and abilities. In other words, start with the little chores.
Naturally, you won’t expect your little child to clean the windows or to turn the washing machine on by themselves.

However, they can, let’s say, put their toys away or help you clear the table after every meal once they’re a little bit older.

This is where you need to introduce the consequences of your children’s behavior. For example, when you restrain them from watching TV, you need to explain to them that this happened because they weren’t responsible and didn’t come through with their duties.

Of course, you will tell them that TV and cartoons will be available once they’re responsible again. This way, your kid’s socialization will improve.

They will become a contributing member of your family and later of society. They will realize that your family is a little community and will learn the rules of behavior in bigger communities, such as child care, school, or a job.

The crucial thing here is to show them the difference between blind obedience and responsibility.

When you’re an authoritarian parent, you’ll expect your child to follow your orders without questioning them. In other words, you’ll just tell them what they need to do, without giving any further information.

On the other hand, when you expect them to be responsible, you’ll explain to your preschooler why it’s necessary to clear the table or why they can’t watch TV at a specific time. For you, it’s more important for them to understand your reasoning and then to do what they’re asked to do.

8. …but give them their rights as well

young parents, their daughter and son are watching TV, eating popcorn and smiling

When you engage in authoritative parenting, your child has their own set of rights that go hand in hand with their responsibilities. This is what democratic parenting is all about.

The crucial thing here is for your kid to understand that their rights end where someone else’s begins.

Therefore, their rights can never endanger or encroach on anyone else’s. I’m not just talking about basic human or child rights here.

I’m talking about your child’s right to, let’s say, watch TV for half an hour every day if they fulfill their responsibilities.

The worst thing you can do here is to ask for your kid to be responsible and then deny them their rights, once they carry out their tasks. This way, your kid will not trust you.

Besides, you’ll teach them that it’s acceptable not to follow through with their promises. You’ll show them that you’re not a person of your word and that you’re ready to lie just to get what you want from them.

Another important thing is to give your kid some level of autonomy. I’m not saying that they should be allowed to make important decisions on their own.

Yes, this is probably the best way to prevent them from making mistakes. Nevertheless, mistakes are also a part of life, whether we like it or not.

Therefore, your child has to be independent and self-reliant to a certain extent, in order to reach some maturity and level of self-regulation. Include your kid in the decision making process and give them the opportunity to choose.

Naturally, it’s crucial to determine the choices your child is capable of making. For example, you won’t give them the choice of having lunch or not eating at all but you can give your preschooler the option of picking between two types of vegetables for their meal.

This way, your child will know what it means to be responsible and how it feels to enjoy their rights. It’s more likely that your child will follow through with your decision once they see they were part of making it.

9. Give your child their personal space and time

Happy kids holding hands and playing in the bedroom

Once you have a child, you see them as a part of you. You gave birth to them, you’re raising them and very often you may see the concept of their privacy as completely unnecessary.

Well, what you need to be aware of is that your kid is a person, before anything else. Just like any other person, they need their personal space and time and that is exactly what you should give them.

The most important question here is: How much privacy should you give your children?

What is the perfect balance between giving your child their personal space and time while protecting them at the same time?

Naturally, you won’t allow your three-year-old to use the phone or the tablet unattended. However, if you’re raising a teenager, don’t snoop around their diary because that is indeed a violation of their privacy.

Every person in this world has some thoughts and activities they want to keep for themselves.

Therefore, it’s certainly not acceptable to march into the bathroom while your child is using it or to demand that they tell you their crush’s name, when they clearly want to keep it a secret.

I know that you want to have as much information as possible, not because you’re nosy, but because you want to keep your kid safe. However, please understand that your kid’s personal space, time, and sense of privacy is essential for their mental health and well being.

Besides, by doing this, you’ll show your kid that you trust them. You consider them mature enough not to intrude on their little world.

10. Set some clear rules

Family Eating Meal In Kitchen and having fun

Authoritative parenting practices are not about having no rules at all or about allowing your child to be rebellious. In fact, the crucial thing here is to set clear rules and boundaries regarding your children’s behavior and academic success that they will be able to respect.

