What is Authoritative Parenting – and Does it Benefit Your Child?

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What is authoritative parenting

Are you a planner, a rule-maker, a ‘yes’ parent or a ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ kind of parent? Truthfully, given the day, we could probably be several rolled into one! With authoritative parenting reputed to have more benefits than other styles, we decided to take a look at this parenting style. What exactly is it? And what does it mean for our children?

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We all know how we parent our children has quite a big effect on the type of person they will become as they grow older. It’s an unnerving sense of responsibility as our decisions become embedded in their young heads.

At times, parenting can be so difficult and exhausting that we pay little attention to the idea of having a particular style of parenting. Yet, as we raise our children many of us unknowingly fall into one of just a few styles. We’ve heard about the pitfalls of being a helicopter parent and the demands of attachment parenting and it seems as though, every so often, we are told there is another way to raise our kids.

However, according to research in the 1960s by developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind, we began with three types of parenting. She distinguished between the values we raise our children upon and categorised these styles as:

  • authoritative parenting
  • authoritarian parenting
  • permissive parenting

These were later added to in the 1980s by researchers Macoby and Martin who refined Baumrind’s theories. And, again, throughout the last 20 years we’ve added a few more. So we now have a handful of styles, but many of them go back to Baumrind’s fundamental principles with modern adjustments.

Putting a label on the way we parent may seem counterproductive as labels can negatively shape our perception of society. But when we look deeper into these styles, one jumps out as being the most sought-after ideal considering many of us aim to work towards parenting our children with respect.

Democratic, or as Baumrind originally referred to it as, authoritative parenting, has more benefits to our children than any other so-called style. But what exactly is it? And how can you be a authoritative parent?

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What is Authoritative Parenting?

What is authoritative parenting

When we parent our children we use various methods to encourage certain values and behaviours in order for them to positively grow up along the core values of our household and society. Democratic or authoritative parenting does this by balancing the rules of being demanding of our children, and yet responsive to their needs.

Now this may sound quite tricky, considering setting boundaries can be a difficulty in itself, but democratic parenting has been found to promote a greater level of respect, responsibility, and cooperation values in our children.

With this style of parenting there is an emphasis on demonstrating love and tolerance, along with the idea of teaching by example.

Democratic parenting enforces somewhat strict rules, but allows for open discussion to include our children in the decision-making garnering a level of respect, independence and conscious thought, which is certainly something worth encouraging in our children.

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What Does Authoritative Parenting Look Like?

Let’s break it down to a few key characteristics:

  • Parents have high expectations for achievement and maturity. They are also encouraging and supportive in achieving those aims.
  • Parents set rules and boundaries while including children in decision-making by providing guidance and understanding.
  • Parents have an expectation when it comes to behaviour and will use reason when confronting their children’s conduct.
  • Discipline is targeted in an effort to regulate behaviour. Parents and children negotiate, discuss, and reason in order to come to an understanding and learn.
  • Parents strongly teach their children about morals, goals and values which align with those of the family unit and community by being a positive role model.
  • Parents encourage autonomy and independence.
  • Throughout all of the efforts of the parent with expectations, rules and confrontation, authoritative parents are always supportive, loving, and affectionate.

What Does a Child of an Authoritative Parent Look Like?

When we talk about this type of parenting style, we can easily assume that the child lives under a roof with strict rules and a maturity level over and above their years. In truth, being a child of a democratic parent has been proven that they are very well-adjusted.

Due to the connection between parent and child almost as equals, the child grows up with a unique set of qualities and values from an early age due to being securely attached. They have grown up being listened to, understood, appreciated, and valued. Because of this, they:

  • Are more independent, happy, and content.
  • Have better mental health with less stress, depression, and anxiety.
  • Have good self-esteem with good social skills.
  • Are more active and are also academically successful.
  • Are less violent and less likely to use drugs or excessive alcohol.

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What Are the Difficulties with Authoritative Parenting?

What is authoritative parenting

As with any parenting style, there are drawbacks. The biggest drawback for democratic or authoritative parenting is the level of consistency and persistence required to keep the momentum going. Too often, we can easily turn into pendulum parents as we swing from one style of parenting to another depending on the situation. In contrast, authoritative parenting requires commitment.

It also calls for your core values to be consistent and for you to be a good role model for your child to follow. With this parenting style, our children are learning from our actions. When we falter, they learn that they can falter also or worse they become manipulative or undisciplined.

Democratic parenting needs to be a united front and both parents should ideally follow the same guidelines for this style to work and avoid confusion. It is most certainly not an easy style to follow, but it certainly has its benefits in developing a positive and nurturing environment.

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How Can I Be an Authoritative Parent?

While authoritative parenting is centred on rules and understandings, it’s also embedded in love and respect. Remember, a child of a democratic or authoritative parent is a highly nurtured one.

Key aspects of being an authoritative parent:

  • Demonstrate love and tolerance towards your child.
  • Independence is a fundamental cornerstone of authoritative parenting, but too much independence and choice can overwhelm a child so keep it in line with their age and development.
  • Freewill and independence does not mean they have free rein to do what they like. Remember to distinguish between discipline and treating your child as an equal. You are still the parent, so balance your position as parent and friend.
  • Guide your child, support them, and understand their choices when encouraging independent decision-making.

Parenting is challenging at the best of times and rules are always flexible in the grand scheme of things when the going gets tough. It’s a good idea to set aside some time to think about your parenting style every so often, and double check that it is working for you and your child as they grow and situations evolve.

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Have your say? Does your parenting style sound like authoritative parenting? Which parenting style do you most identify with? Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!

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