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Authoritative Parenting: Balance Discipline And Love

Authoritative parenting is a balanced approach to child-rearing that combines warmth, sensitivity, and clear boundaries. Introduced by developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind in 1966, this parenting style is characterized by high responsiveness and demandingness. Authoritative parents are nurturing and supportive while setting firm limits and holding age-appropriate expectations for their children’s behavior.

Authoritative parents help children develop self-regulation, emotional intelligence, and a strong sense of autonomy by using positive reinforcement, reasoning, and natural consequences. This parenting approach fosters secure attachment, high self-esteem, and healthy emotional development in children.

Research has consistently shown that authoritative parenting is associated with the most favorable outcomes for children across various domains, including academic achievement, social competence, and mental health. Many experts consider authoritative parenting to be the most effective and beneficial parenting style.

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What is authoritative parenting?

Authoritative parenting is a highly responsive, nurturing, and supportive parenting style in which parents set clear, firm limits and place reasonable demands on children, creating a balance between connection, structure, and autonomy. Authoritative parenting promotes a secure attachment. Authoritative parents are warm and expect age-appropriate behavior. Authoritative parents discipline using reasoning and encourage two-way communication. Authoritative parents are attuned to children’s feelings and prioritize children’s emotional development.

Children raised with authoritative parenting are associated with emotional stability, healthy coping skills, self-reliance, academic achievements, competent social skills, and overall life satisfaction. Authoritative parenting is the best parenting approach among the four parenting styles proposed by developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and researchers.

Who introduced authoritative parenting?

Developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind, who taught at the University of California, Berkeley, introduced the term authoritative parenting in 1966.​1​ Baumrind defined authoritative parenting as a style high in the responsiveness and demandingness dimensions.

Responsiveness describes how parents show emotional warmth and support, considering and responding to children’s sensitivities, thoughts, and contributions while catering to each child’s unique needs and aspirations.

Demandingness refers to parents’ expectations for their children’s behavior and how they integrate and contribute to the family. Baumrind indicated that demandingness encompasses two key elements: monitoring and confrontive control. Monitoring ensures the child’s life has structure, order, and predictability, while confrontive control guides and limits the child’s behavior to prevent disruptive actions.

What is authoritative discipline?

Authoritative discipline involves using reasoning, positive reinforcement, and natural consequences to teach children age-appropriate behavior. Authoritative discipline focuses on teaching through explanations rather than harsh punishments. Parents using authoritative discipline are assertive but not punitive. Authoritative parents support children’s autonomy.

Authoritative parenting is also known as democratic parenting because children can disagree and negotiate. Children can voice their opinions and discuss their points of view, but the parents still make the final decisions to maintain high standards.

Is time-out considered an authoritative discipline?

Using time-out to discipline is considered an authoritative parenting practice when it is used to diminish stimulation and reinforcement of problematic behavior, aligning with the correct application of time-out for children. Authoritative parents also explain the situation and why the child was removed from a reinforcing environment to calm down so that the child will learn to do the same themselves the next time they feel over-stimulated. 

However, using time-out as a form of punishment and making the child suffer physically or emotionally is not an authoritative discipline practice. That usually happens when time-out is accompanied by yelling, possessions confiscated, or privileges lost.

Is spanking considered an authoritative discipline?

No, spanking is not considered an authoritative discipline practice. Authoritative parents explain the reasons behind prohibiting misbehavior and teach children proper behavior. Spanking does neither of them.

What are authoritative parenting examples?

Here are 10 examples of authoritative parenting practices.

  1. Involve children in rule setting: Ask for children’s input on age-appropriate rules and explain the rationale behind final decisions.
  2. Offer choices: Use commands such as “Would you like to eat the beef or the carrot first?” instead of “You must eat the vegetable.”
  3. Explain reasoning: Use inductive reasoning to teach children right from wrong. “We cannot skip vegetables because they keep us healthy.”
  4. Be willing to negotiate: Flexible and open to adapt as children mature and demonstrate responsibility.
  5. Teach instead of punish: Explain to and guide children to adopt positive behavior instead of punishing misbehavior.
  6. Allow natural consequences: When the issue is not health or safety-related and the natural consequence has already been explained, let the child experience it directly. For example, if a child refuses to go to bed early and therefore wakes up late, let them experience the consequence of not arriving at school on time.
  7. Validate emotions: Acknowledge a child’s feelings without giving in. “I understand you’re disappointed you can’t play video games right now, but finishing your homework first is important so you have free time later.”
  8. Solve problems together: “You keep missing homework. Let’s figure out if it’s time management, the material, or something else.”
  9. Give autonomy: Allow children to make age-appropriate decisions.
  10. Show love and care: Spend quality time connecting and listening to children rather than lecturing.