Your child needs to know exactly what you expect from them. They need to be aware of what is acceptable and permitted and what is completely forbidden.

Of course, every rule always comes with an explanation your kid can understand. It’s not that you’re justifying your moves here – you’re just engaging in authoritative parenting.

For example, when your child refuses to eat, you won’t tell them that they must have lunch, simply because you said so. Instead, you’ll explain why it’s crucial for their health and child development to eat regularly.

You can even tell them that they won’t have the energy to play with their friends if they don’t eat their meal.

Either way, the bottom line is that it’s important that they know they have to eat, one way or another. Even though you will talk things through, the rule about having lunch every day is quite clear.

What is crucial here is for your kid to be aware of the consequences of their actions. They will be punished if they don’t eat their veggies – there is no doubt about that.

11. Don’t be an overly permissive parent

parent and little girl kid buying backpack at the store

Setting clear rules and expectations means being consistent about them as well. Otherwise, all of this is completely pointless and your efforts will be in vain.

The trick here is not to be an overly permissive parent. I know you love them and it probably breaks your heart seeing them cry over, let’s say, not being able to use the tablet.

However, you’ll get nowhere if you don’t follow through with their consequences. Yes, it’s probably easier to let them get away with it just this once.

You’ll have your peace, your child will be happier and they’ll learn their lesson for the next time. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if parenting worked this way?

Well, sadly, it doesn’t. First of all, these kinds of permissive parenting techniques will only cause you trouble in the long run.

Once your child sees that they can get away with their bad behavior unpunished, they’ll continue doing the things they’re not allowed to do. After all, why would they listen to you, when they suffer no consequences even if they do things their own way?

Don’t worry: You don’t have to go through with your punishment on their first strike. Instead, you can set a rule of one warning.

After your child is presented with a new rule, they have the right to disobey it one time. You’ll warn them of their mistake and you’ll repeat the consequences they will face if they repeat it.

Trust me: This is more than enough for them to understand the rule. However, if they choose to keep up with their bad behavior, they will lose a privilege (for example, they won’t be allowed to go to the park) or will get a time-out.

The worst thing you can do here is to repeat yourself without actually doing anything. In this case, your child will be trained not to listen to your endless nagging.

RELATED: Indulgent Parenting Style: The Trap Many Parents Fall Into

12. Reward your child for a job well done

little girl holding lego construction

The same way you have to be consistent when it comes to punishing your child, as a good parent, you have to praise and compliment them for a job well done as well.

Not only that, but as an authoritative parent, you should also reward them for coming through with their responsibilities.
What you need to do here is come up with an effective reward system, that depends on your child’s age and preferences.

Just make sure that the reward is always healthy and beneficial – you won’t tell your teenager that you’ll allow them to start smoking if they improve their academic achievement.

For example, if your kid eats all of their vegetables for breakfast, they will be allowed to watch their favorite cartoon after school.
If the teacher says that they improved their math skills, they can go to the park and play with their friends for half an hour more than usual.

This is the only way for your kid to see that they’re on the right track. Your little human is just learning what is right and wrong.

Therefore, they need some reassurement and positive feedback. Every now and then, they need some applause and reinforcement to be motivated to do even better.

It’s good to know that there are four parenting styles:

  • Authoritarian style is all about discipline and obedience. It’s characterized by high demands but low responsiveness. There is no warmth or nurturing.
  • Authoritative style is practiced by parents who have high standards but at the same time, take care of their children’s emotional needs.
  • Permissive style is all about lack of discipline and obedience. There are not many rules and these parents focus on attachment relationships with their children.
  • Uninvolved style (neglectful parenting) is practiced by parents who have no demands and almost no responsiveness towards their children’s emotional needs.

To Wrap Up

Remember: Authoritative parenting is all about a healthy parent child relationship. Besides, don’t forget about its numerous benefits.

It has been proven that children of authoritative parents are happier, more likely to develop good social skills, have fewer issues with low self-esteem, struggle less with behavior problems , and have better mental health.

References:

Baumrind, D. (1966). Effects of Authoritative Parental Control on Child Behavior, Child Development.

READ NEXT: Democratic Parenting: An Underappreciated Solution 

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