There are two distinct parenting styles: authoritative and authoritarian. Authoritarian parents demand obedience and resort to punishments rather than assisting children in problem-solving.
On the other hand, authoritative parents provide emotional support and guide their children using logical consequences as teaching tools. According to experts, children raised by authoritative parents tend to enjoy improved mental well-being and overall life satisfaction.
Authoritarian and authoritative parenting may sound alike, but they stand worlds apart regarding their effects on children.
Authoritarian parenting embodies a strict demeanor, prioritizing child obedience while setting exceedingly high expectations for behavior.
The Clinical Director at Ocean Recovery, a treatment center that specializes in kids and families.Kalley Hartman, is a licensed marriage and family therapist notes that parents employing this style often resort to punitive measures for undesired behaviors. Their focus leans less on teaching appropriate conduct.
In contrast, authoritative parents adopt a more flexible stance. While they maintain high expectations, they approach their child’s behavior with adaptability. Instead of punitive measures, authoritative parents opt for collaborative problem-solving.
Recognizing that each parent-child dynamic is unique and guided by individual needs, strengths, and personalities is essential. Nonetheless, in a general sense, most experts endorse the authoritative parenting approach.
According to Hartman, “parental authority is characterized by rigid rules and expectations for children, little communication, and little flexibility in terms of enforcement.”
Example of authoritarian parenting:
|Example||Why it’s authoritarian|
|A parent instructs a child to complete homework before dinner, threatening punishment if not obeyed.||This approach lacks discussion or flexibility. It also overlooks the child’s individual needs or potential difficulties with homework.|
|A parent confiscates a child’s beloved toy and disposes of it as a consequence OF speaking disrespectfully.||This action has no bearing on teaching the child respectful communication; instead, it punishes them for something unrelated.|
|Parents take away their teens’ cell phones because chores aren’t done.||This punitive measure intends to make the teen regret their actions but fails to impart essential skills like time management and responsibility.|
In these instances, the common thread is the strict enforcement of rules with little room for dialogue or understanding of individual circumstances, characteristic of authoritarian parenting.
As a counselor and play therapist at Calming Communities, Robyn Rausch, CPC, RPT, is the director of programs and services, sheds light on authoritarian parenting. She emphasizes that this parenting style, often characterized by an “I am the boss” approach, might seem effective in shaping a child’s immediate behavior but falls short in imparting long-term behavioral skills.
The problem lies in its dominance, where the child’s behavior is tightly controlled with minimal room for discussion or input.
Consequently, children under authoritarian parenting may not grasp proper behavior fundamentals. Instead, they learn to associate certain actions with their parents’ anger. This can lead them to deception or sneaking to evade parental scrutiny when engaging in off-limits activities.
Hartman said authoritarian parenting results in several concerning outcomes:
- Limits a child’s autonomy: The child’s ability to make decisions and exercise independence is stifled.
- Fails to provide needed emotional support: Emotional development is hindered as children often lack emotional support essential to growth.
- Kids struggle to learn problem-solving skills: Children struggle to develop vital problem-solving abilities with limited decision-making opportunities.
- Negatively affects social-emotional development: Building healthy social relationships and emotional intelligence becomes challenging.
- Children with this condition might develop mental health issues as adults: Mental health issues such as depression and substance abuse might arise as adults as a result of long-term effects
Examples of Authoritative Parenting:
|Scenario||Why it’s Authoritative|
|A parent insists on homework before playtime.||This shows teamwork and offers positive reinforcement.|
|A parent addresses disrespectful language politely.||It emphasizes natural consequences and teaches respect.|
|A parent takes a teenager’s cell phone for rule-breaking.||It maintains boundaries without punitive discipline.|
As explained by Rausch, authoritative parenting takes a collaborative approach, emphasizing learning and connection while valuing a child’s input and experiences. It’s about working together as a team to achieve tasks, reinforcing positive behavior, and teaching children valuable life lessons.
In one scenario, a parent ensures their child completes homework before playtime. They actively support the child during their tasks, fostering a sense of teamwork and offering playtime as a reward for following through.
Another example involves a parent responding to a child’s disrespectful language by encouraging more polite expression. The parent acknowledges the child’s feelings, provides coping tips, and demonstrates respectful communication. Here, the focus is on natural consequences and teaching better ways to express oneself.