What are the effects of authoritative parenting?

Here are 15 effects of authoritative parenting.​2–8​

  • Secure attachment: This responsive parenting approach fosters trust and a secure attachment between parents and children. Children trust that they can rely on their parents in stressful situations.
  • Self-esteem: There is a positive association between authoritative parenting with self-esteem in children, according to a 2019 research by the Philipps University in Germany reviewing 116 studies.
  • Emotional regulation: Children with authoritative parents often have better coping skills and emotional regulation.
  • Positive behavior: Children tend to have more prosocial behavior and fewer behavioral problems, like aggression, risky behaviors, and delinquency.
  • Resilience: Research has shown that children raised in authoritative homes are more resilient.
  • Academic achievement: In a 2015 peer-reviewed research by Philipps University, the researcher analyzed 308 studies conducted between 1974 and 2015 involving 362,155 teenagers and found that authoritative parenting was associated with better academic performance.
  • Social competence: Children are more likely to have good social skills.
  • Independent and self-reliant: Children are given autonomy and, therefore, more independent and self-sufficient.
  • Healthy habits: Authoritative families set healthy boundaries that help children develop positive habits. Kids are more likely to embrace a healthy lifestyle, such as teeth brushing and lower junk food consumption. A 2019 study by Sivas Cumhuriyet University in Turkey indicated that children raised by authoritative parents had better oral health and fewer tooth decays.
  • Mental health: Children tend to have fewer mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and drug abuse.
  • Life satisfaction: Researchers at the University of Maribor conducted a study in 2020 analyzing national survey data from over 10,000 respondents between age 14 and 29 in 10 Southeast European countries. The study revealed that young people raised by authoritative parents have higher life satisfaction later.

Parents also benefit from the authoritative parenting style. Here are 3 positive effects of this parenting style on parents.

  • Higher self-efficacy: Authoritative parents develop more confidence and self-efficacy because their children have fewer behavior problems. 
  • Less parenting stress: More positive outcomes in children are associated with less stress in parents.

Positive parent-child relationship: Authoritative families tend to have more positive relationships between parents and children.

What is the best parenting style?

The authoritative parenting style is considered the best approach to raising children because of its consistent positive impacts on child development.​1​

Which parenting style is most encouraged in modern America?

Authoritative parenting is the parenting style most encouraged in modern America due to the positive outcomes in children, according to numerous studies.

Why is authoritative parenting the best?

Authoritative parenting is the best style because it offers a balanced mix of emotional support and parental control. Authoritative parents impart good discipline while nurturing their children’s emotional development to lay the foundation for cognitive and psychological growth. Children develop self-esteem and resilience crucial for lifelong success.

Is authoritative parenting good for every child?

Authoritative parenting doesn’t prescribe a fixed set of practices; rather, it outlines a general approach to parenting. The degrees of demandingness and responsiveness can be tailored to accommodate the unique temperaments of different children.

For example, you can be more warm or less warm and still warm. You can be more supportive or less supportive, but still supportive. The essence is balancing connection and boundaries, but how that balance manifests can flex to meet the needs of each child.

Is the authoritative parenting style the best parenting style for everyone?

No, researchers in some studies found that authoritative parenting did not yield the best outcomes in children in some cultures. For example, a notable 1994 study at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that Chinese students with authoritarian parents performed better academically than European-American students. In another study by the University of Mississippi in 2010, researchers noticed that authoritarian parenting had protective factors for African-American students, attenuating the link between depressive symptoms and suicidal behavior.​9,10​

However, the findings of these studies have not been consistently replicated, and further research is needed to confirm the effects of other parenting styles on children in different cultures.

How to be an authoritative parent?

The goal of authoritative parenting is to raise children in a loving and disciplined manner. Here are 10 ways to be an authoritative parent to meet that goal.

  1. Show affection often: Don’t be afraid to hug, say “I love you,” and share activities your child enjoys.
  2. Validate emotions: Validate and empathize when your child expresses difficult emotions. Help your child feel understood.
  3. Set clear rules: Set age-appropriate boundaries and explain the reasons for family rules. Listen to input and make the final decision.
  4. Use inductive discipline: Help your child think through everyday situations to learn right from wrong and critical thinking skills.
  5. Motivate children to take responsibility: Foster a sense of responsibility by encouraging children to take on household chores and contribute to the family.
  6. Use positive reinforcement: Recognize and compliment good behavior to positively reinforce desired behavior.
  7. Be kind and firm: When correcting bad behavior, focus on teaching rather than punishment. You can be firm and mean business without being mean.
  8. Allow respectful discussion: Let your child share their perspective, even during discipline. Teach your child how to disagree respectfully.
  9. Guide decision-making: Help your child think through choices to build critical thinking skills.
  10. Allow autonomy and adjust for maturity: Encourage children to be independent but still place limits and control on their actions. Support autonomy as your child demonstrates independence and responsibility.

