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Parenting

Authoritative Parenting: Balancing Support and Discipline

Authoritative parents set clear rules and boundaries for their kids, but they also listen to their kids and help them when they need it.

Authoritative Parenting: Balancing Support and Discipline

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While every parent has a unique parenting approach, there are four primary parenting styles identified by developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind.

Some authoritarian parents are strict and have lots of rules that kids have to follow  On the other hand, permissive parents, don't have many rules at all and tend to let their kids call the shots. Then there are the uninvolved parents who pay little to no attention to their kids at all.

The authoritative style is different. These parents set clear rules and boundaries for their kids, but they also listen to their kids and help them when they need it. This gives kids the structure they need, but also the support and love they need to grow up happy and healthy.

Because of this, children raised by authoritative parents not only exemplify good behavior but are also confident, independent, and have a high rate of academic success. The parenting lessons children learn from their parents tend to stick with them as they grow older, so when they eventually have children of their own, they can draw upon those lessons to become positive role models and teach their kids the same valuable things they learned.

Are you interested in learning more about the authoritative parenting style and how it might fit into your family life? We've gathered insights from various experts, such as psychologists and child development professionals, to give you a comprehensive understanding of this approach. Ahead, they'll explain the benefits it can provide, the difficulties it might involve, and easy techniques to try.

They'll help you compare the authoritative style to other parenting methods to decide if it's the right fit for your family.

Characteristics of Authoritative Parenting

According to child psychiatrist Dr. Monika Roots, the authoritative style of parenting has several important qualities that define it.

One of the main features is a more balanced approach."These parents strike a middle ground, disciplining their children while also allowing them freedom," Dr. Roots explains. "They set clear rules and boundaries but ensure fairness in their approach. The goal is to empower children without frightening them, which may sometimes involve consequences."

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Authoritative parents show a careful balance in their approach. They are responsive to their children's emotions and create a supportive atmosphere where they feel heard and validated. However, these parents also know when to step back and allow their children to develop on their own. Rather than being overbearing, they collaborate with their kids, using problem-solving skills to address issues that come up.

The authoritative approach, as described by Gigi Schweikert, an expert on early childhood development, also emphasizes the power of positive reinforcement. This means praising and encouraging children when they do something good.

Schweikert explains to Today's Parent, "This approach helps strengthen the bond between parent and child. It also builds the child's confidence and self-esteem. When children feel more confident and secure, they actively choose to continue making good decisions. This fosters a sense of belonging within the family."

Authoritative Parenting vs. Other Styles

The four main parenting styles — authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, and neglectful — have distinct characteristics. According to Schweikert, authoritative parents stand out from those who use other parenting approaches in several ways. One key difference is in their communication style.

Authoritative parents typically engage in more dialogue with their children and encourage them to be involved in discussions, as Schweikert explains. In contrast, authoritarian parents tend to be more overbearing, demanding that their children strictly obey them with little room for negotiation. Permissive parents may also talk to their kids but often fail to set clear boundaries and rules.

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Authoritative parents are different from other types of parents when it comes to rules and expectations. They set clear rules and expectations, but they're also willing to discuss and negotiate those rules when it's appropriate.

Shcweikert adds, "These parents take the time to explain why they have certain rules. This helps their children understand the reasons behind the rules and become more independent and responsible. On the other hand, some parents are strict and just tell their kids to follow the rules without explaining why. Other parents are relaxed about the rules and don't always make sure their kids follow them. This can be confusing for the children."

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Benefits of Authoritative Parenting

Dr. Roots states that the authoritative approach to parenting is generally considered the most effective way to raise children.

"This method leads to the best results and helps children grow up well," she explains. "Children of authoritative parents develop strong leadership skills and learn to be self-sufficient and independent. They also tend to get along well with their friends.

Authoritative parents tend to raise children who have better life satisfaction overall. According to Dr. Roots, these children are also less likely to develop mental health problems like anxiety or depression and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors such as using drugs or alcohol.

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Authoritative parenting can also lead to better academic performance for children. A recent article published in 2022 by StatPearls, a source of up-to-date medical information, found that when parents give their children more independence, they are better able to achieve their goals on their own. This then leads to higher academic achievement and a stronger overall performance in school.

Implementing Authoritative Parenting Techniques

Adding authoritative techniques to your life isn't difficult. Schweikert suggests that improving your communication and listening skills is a good first step.

She says, "Actively listening is crucial. It allows parents to understand their child's point of view and emotions. This helps build empathy and mutual respect between the parent and child."

Setting clear rules and expectations for your children is just as important. Schweikert adds, "This means telling your kids exactly what they can and can't do, and what will happen if they don't follow the rules. It is also helpful to explain the reasons behind any punishments or consequences you give them. That way, they can learn from their mistakes and get better at making good decisions."

Addressing Challenges of Parenting Approaches

According to Courtney Morgan, a licensed professional clinical counselor, authoritative parents face unique challenges.

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"One issue is that authoritative parents have to balance taking care of their family with all their other responsibilities," Morgan tells Today's Parent. "They also have to manage their own feelings and emotions that come up when they are parenting. And they have to continue with their parenting approach, even when friends and family members tell them they should parent in a different way."

