How to tow the fine line between authoritative and authoritarian parenting.

Once our babies grow up, parenting becomes less about encouraging first steps and words and more about encouraging positive, healthy behaviors. As your child starts testing their limits and boundaries, you’ll discover more about what parenting style works best for you and your family.

Many parents choose to adopt an “authoritative” parenting style. However, it’s easy to mistake it with authoritarian parenting. Here are the differences between the authoritative vs authoritarian styles.

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Authoritative parents:

  • Have high expectations for their children.
  • Are highly responsive.
  • Initiate an open line of communication that takes into account a child’s feelings, opinions, and preferences.
  • Set basic limits, but also provide support and guidance to meet these expectations.

Authoritarian parents:

  • Have high expectations for their children.
  • Lack of warmth and responsiveness.
  • Have a “my way or the highway” approach to decision making and demand unquestioning obedience.
  • Set strict rules without proper guidance.

Tips for authoritative parents:

  • Remember that parenting is basically an advanced form of serve-and-return. Your child is paying attention to the way you behave and then determining appropriate responses. The stronger your interactions can be, the better off your child will be.
  • Listen to your little one and take into account their attributes, abilities, and developmental level e.g., an eight-year-old can remember to always take their shoes off before entering a home whereas a three-year-old may not.
  • Explain why something is correct or incorrect.
  • Set clear boundaries and instructions and be consistent with enforcement.
  • Praise positive behavior.

Benefits of authoritative parenting:

  • Impacts cause and effect reasoning, when a behavior has a direct consequence that has already been explained to them.
  • Helps you form a close, nurturing relationship with your little one.
  • Research suggests that children raised by authoritative parents are more likely to become independent, self-reliant, socially accepted, academically successful, be well-behaved with good emotional control and regulation, and have happier dispositions.

Challenges of authoritative parenting

  • It’s a demanding style that requires a lot of self-control, patience, and consistency.
  • Authoritative parenting doesn’t always work for every child in a multi-children home.
  • Both parents or caregivers need to adhere to similar standards but be flexible when changes occur.
  • Enforcing limits without harsh consequences can be challenging.

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Olivia Maitret is a psychologist with a minor in Education and a Masters in Brief Systemic Therapy. She is a mindfulness instructor, trained on the treatment of Learning Disabilities. Olivia spent 4 years as a Preschool teacher, 3 years as a school counselor, and trains children in meditation. She is a family psychotherapist and feels excited to support parents and teachers from around the world in their essential participation in child development.