Can I still learn this style if I didn’t have authoritative parents?

Yes, you can still learn this style if you didn’t have authoritative parents. Many parents successfully break the cycle of using the same parenting approach as their parents. However, it requires patience and practice, as the effects will not appear overnight.

How do I provide warmth and support while still setting rules?

You can provide warmth and support and enforce limits kind and firmly. Being kind and being firm do not contradict each other. “I know you’re upset. But the rule is if you use the toy to hit, you cannot play with it,” can be delivered calmly and gently. Being firm is not the same as being mean. You don’t have to be mean to mean business.

How do I involve my child in decision-making without giving up control?

Involving your child in decision-making without giving up control is a strategic approach that fosters independence while maintaining parental guidance. Here’s how to achieve this balance.

  • Offer limited choices: Provide your child with a selection of options that you find acceptable. This allows them to choose within predetermined boundaries, ensuring the decision meets your expectations.
  • Set clear parameters: Before involving your child in a decision-making process, clearly define the non-negotiable aspects of the decision. This sets a framework that safeguards essential outcomes while allowing flexibility within those limits.
  • Encourage input on negotiable aspects: For decisions that directly affect your child, seek their input on aspects open to negotiation.
  • Discuss the reasoning behind choices: Explain the rationale behind each choice when presenting options. This helps your child understand the implications of their decisions and the values guiding them, fostering critical thinking skills.
  • Teach decision-making skills: Use decision-making opportunities to teach. Discuss the potential outcomes of different choices and encourage your child to weigh the pros and cons. This builds analytical and problem-solving skills.
  • Allow natural consequences: When appropriate and safe, let your child experience the natural consequences of their decisions. This can be a powerful learning tool, helping them understand the impact of their choices.
  • Recognize their efforts: Acknowledge and praise your child for making thoughtful decisions, even if the outcome isn’t perfect. This reinforces positive decision-making behaviors and boosts their confidence.
  • Maintain the final say in critical matters: For decisions with significant implications, maintain the authority to have the final say. Explain to your child why some decisions are ultimately up to the parents, emphasizing the responsibility you bear for their well-being.
  • Model good decision-making: Demonstrate effective decision-making in your own life. Children learn a great deal from observing their parents. Show them how you weigh options, consider consequences, and make choices.

By integrating these strategies, you can involve your child in decision-making processes in a way that promotes their autonomy and development while ensuring you guide their choices.

What should I do if my spouse doesn’t want to adopt authoritative parenting?

If your spouse doesn’t want to adopt authoritative parenting, you can still stick with authoritative parenting by yourself, even after your careful explanation.

A 2008 study published in Congruity and Well-being revealed that having two authoritative parents yielded the best outcomes in children in terms of their self-esteem, life satisfaction, and free of depression. It also found that having one authoritative parent, although not as good as having two, was still better than having no authoritative parents.​11​

How do I handle defiant behavior or major rule-breaking authoritatively?

Handling defiant behavior or major rule-breaking authoritatively involves combining firmness with understanding and respect for your child’s perspective. Here are steps to consider:

  1. Stay calm and composed: Maintain a calm demeanor to model handling conflict and stress.
  2. Clearly define expectations and consequences: Ensure your child understands what is expected of them and the consequences related to the misbehavior.
  3. Listen and validate feelings: Give your child the opportunity to express their feelings and thoughts about the situation. Validate their feelings even if you don’t agree with their behavior. This shows respect for their perspective and helps them feel heard.
  4. Talk about natural consequence: Talk about the natural consequence of their action and discuss the lesson learned.
  5. Apply consistent consequences if external consequences are used: If unnatural consequences are used and discussed beforehand, consistently follow through with them.
  6. Use the situation as a learning opportunity: Discuss what happened and explore choices that could have been made. This helps your child learn from their mistakes and consider better options in the future.
  7. Focus on positive reinforcement: Recognize and praise positive behavior. This reinforces the behavior you want to see and shows your child that their good actions are noticed and appreciated.
  8. Encourage responsibility: Encourage your child to take responsibility for their actions and consider how their behavior affects others. This fosters a sense of empathy and accountability.
  9. Maintain open communication: Keep the lines of communication open. Let your child know they can come to you with problems or concerns, and you’ll listen without immediate judgment or punishment.
  10. Seek support if needed: If defiant behavior or rule-breaking is persistent and severe, consider seeking support from a child psychologist or counselor. Sometimes, underlying issues need professional attention.