When parents have different ways of raising their kids, it can also cause problems. Dr. Jenny Woo, a Harvard-trained educator, explains, "If one parent is stricter and the other parent is more relaxed, the child might see the stricter parent as the 'mean one' compared to the more easygoing parent. The child might think the stricter parent is not as fun or enjoyable to be around."

Additionally, Dr. Becca Wallace, a psychologist at Children's Hospital in New Orleans, highlights that work-related issues can also be a significant challenge.

"This is because work can consume a lot of time and energy, leaving little room for effective teamwork in addressing problems," says Dr. Wallace. "Children thrive when all the people involved in their care are in sync and using the same strategies. Unfortunately, this can become increasingly difficult when there are multiple caregivers involved, which often happens with working parents."

good cop bad cop parenting with child in the middle iStock

Cultural Considerations and Variations

The world around us, including the way people in our society and culture behave, has a impact on how we raise our kids. However, Dr. Roots says that most studies show that the authoritative parenting style works well for parents from many different cultural backgrounds.

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However, how parents apply this approach can vary a lot depending on where they're from. Dr. Roots explains, "For instance, the way parents express love and affection towards their kids, or the balance between how much control parents have versus how much freedom they give their children, may look quite different depending on the cultural traditions and beliefs of the family."

Criticisms and Limitations

Even though authoritative parenting is a good way to raise kids, Dr. Roots says that even children who are well-behaved will sometimes go through times when they don't listen or do what their parents say.

"These periods of anger, frustration, and defiance can be difficult for authoritative parents to handle since they've worked hard to raise their child fairly and have high expectations for them," she explains.

The best advice for parents who are strict and want their kids to follow the rules is to be patient and understanding as their child goes through difficult stages of growing up. As Dr. Roots says, "It's important to listen to the child, but also know when to discipline them and set clear rules."

Another downside of this parenting style is that it can be time-consuming and demanding for parents. Dr. Roots mentions, "Parents may need to do a lot of talking and compromising with their kids, which can be hard if the parents don't have much time or patience. Setting high standards for children could also cause them to develop anxiety or become perfectionists."

FAQs

Are consistency and follow-through in enforcing rules and consequences key aspects of authoritative parenting? 

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According to Schweikert, being a consistent and reliable parent is important. She explains to Today's Parent, "If you always make sure your kids follow the rules and face the same consequences when they don't, it helps them understand what you expect from them. When parents are consistent, it creates a stable and consistent environment for their kids. This is important for a child's emotional well-being and helps them feel secure."

By keeping the rules and expectations the same, kids also become self-disciplined and responsible as they grow up. Schweikert continues, "This allows the kids to do well in different social situations. The key is to set clear boundaries and rules, and then stick to them no matter what. This consistency helps kids learn and grow."

How do authoritarian parents and uninvolved parents differ? 

The permissive, authoritarian, and authoritative parenting styles may vary, but they all share a common thread: involvement in the child's life. Uninvolved or neglectful parenting, on the other hand, is characterized by a complete lack of engagement, as these parents generally show little to no interest in their children's lives.

Morgan explains, "Authoritative parents are present and actively involved in their children's lives, whereas uninvolved parents choose not to engage with their children. Authoritative parents provide support and guidance, trusting their children to make healthy choices, while uninvolved parents assume their children will figure things out on their own without support."

What are some good resources for parents who want to adopt this learning style? 

Authoritative parents can find many helpful resources to support their parenting style. According to Morgan, parenting programs are a great place to start.

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To find the best program for your family, Morgan suggests reading articles or checking out websites that explain the different program options. Once you've picked a program you like, you can learn more about it by reading books or listening to podcasts.

Another helpful resource is working with a parenting coach or family therapist. Morgan says, "These professionals can make a difference as you start trying out new parenting techniques at home. They can provide hands-on guidance and help you feel confident as you experiment with different strategies.'

Dr. Woo also recommends books and games as additional resources for authoritative parents. She says "The Whole-Brain Child" by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson is a particularly good book. Dr. Woo also thinks card games are great because they make spending time with your family more fun, while also helping you practice communicating with each other.

How do you adjust and tweak this parenting style as children get older? 

Authoritative parenting can benefit children of all ages, from toddlers to teenagers. However, as your child grows and seeks more autonomy and independence, Morgan says adapting your parenting approach is crucial. "Adapting your approach as your child's autonomy increases is a crucial aspect of effective parenting," she says.

As children mature, Morgan suggests that parents foster their children's independence while also reinforcing their trust. She also tells parents that they should listen more than they talk. This is because teenagers or older kids might stop paying attention if they feel like their parents are just lecturing them.

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Experts

  • Dr. Monika Roots, MD, a child psychiatrist and co-founder at Bend Health
  • Gigi Schweikert, author, educator, early childhood development expert, and CEO of Lightbridge Academy
  • Courtney Morgan, LPCC, a licensed professional clinical counselor
  • Dr. Jenny Woo, a Harvard-trained educator, and founder/CEO of Mind Brain Emotion
  • Dr. Becca Wallace, a psychologist at Children's Hospital New Orleans

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