Table of Contents
What Is Authoritative Parenting?
Authoritative parenting is a parenting style characterized by high responsiveness and high demands. Authoritative parents are responsive to the child’s emotional needs while having high standards. They set limits and are very consistent in enforcing boundaries.
After decades of research, child development experts recognize that authoritative parenting is the best parenting style among the four Baumrind parenting styles1.
This parenting style generally produces the best outcomes in children.
Studies have found that preschoolers raised by authoritative parents2:
- Tend to be happy and content.
- Are independent and self-reliant.
- Develop good social skills.
- Have good emotional regulation and self-control3.
- Express warmth and cooperate with peers4.
- Explore a new environment without fear.
- Are competent and assertive.
Authoritative parents are likely to have children who:
- Achieve higher academic success5.
- Engage more in school activities.
- Develop good self-esteem6.
- Have better mental health — less depression, anxiety, suicide attempts, delinquency, alcohol, and drug use.
- Interact with peers using competent social skills7.
- Exhibit less violent tendencies.
- Are well-adjusted.
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.
- Set clear limits on behavior.
- Consistently enforce boundaries.
- Use positive discipline instead of punitive, forceful measures.
- Earn, not demand, children’s respect.
Three Other Parenting Styles
Authoritarian parenting – high demandingness and low responsiveness.
- Like authoritarian parenting, authoritative parents have high standards.
- Unlike authoritarian parenting, authoritative parents do not require complete compliance or blind obedience from their children.
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 child to blindly obey without question.
By contrast, authoritative parents use reasoning and allow give-and-take discussions.
So both types of parents utilize high behavioral control, but only authoritarian parents also exert high psychological control.
Permissive parenting – low demandingness and high responsiveness.
- Like permissive parenting, authoritative parents are warm and nurturing.
- Unlike permissive parenting, authoritative parents do not allow children to get away with bad behavior.
Neglectful parenting – low demandingness and low responsiveness.
- Authoritative parenting is very different from neglectful parenting. Authoritative parents pay a lot of attention to their children’s well being.
Is Authoritative Parenting 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 the 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
Style: High responsiveness means warm, accepting and supportive.
Practices: Hugging, cheering and smiling are different parenting practices.
Style: 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 Is Authoritative Parenting Style The Best Parenting Style?
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 the 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 not an either-or parenting style.
It’s in between two extreme styles to achieve the best 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