What is the definition of authoritative parenting?

​Welcome back to another article on Best Case Parenting. We have been writing a series of articles on parenting styles, and today we are adding another one.

As a parent, it is important to look at the different styles of parenting. This should help you decide the approach you would like to take with your own child. This is especially true if you are a new parent. Even if you are an experienced parent, it might be interesting to find out what your parenting style has evolved in to, and whether you want to make any tweaks!

Today, we will be looking at authoritative parenting and the authoritative parent style. We will look at the definition of authoritative parenting, examples of authoritative parenting and the effects of authoritative parenting.

So far, in the series we have looked at positive parenting, authoritarian and permissive styles of parenting.

As we turn our attention to authoritative parenting, we first want to ask ourselves about the definition of authoritative parenting. What exactly is it and what are some examples of authoritative parenting?

As usual, we will start by turning to our friends over at Wiki, to give us a base on which to build!

They define the authoritative parent style as:

The parent is demanding and responsive…….Authoritative parenting is characterized by a child-centered approach that holds high expectations of maturity. Authoritative parents can understand how their children are feeling and teach them how to regulate their feelings. Even with high expectations of maturity, authoritative parents are usually forgiving of any possible shortcomings.”

This is where we will start seeing some overlap with the different parenting styles. With the authoritative parent, they take some of the demands from the authoritarian style and mix it with some of the responsiveness and understanding of permissive or positive parenting.

Why authoritative parenting style is the best?

That responsiveness is important, because it allows the child to have more autonomy and build up some decision making of their own. There are high expectations and rules in place, but the authoritative parent style isn’t one that seeks total control over their child.

The authoritative parent style also expects an age appropriate level of maturity and behaviour, and there are consequences when a child falls out of this. However, the difference is that these consequences are usually fair and consistent. Whereas, the authoritarian parenting style often makes overly harsh and unfair punishments. Or at the very least, punishments that are not explained to the child.

The authoritative parent style is not all about being critical of their child, it is also about praising positive behaviours. This is important to give the child constant feedback on what they are doing well and other things not so well.

As an authoritative parent, you will take on board your child’s ideas and feelings. You will discuss and explain to them the reasons why you want them to follow certain standards. It is not just about making your child follow rules for no reason, you want them to fully understand the reasons behind them.

What are the pros of authoritative parenting?

This parenting style is one which seems to have a much better level of balance than some of the others. The authoritarian parent is too strict (in my opinion), but the permissive parent is too lenient. With authoritative parenting, there seems to be an attempt to balance these two characteristics much better. I would say that the definition of authoritative parenting aligns very well with that of positive parenting, sharing a lot of similar features.

Authoritative parenting is attempting to put that traditional idea of “firm but fair” into a parenting style. The child is always aware of why they are being punished, because the authoritative parent will explain this to them. This understanding helps give real meaning and value to the punishment, making it more of a learning experience for the child.

What is an example of authoritative parenting?

When thinking about the effects of authoritative parenting, this parenting style seems to have some much better outcomes than some of the others, often producing children that have several positive personality traits. For example, research done in 1989 by Steinberg, Elmen and Mounts, showed that children from an authoritative parenting household were more likely to have a successful school life. They were shown to be academically more successful, as well as developing positive attitudes towards their achievement and work in general.

Most of the research I could find certainly seems to suggest that the authoritative parenting style has more positive effects on a child than negative.

Another pro of authoritative parenting is that it allows you to build up an excellent relationship with your child. The parent is responsive and communicative with their child, nurturing them to success rather than forcing it. An authoritarian parent will set high expectations and expect their child to meet those without much help or support. Whereas the authoritative parent will do everything they can to get their child ready to meet those expectations.

What are the cons of authoritative parenting?

After looking at many examples of authoritative parenting, it seems to have a very strong plus side! Everything must have it’s downsides though, there is no such thing as a perfect parenting style!

The authoritative parent style is going for the authoritarian level of high expectations, with much more support built in from the parent. This means that it may be quite hard for a busy parent to work with effectively. Finding this balance between expectations and child autonomy is not easy and will require a lot of talking through from parent to child. You want the child to deeply understand the consequences of their actions and why they need to respond in certain ways. This takes more time and effort from the parent.

A parent needs to be patient to work through this with their child. Sometimes, it can take time for a young child to grasp the understanding they need to behave appropriately next time. There is often a lot of repetition (where situations occur again and again), especially at the beginning of your child’s journey. Patience will be needed.

Tips for being an authoritative parent?

After reading this article, if you are thinking about trying to replicate this authoritative parenting in your own home, what are some key things you need to consider for this?

Have clear rules

​The household of an authoritative parent needs to have clear and consistent rules. These rules need to be explained to your child, giving a valid reason why they need to be followed. You are helping your child to understand more about the world around them, rather than just giving them orders or rules for no reason!

These rules also need to be realistic for your child’s age, something you would reasonably expect them to be able to consistently achieve.

An authoritative parent has a high expectation of their child, but not an unrealistically high or unreasonable one!

Have clear and fair consequences

Never resort to empty threats, bribery or simply shouting at your child. These are not long term solutions for getting your child to follow what you want them to do. Yes, they may sometimes work in the short term, but over a longer time period will always be found out. For example, if you shout all the time your child will simply get used to this and it will hold no weight. If you give empty threats, your child will quickly learn that you never follow through on threats and won’t worry about them anymore!

Instead, have clear and fair consequences. Make sure to give your child fair warning before they get punished. This will give them a chance to improve. Usually, I would recommend a three step process. Then, your child will know what to expect every time. 

