What Is Authoritative Parenting?
An authoritative parenting style is a child-rearing approach characterized by high responsiveness and high expectations. Authoritative parents are warm and responsive to their child’s emotional needs while holding the child to high standards. They set limits and are very consistent in enforcing the boundaries.
After decades of research, child development experts recognize that authoritative parenting is the best style of parenting among the four Baumrind parenting styles1.
This parenting style generally produces the best outcomes in children.
Studies have found that children of authoritative parents tend to be2:
- Happy and content.
- Are independent and self-reliant.
- Have good emotional regulation and self-control3.
- Have competent social skills7.
- Express positive attitudes and high levels of warmth4.
- Achieve higher academic success5.
- Develop good self-esteem6.
- Have better mental health — less depression, anxiety, suicide attempts, delinquency, alcohol, and drug use.
Authoritative Parenting Examples
- Are warm, attuned, and nurturing.
- Listen to the children.
- Allow autonomy and encourage independence.
- Reason with children instead of demanding blind obedience.
- Establish clear rules for good behavior.
- Consistently enforce boundaries.
- Use positive discipline or reasoning instead of punitive, forceful measures to discipline.
- Earn, not demand, children’s respect.
The Four Parenting Styles
Developmental psychologists Diana Baumrind categorized 4 parenting styles based on the parents’ responsiveness and demandingness. Here are the differences and similarities between the authoritative style and other styles.
Authoritarian parenting style
Parents with authoritarian styles have high demandingness and low responsiveness.
Like authoritative parents, authoritarian parents have high standards and demands.
Unlike authoritative parents, authoritarian parents are cold and unresponsive to their child’s needs.
Although both authoritative and authoritarian parents place high demands on their children, they are different in what they try to control.
Both types of parents expect their children to behave appropriately and obey parental rules.
But authoritarian parents also expect their children to blindly obey without question.
By contrast, authoritative parents use reasoning and allow give-and-take discussions. Therefore, it is sometimes called the democratic parenting style.
So both types of parents utilize high behavioral control, but only authoritarian parents also exert high psychological control.
Permissive parenting style
Permissive parents have low demandingness and high responsiveness.
Like authoritative parents, permissive parents are warm and nurturing.
Unlike authoritative parents, permissive parents do not have rules or enforce them consistently. Children are allowed to get away with bad behavior.
Uninvolved parenting style (Neglectful parenting)
Uninvolved parents have low demandingness and low responsiveness.
Uninvolved parents are very different from authoritative parents. Neglectful parents are cold and unresponsive, and they do not pay attention to their children’s well-being.
Is Authoritative Parenting Suitable For Every Child?
The authoritative parenting style has been found to benefit children of different temperaments.
In fact, among different temperaments, children who are regarded as difficult benefit more from authoritative child-rearing than the easy kids.
But aren’t all kids different and therefore require different parenting styles?
Kids are different.
Different children need to be parented differently according to the “Goodness of Fit”.
When there is a goodness of fit between the child’s temperament and the parents’ personalities, attitudes, and parenting practices, the child will flourish.
But when it is poorness-of-fit, the child suffers.
Notice that there is a difference between parenting style and parenting practice.
Parenting style is the emotional climate in which the parents raise their children.
A parenting practice is a specific action that parents employ in their parenting.
The authoritative parenting style is the best parenting style.
Parents should adopt that same authoritative parenting style, but different parenting practices according to their child’s individual temperament.
Within Baumrind’s parenting style topology, authoritative parenting is not a fixed set of parenting practices.
Authoritative parenting consists of a spectrum of different parenting practices, all based on the same “high responsiveness, high demandingness” principle.
For instance, within the “high responsiveness, high demandingness” spectrum, a parent can choose practices that are nurturing but slightly less demanding (point A in the diagram).
When parenting another child of a different temperament, a parent can use practices that are demanding, but slightly less nurturing (point B in the diagram)8.
Both A and B are still within the authoritative parenting spectrum.
Examples Of Authoritative Parenting Style With Different Parenting Practices
Example of Authoritative Parenting Style: High responsiveness means being warm, accepting, and supportive.
Practices: Hugging, cheering, and smiling are different parenting practices.
Another Authoritative Parenting Style Example: High demandingness means high standards and limits.
Practices: Requiring a child to do chores, get good grades, and show manners are different parenting practices.
Why Authoritative Parenting Style Is The Best
To understand why the authoritative approach is the most effective parenting style, we should look at each component of this parenting style.
Nurturing: Authoritative parents are attuned, nurturing, sensitive, and supportive of their children’s emotional and developmental needs. Research shows that children with responsive parents tend to develop a secure attachment. Children with secure attachment are protected from developing internalizing problems. Infants who have responsive mothers also develop better problem-solving skills, cognitive competence, and emotional control.
Responsive: Emotional regulation lays the foundation for a child’s success. Responsiveness and autonomy support from the parents seem to provide children with the opportunity to develop good self-regulation skills. These children
Supportive: Authoritative parents are supportive. They tend to be more involved in a child’s schooling by volunteering or monitoring homework. Parental involvement has been shown to have a beneficial impact on adolescent academic achievement.
Open-minded: Authoritative parents are also open-minded and collaborative. They use open communication, explanations, and reasoning to foster individuality. These parents are modeling prosocial behavior that the children can internalize. These children grow up having good social skills.
High Standards: The high standards demanded by authoritative parents keep children’s behavior in check.
Discipline: In Baumrind’s study, she found that authoritative parents were remarkably consistent in enforcing limits. Consistency is one of the most important elements in a successful discipline at home. Kids whose parents are consistent in disciplining have less internalizing and externalizing problems.
Non-punitive: Although authoritative parents have high standards, they do not use punitive punishment to discipline. Non-punitive discipline is found to promote children’s honesty and prevent aggressive behavior. Authoritative parents use inductive discipline to teach proper behavior. They are firm but kind when disciplining. They may be strict, but they are not mean.
Authoritative parenting achieves a balance between too much psychological control (authoritarian) and too little behavioral control (permissive).
It’s in between two extreme styles to achieve the best positive outcomes.
- 1.Baumrind D. Prototypical descriptions of 3 parenting styles. Psychology. 1966;37.
- 2.Baumrind D. Child care practices anteceding three patterns of preschool behavior. Genetic Psychology Monographs. 1967;75(1):43-88.
- 3.Bernier A, Carlson SM, Whipple N. From External Regulation to Self-Regulation: Early Parenting Precursors of Young Children’s Executive Functioning. Child Development. January 2010:326-339. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2009.01397.x
- 4.McCoby EE. Socialization in the context of the family: Parent–child interaction. Handbook of child psychology. 1983;4:1-101.
- 5.Steinberg L, Lamborn SD, Dornbusch SM, Darling N. Impact of Parenting Practices on Adolescent Achievement: Authoritative Parenting, School Involvement, and Encouragement to Succeed. Child Development. October 1992:1266. doi:10.2307/1131532
- 6.Parish TS, McCluskey JJ. The relationship between parenting styles and young adults’ self-concepts and evaluations of parents. Adolescence. 1992;17(108).
- 7.Baumrind D. Effects of Authoritative Parental Control on Child Behavior. Child Development. December 1966:887. doi:10.2307/1126611
- 8.Chess S, Thomas A. Temperament and the Concept of Goodness of Fit. In: Explorations in Temperament. Springer US; 1991:15-28. doi:10.1007/978-1-4899-0643-4_2