In a different situation, a parent takes away a teenager’s cell phone due to rule-breaking, like using it after bedtime. The parent explains the breach of trust, suggests solutions like storing the phone in another room overnight, and maintains firm boundaries without resorting to punitive measures. This approach ensures consequences are directly related to behavior while upholding discipline with understanding.
The Impact of Authoritative Parenting
According to Rausch, this approach centers on using logical consequences for discipline rather than punishment.
These consequences directly address issues arising from the child’s behavior and aim to impart problem-solving skills, as explained by Rausch.
Consequently, children raised by authoritative parents tend to develop essential emotional regulation skills, excel in conflict resolution with peers, and nurture self-confidence and sound judgment.
Research-backed advantages of authoritative parenting encompass the following:
- Enhanced Academic Success: In a recent 2022 study examining the academic achievements of teenagers, it was observed that participants raised by authoritative parents displayed greater belief in their ability to excel academically, resulting in improved classroom performance.
- Heightened Self-Esteem: A modest 2014 study revealed a positive correlation between authoritative parenting and boosted self-esteem.
- Reduced Rates of Depression and Anxiety: An equally modest 2016 study explored mental resilience among elderly adults in China. The findings indicated that those who grew up with authoritative parents experienced lower levels of depression and anxiety than their counterparts raised by authoritarian parents.
- Elevated Life Satisfaction: A comprehensive 2020 study delving into the impact of parenting styles on life satisfaction unveiled a robust connection between authoritative parenting and increased life satisfaction. Conversely, authoritarian parenting was linked to decreased life satisfaction.
Different parenting styles
In addition to the well-known authoritarian and authoritative parenting approaches, child development experts acknowledge two other significant parenting styles:
- Permissive Parenting: This style, too, emphasizes warmth, connection, and open communication. Permissive parents establish very few rules and expectations for their children. While they offer freedom, guidance is minimal. Consequently, children raised in permissive households might be prone to impulsivity and struggle with self-regulation skills.
- Neglectful or Uninvolved Parenting: This parenting style provides minimal support and communication for children, fulfilling basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter. Children often navigate life’s challenges independently, fostering resilience and self-sufficiency. However, parental guidance can hinder emotional management and social relationship nurturing.
Adjusting Your Parenting Approach
Most experts concur that authoritative parenting yields the most benefits in child development and fosters a healthy parent-child relationship.
According to Rausch, a child and family therapist, authoritative parenting establishes a partnership between parent and child, emphasizing a healthy relationship. It places value on the child’s perspective, needs, and creativity, nurturing their self-esteem and empowering them to make positive life choices.
However, Dr. Shairi Turner, Chief Health Officer at Crisis Text Line, notes that every parent possesses unique resources, needs, and strengths, which influence their parenting style. For instance, an emotional connection with your children might come naturally, while setting firm boundaries may pose a challenge. Alternatively, maintaining routines and structure at home might be your forte, but adapting to changing plans could be tricky.
Adapting to your parenting style can be challenging, especially if your upbringing followed an authoritarian model. This leaves you without examples of alternative parenting approaches, explains Rausch.
Here are some helpful tips.
- Identify Your Style: Evaluate whether your parenting approach aligns with your child’s well-being and development. This self-reflection can guide you toward the parent you aspire to become.
- Seek Support: Numerous online groups, books, and resources can enlighten you about authoritative parenting and how to embrace it. You might find solace and solutions by joining social media groups dedicated to authoritative parenting, often called “gentle parenting.”
- Consult a Professional: Family therapists or professional counselors can help you explore more effective parenting strategies. They can also provide insights into your upbringing and equip you with healthy coping mechanisms for improved emotional regulation.
- Grant Yourself Grace: Transitioning to a different parenting style requires time and practice. Acknowledge your efforts, and apologize if you revert to old habits.
Your interactions with your children impact their development and well-being. Your parenting style can influence your brain development, mental health, and social-emotional skills.
According to experts, authoritative parenting is the most effective approach for child development, mental health, academic achievement, and professional development.
An alternative approach to authoritarian parenting emphasizes strict obedience and little flexibility or discussion. It encourages parents and children to work together to solve problems.
Sometimes, you may need to adjust some aspects of your parenting to meet the needs of your child. Turner says adopting authoritative practices can help your child develop self-confidence, problem-solving skills, and independence.