There are four main styles of parenting that have been studied in psychology, ranging from permissive to authoritarian. All of the parenting styles have been found to affect kids and their families differently, with one being a clear winner in showing the most benefits for child development. Authoritative parenting allows parents to find a balance between providing love and support for their child while maintaining expectations for their child's behavior through rules. This parenting style allows parents and children to work together to communicate their wants and needs in order to establish mutual trust and respect.
What Is Authoritative Parenting?
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), authoritative parenting is a parenting style where, "Parents are nurturing, responsive, and supportive, yet set firm limits for their children." In this style of parenting, parents explain the reasoning behind rules to children, listen to their child's viewpoints, but don't always have to change their rules because of them. It involves parents being nurturing and highly responsive to their child while also setting clear boundaries and expectations. It has also been referred to as balanced parenting or lighthouse parenting. Authoritative parenting consists of:
- High acceptance of your child
- High rates of behavioral control
- Low rates of psychological control
- High rates of responsiveness and warmth to your child
- Promoting child autonomy
Benefits of Authoritative Parenting
Unlike with permissive or authoritarian parenting styles, authoritative parenting has been found to have many benefits for children and parent-child relationships as a whole. According to research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), authoritative parenting leads to the healthiest outcomes for children. Some benefits of authoritative parenting include:
- Increased rates of maturation
- Higher rates of resilience
- Increased rates of optimism, confidence, and self-esteem
- Higher rates of self-reliance and social competence
- Increased academic achievement and school performance
- Higher rates of emotional regulation, particularly with negative emotions
- Increased rates of positive emotional and mental health outcomes
Examples of Authoritative Parenting
After learning about the benefits, you may be wondering what authoritative parenting looks like in practice and how it differs from other parenting styles, such as authoritarian, which is more rule and obedience focussed. Authoritative parenting may look slightly different from family to family depending on your unique boundaries and expectations, but the roots of warmth, responsiveness, and rules should remain consistent. Some authoritative parenting examples are:
- Authoritative parents allow their child to make their own decisions and mistakes and support them through the learning opportunities, vs. Authoritarian parents make all the decisions for their child because they do not trust the child's judgment.
- Authoritative parents take an active interest in their child's passions and encourage them to pursue them, vs. Authoritarian parents direct their child toward activities that align with their own personal goals for the child.
- Authoritative parents comfort their child when they encounter conflict and turn to parents for support, vs. Authoritarian parents are cold to their child when they fail as a way of punishment.
- Authoritative parents set clear expectations and boundaries for their child and make sure their child understands why they are in place, vs. Authoritarian parents give their child rigid, fear-based rules that limit their ability to grow, or social and academic opportunities.
How to Practice Authoritative Parenting
Authoritative parenting is all about balancing nurture and warmth with setting clear rules in order to help children grow and become more independent. There are many ways to incorporate authoritative parenting into your family's daily life by following the staples of the parenting style.
Encourage and Uplift Your Child
Creating a warm and nurturing environment for kids is a good way of strengthening the parent-child bond and creating a sense of security and support in their lives. Some ways to uplift your child are:
- Encourage them to follow their unique interests and passions.
- Support their choices actively by attending their events, helping them gather supplies, and any other way you can get involved with their activities.
- Affirm your child about their abilities and let them know that you will always be there for them to turn to if they choose to.
- Communicate openly with your child by being honest and vulnerable with them in order to build rapport and strengthen your relationship.
Set Clear Boundaries
One aspect of authoritative parenting is having high rates of behavioral control. This means that parents are encouraged to set clear boundaries, rules, and expectations for their children to follow. These boundaries should be put in place to keep your child safe both physically and morally. Some ways to establish clear boundaries are:
- Explain the reasoning behind your rules to your child.
- Allow your child space to push back against some rules, but know that you don't necessarily have to change them.
- Make sure that the rules you put in place are serving your child in ways that keep them safe, but that don't limit their ability to grow.
- Ensure that any disciplinary action you take is meant to support them, rather than punish them.
Give Your Child Autonomy
Another way of practicing authoritative parenting is to give your child autonomy. This means trusting your child to make their own decisions, pursue their own interests, and follow their own path. It may seem difficult to release some control over your child since you are trying to protect them at all costs, and that's OK. It may take some getting used to, but it will help you and your child build trust and communicate openly. Some ways to give your child autonomy are:
- Allow your child to choose what extracurriculars they want to pursue.
- Listen to your child's thoughts, opinions, and viewpoints without trying to change them.
- Give your child privacy and respect their boundaries.
- Allow your child to make mistakes and learn from them as they go through life.
Being Authoritative Parents
There are many benefits associated with authoritative parenting that have been found to help children become more independent and ultimately strengthen the parent-child relationship in its entirety. You may decide that adopting an authoritative parenting style is right for you and your family and want to start to bring some of its main components into your family's daily life. Remember that every transition is a learning curve and that it may take some time to experience the full benefits. Finding your own balance between nurturing and setting boundaries is key to helping your child and family grow together.