What if it feels like authoritative parenting isn’t working for my child?

If authoritative parenting does not seem to work for your child, remember that each child is unique, and parenting practices can be tailored to your child’s specific temperament. However, variations in approach can still adhere to authoritative principles to reap their benefits. For example, your warmth level can vary—more or less—but should remain present. The number of enforced rules may fluctuate, yet it’s crucial to maintain consistency in the rules you set, ensuring they meet high standards within a more focused scope but still uphold the high expectations of those selected rules.

In addition, learning proper behavior is like learning a new skill. It takes time and practice. A child may have to try and fail numerous times before mastering it. Even if your child doesn’t meet your expectations the first few times, they will eventually, with your patience and kind guidance. You will build trust with your child in the process.

What are the downsides of the authoritative parenting style?

One downside of the authoritative parenting style is that it requires significant time, effort, and emotional energy to balance being responsive and setting boundaries. Parents who have demanding jobs or strong-willed children may find this taxing. Effective consequences also take more work and creativity to create or implement.

The authoritative style may not align with community or familial norms in cultures emphasizing more authoritarian parenting strategies. Authoritative parenting can be mistaken as “soft parenting” by strict parents. This misalignment may cause misunderstanding or conflicts among parents and grandparents.

What are the different parenting styles?

There are four parenting styles commonly used in research by psychologists: authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, and neglectful.

This categorization was identified by Diana Baumrind at the University of California at Berkeley in the 1960s and expanded by Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin at Stanford University in 1983.​12​

The four types are categorized based on their levels of demandingness and responsiveness.

Authoritative parenting is high in both demandingness and responsiveness. Authoritative parents are nurturing, responsive, and supportive, yet set firm limits for their children.

Authoritarian parenting is high in demandingness but low in responsiveness. Authoritarian parents have strict rules and are unresponsive to their children’s needs.

Permissive parenting is low in demandingness but high in responsiveness. Permissive parents have very few rules and don’t enforce them consistently, but they are warm and responsive to their children.

Neglectful parenting, also called uninvolved parenting, is low in demandingness and responsiveness. Neglectful parents don’t have rules and are emotionally distant from their children. They are uninvolved in their children’s lives.

What is the difference between authoritarian and authoritative parenting styles?

While both authoritarian and authoritative parents maintain high standards, their levels of responsiveness differ significantly.

Authoritative parents combine their high expectations with emotional warmth and open communication. They are responsive to their children’s needs and feelings. Children develop better emotional regulation.

In contrast, the authoritarian style, although having high standards, tends to be more rigid and controlling without much emotional engagement. Children of authoritarian parents often have low self-esteem and more externalizing behaviors than those of authoritative parents.​13​

What is the difference between permissive and authoritative parenting?

The main difference between permissive and authoritative parenting is that permissive parents do not set or enforce clear rules, while authoritative parents do. Both parenting styles are characterized by warmth, support, and responsiveness but differ in demandingness.

Permissive parents are nurturing but not demanding. They don’t like setting rules; if they do, they tend not to enforce them consistently. Authoritative parents, although also warm and nurturing, set high standards and limits. They use clear rules and consequences to teach children right from wrong.

The outcomes are different for children from these two parenting styles. Children with permissive parents tend to have lower self-esteem and are less happy than those with authoritative parents, according to a 2011 study by Oxford University in the U.K. involving 1,456 15-year-olds. In addition, researchers found that permissively-raised teenagers were more than twice as likely to feel sad.​14​

Final thoughts on authoritative parenting

Being an authoritative parent is not about being perfect. There is no perfect parent. What matters is that you try your best to balance warmth with firmness and respond to your child’s changing needs. Even if you make some mistakes, keep working to build trust and autonomy.

When you start adopting this democratic parenting style, it can feel overwhelming, and you may sometimes doubt your abilities. Some days will go smoothly; some will be chaotic. Strive for progress over perfection. Reflect on what went well or could improve, then give yourself credit for showing up.

Authoritative parenting is a journey of growth for parents, too. Stay committed to compassion and patience with yourself and your kids.

Focus on repairing moments of disconnect through open communication. Keep perspective by remembering the deep love for your child.

With commitment and compassion for all, the authoritative parenting path will lead to positive outcomes for all.


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