Parents have different styles, from the permissive parent who allows pretty much any kind of behavior to the overly strict parent who lays down rules about everything. A style called authoritative parenting borrows from both the permissive and the strict versions and may have benefits for both parents and children. Children are individuals and will respond differently, but authoritative parenting seems to offer a balanced approach that works for most kids.
Support and Warmth
Authoritative parents tend toward moderation. They are supporting but not smothering; they are nurturing and responsive. An authoritative parent sets high standards, shows respect for her children and expects maturity and cooperation. Although she is very involved with her children, she doesn’t allow them to get away with bad behavior and enforces consequences when children misbehave. She enforces the rules but she is warm and encourages a verbal give-and-take, rather than just issuing an edict as a strict parent might. She is unlikely to try and control her child through shaming, harsh punishments or withdrawal of love.
Effects on Children
The authoritative style of parenting seems to result in children who are independent, self-reliant, socially accepted, academically successful and well-behaved, according to Gwen Dewar, anthropologist and founder of the website Parenting Science. Dewar says these children are also less likely to complain of depression and anxiety and less likely to use drugs or engage in delinquent behavior. The warmth of authoritarian parents offers children an opportunity to discuss their feelings and strengthen attachments with their parents. The quality of the relationship between parent and child is a key factor in authoritative parenting, according to Foundations Counseling, LLC. Authoritative parenting may also result in children who turn to their parents for advice about tough decisions rather than relying on peers.
The aspect of authoritative parenting called inductive discipline seems to help children become more helpful, empathetic, conscientious and kind to others, according to Dewar. Inductive discipline means that parents take the time to explain the rules and the reasons for them, rather than just laying down the law. Parents appeal to the child’s desire to be “grown-up” to help them accept rules, standards and boundaries, while emphasizing the effect of the child’s behavior on others in order to promote empathy. The discussions that result offer children a chance to learn about moral reasoning.
Balance is Key
No parent can be perfect all of the time, just as no child can be perfect all of the time. Authoritative parents, however, will maintain the warmth and affection of their parental relationship as well as their high standards. Even authoritative parents may occasionally slide in the direction of being autocratic or permissive. In addition, parenting styles should be modified as necessary to fit the individual child. A mature child who has repeatedly shown that he will make good decisions may be offered more freedom while a child who is impulsive may need more definitive boundaries.