When it comes to parenting, everyone has a different way of going about it. What many don’t know is that there are actually set styles of parenting; each with its own name and set of standards. Most parents are using a certain style or combining different styles without even realizing it. Diana Baumrind, a developmental psychologist, defined three different parenting styles during the 1960’s, and one of them was authoritative parenting. In one word, this particular style can be described as democratic; it is centered around the child, but high expectations are also expected to be met.
What Is Authoritative Parenting?
While authoritative parents are very warm, nurturing, and responsive towards their children, they also expect high levels of independence and maturity. Rather than running to their child’s aid every time they need something, authoritative parenting suggests allowing the child to work out their problems on their own. Authoritative parenting strives to teach children to be responsible and respectful by setting clear rules and appropriately disciplining when necessary. Authoritative parenting tends to expect a lot from the child, which is why there are many who criticize it. Children are expected to be extremely mature and understand things on a level that many children do not.
When discipline is necessary, authoritative parents do not merely send the child to their room with the explanation being, “because I said so!” Because this parenting style expects children to be mature, they are treated as mature individuals in all aspects of things. Their punishment will coincide with whatever they have done wrong, and they will be given an explanation as to why they are being punished.
Many misunderstand and feel that authoritative parenting is cold and distant, but that is far from true. Children are the very center of this parenting style, and their needs are given the utmost consideration. The behavior expected is always age appropriate; the goal is not to force children to grow up faster; we all know they do that already! They are merely expected to display maturity and are taught to understand the world around them.
Authoritative parents are extremely attentive to their children’s needs, and their responses are always based on the behaviors they see in their children. Clear rules and punishments are set, but children are also taught that it is okay to make mistakes. Often, the child will be warned and forgiven if they fall short of a certain expectation. However, while forgiveness can be offered, a major part of authoritative parenting is setting the rules and then sticking to them. Too often, parents give their children rules, and then fail to follow through; this teaches your child nothing except that you don’t mean what you say.
The entire goal of authoritative parenting is to teach. Teaching children to be mature, teaching them that they are responsible for their own actions and the rewards or punishments that come from them. Also teaching independence, understanding, and the fact they if they need something, they are always able to turn to their parents and will be received with warmth and understanding.
Rather than doing everything for the child, authoritative parenting seeks to teach the child to do for themselves. Behaviors must be learned, not forced, so it makes sense that skills should be that way as well.
Why Authoritative Parenting Works
Because authoritative parenting teaches children to be so independent, children raised in this way tend to have much higher self-esteem and are much more confident in their abilities. Most parents know that wide-eyed look of pride that children get when they do something by themselves for the first time. They also crave the praise and joy that they get from you, which only makes them want to do more things on their own.
Each time the child accomplishes something new, they are rewarded. In this way, they learn to take pride in their accomplishments, and soon are able to do almost anything for themselves; within an age-appropriate manner, of course. With all of the accomplishments these children achieve and receive recognition for, it’s no wonder that studies have shown them to be happier children overall. Remember that authoritative parenting is also completely child-centered, so this also contributes to the fact that children raised in this style have very happy dispositions.
Learning to do things on their own and not having mom and dad immediately come and do things for them can often be frustrating for children at first. Learning something new is always tough; especially for children. But with love and encouragement (and the ability to resist the incredible urge to do it for them), children learn patience as well as emotional control. The constant learning process and the constant expectation to do things for themselves will teach children to remain calm and keep their emotions in control rather than lashing out in tantrums.
The independence acquired through authoritative parenting also leads children to having better social skills. Because they have learned responsibility for their actions, emotional control, and maturity, children are better able to handle themselves in social situations. Another big part of it is that children tend to learn from what they see their parents do. Authoritative parents strive to be so caring, responsive, and involved, that those characteristics are passed on to their children who then treat others in that same way.
Obviously there is no magic way of parenting that promises you the perfect child. You will not be able to be the perfect authoritative parent at all times, and your child will definitely not respond the way you want him to every time. The key with this or any parenting style is consistency and flexibility. Be consistent when it comes to your attentiveness, responses, rules, and punishments, but also realize that parenting has to be based in large part on your and your child’s personalities. Don’t force yourself to stick to one parenting style if it’s not working; try different things until you find something that you are both comfortable with; things are always better when everyone is happy.