Tell your child what you expect of them (when you see them doing something inappropriate). If they do the same thing again, tell them about it again with a warning. That, if you have to tell them a third time about the same thing, there will be a consequence. 

Communication is key

Talk to your child as much as possible, about how they are feeling and what is going on in their world.

A part of being an authoritative parent is building a bond and level of cooperation with your child. Talking through their concerns and problems is a big part of this. The parental input given at these times should help the child make future decisions in a more informed and hopefully better way.

Understanding will lead to more autonomy and the ability to work things out for themselves.

Give your child space

As your child gets older, you want to see them putting the life skills you have taught them into practice. This is not always easy and takes time.

Of course, every child will have issues from time to time. The natural adult response is often to simply jump in and attempt to sort everything out for your child. The authoritative parent needs to give their children space to work these situations out themselves.

Of course, take time to talk through these situations with your child and give advice. But, it is up to the child to put this into practice.

Listen to your child

The authoritative parent style is all about being responsive to your child. This means not constantly lecturing them about what is right or wrong, but having genuine two way discussions about situations and the best ways to deal with them. Your child needs to feel that you respect their ideas, and that they have some weight in the conversation too.

A good authoritative parent is not just blindly asking a child to follow rules for no reason. They taking into consideration their child’s age and having high (but realistic) expectations of them.

Your child will be a part of the parenting process, not just a bystander given orders!

Make sure your child respects you!

The difference between this style of parenting and that of the permissive parenting, is you don’t just allow the child complete freedom to do as they wish. Your child needs to talk to you properly and show respect to you as the parent.

You are responsive but you are also firm with them if they step out of line. You shouldn’t allow your child to answer back to you, for example. You need to talk with your child, to make sure they fully understand why they need to respect their parents.

We have talked a lot about the need to discuss and explain things to your child. However, when it comes to behaviour, in the heat of the moment there is no discussion.

The household rules are clear, the child should understand and follow them. There are a few differences here from an authoritarian parent though.

You may give your child a couple of reasonable choices in these situations, rather than demanding they do exactly what you want without any choice.

Also, you will give the child a chance to improve. That means, warn them first before you start any discipline.​

You may also sit down with the child when they have calmed down and talk about what happened. If the child has a valid problem, you can arrange flexibilities or changes to household rules.

These are all things an authoritarian parent wouldn’t usually allow.

What are the effects of authoritative parenting?

Build a strong bond with your children

The parent-child bond is very important in this style of parenting. This bond will make it much more likely that your child will want to do as you say and understand the controls you need to put in place.

Also, as an authoritative parent, you will be there as a rock for your child. You will make it so that they will want to come to you if they have a problem.

If you are an authoritarian parent, you will make your child follow your rules and expectations without any empathy or support. Usually, this will mean that your child won’t see you as someone to go to if they have a problem. It’s almost as if the authoritarian parent is disconnected from their child. As an authoritative parent, you are going for the exact opposite.

You will be passing on your wisdom and live ideals to your child through discussion and practical advice. This will make you the perfect “wise owl” for your child to go to when they have problems.

Don’t forget to have fun with your child, make sure to take time out of your day to spend quality time with your child as much as possible. Get involved in what they are doing and work alongside them. Tell your kids regularly that you love them.

Make sure you praise your child when they hit important milestones and do something well.

Be your child’s ultimate role model

When looking at parenting styles, the most important thing is to lead by example. You can’t expect your child to follow what you say if you have the “do as I say and not as I do” approach. 

Children automatically look up to their parents, and actually as a parent you are usually your child’s number one role model. It is important that you are also living by the principles that you are trying to teach your child.

The Conclusion

Thank you for taking the time to read another one of our articles on a parenting style.

Hopefully, this article has given you some insight into authoritative parenting as a style of parenting.

It isn’t easy being a parent. There is a lot of responsibility to “get it right” and help your child have the best upbringing possible.

Finding out about these different parenting styles should help give you ideas about some good strategies when it comes to parenting.

I don’t think there is a cookie cutter way to be the “best parent” as every child is different and unique. I would say that every parent needs to build a parenting style that works for them.

In the end, you can even build your own hybrid style of parenting, taken from your idea of the best bits of each official parenting style covered!

​Authoritative parenting has a lot in common with positive parenting, so I would recommend going and reading my article on that too. You can find it HERE.

If you have any experience with the authoritative parent style or have examples of authoritative parenting, we would love to hear about them in the comments section below.

If you want to find out more about authoritative parenting……..

Here at Best Case Parenting, we can only offer a relatively short and sweet summary of different parenting styles. Our aim is to give an initial overview and starting point for parents wishing to find out more about the different styles of parenting. There is a sea of information out there, and we are just trying to offer something quick and concise!

However, if you have a passion to find out more about authoritative parenting and how it differs from other parenting styles, you may wish to go deeper into this subject.

If you do find yourself wanting to dive deeper into the subject, I would recommend this book below:

As you can see, the book is titled “Authoritative Parenting: Synthesizing Nurturance and Discipline for Optimal Child Development”, quite a mouthful I know.

In my opinion, this book gives an excellent overview of the parenting style, backed up by real research findings. I will give a warning though. It does have a very academic writing style that some might find heavy going. It is more designed for academics wanting to research a parenting style, rather than a user friendly guide for parents! You have been warned!

For me personally, I think it is worthwhile getting past this in order to uncover some finer details about the authoritative parenting style. After reading this book, your understanding of this parenting style and it’s significance will be much greater.

If you want to check out this book in more detail, the best place to do this is on Amazon. Click HERE to take a look.

If you have found any of your own resources (that you think are good) on the authoritative parenting style, we would love to hear all about them in the comments section below.

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