What is Authoritative Parenting?

Authoritative Parenting: A Balanced Parenting Style

There are four styles of parenting: authoritarian, authoritative (sometimes called egalitarian), permissive, and uninvolved. The uninvolved style is not so much a way of parenting as it is a lack of parenting, and it’s hard on kids. Kids with an uninvolved parent often struggle with feelings of rejection, lack of self-esteem, and trust issues.

Authoritarian, authoritative and permissive parenting styles describe a range of styles, with authoritarian parenting on one end, permissive parenting on the other, and authoritative parenting in the middle. Authoritarian parents tend to be high in structure and low in responsiveness, and permissive parents tend to be low in structure and high in responsiveness. Although these are just styles—different ways of parenting—and you can’t make value judgments between them, authoritative parenting is the most balanced style.

Structure

Structure is important in authoritative parenting. Rules and limits are clear, and the children know what consequences to expect for infractions. Routines, schedules and traditions help provide a sense of stability and make the children feel secure. For example, a school-aged child knows when bedtime is, and what will happen if he stalls and delays as a teen knows when curfew is, and what will happen if she is late.

Responsiveness

Authoritative parents are responsive to their children. Children have a voice and their input is valued and listened to, so mom and dad respond to their needs and problems, and are sensitive to their emotional status. There is flexibility in authoritative parenting that allows the parents to bend the rules on occasion. The school-aged child may be allowed to stay up late to watch a special TV program, or the teen may be forgiven for being late (once) when she was riding with a friend who wouldn’t leave on time.

Decision-making

In authoritative parenting, decisions are made collaboratively. Children have choices—up to a point. Parents listen to their input, but the final decision rests with the parents. Authoritative families function as a team, and differing needs are negotiated. This results in less conflict and more balance than with other parenting styles. In an authoritative family, the children above may be able to negotiate a new bedtime or curfew.

Authoritative parenting is a balanced parenting style, with both high structure and high responsiveness. The parents are engaged and flexible, but they are still the parents. Structure—rules, limits and boundaries—is present, but not rigid.

Children who have authoritative parenting tend to do well both socially and functionally. They tend not to get into problem behaviors, and not to have serious emotional problems. Authoritative parenting is a balanced style, and it produces well-balanced children.

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