What is authoritative parenting?

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What is authoritative parenting?

Not to be confused with authoritarian parenting, authoritative parenting involves a balanced approach to guidance and child-raising. In practice, this means that authoritative parents aren’t staunch disciplinarians or casual BFFs to their children.

Instead, they're mentors and guides to the family, who bring focus, fairness and consistency to the parent-child relationship. Although authoritative parenting may not be easy to maintain 24/7, there are positives that come with this school of thought.

What are the hallmarks of authoritative parenting?

According to Bright Horizons, there are seven main features of authoritative parenting:

  1. Parents have high expectations for how their child will behave and develop.
  2. The child is seen as capable of growth and development through experimentation and error. In other words, mistakes are seen as opportunities to learn.
  3. Parents set fair and consistent rules and consequences that encourage their child’s critical thinking and self-control.
  4. In the spirit of consistency, parents follow-through in a structured and predictable manner.
  5. Parents are highly involved with their child by being there, showing care and reasoning while being engaged.
  6. Parenting styles provide lots of emotional support and nurturing, focusing on the child's self-esteem.
  7. Parents see themselves as a guide and a leader, not a boss or a bestie.

Why is authoritative parenting a good idea?

With this parenting style, the child is given opportunities and structure to discover and develop their sense of self, safe in the knowledge that:

  • They will be heard: authoritative parents make it clear that they trust, respect and listen to their child, and have a real interest in their thoughts, feelings and experiences.
  • They will be guided: authoritative parents set consistent boundaries and consequences to help their child grow, make decisions and know that they are loved.
  • They will be kept safe: authoritative parents set limits for their children to keep them out of harm's way until the child has developed their self-regulation skills.

Authoritative parenting emphasises the capability of the child and, according to several studies, it works well for children who are happy and confident – enabling them to take responsibility for their actions have fewer behavioural problems and a better well-being.

How should you approach authoritative parenting?

Bright Horizons describes authoritative parenting as 'the most difficult parenting style to put into practice because it requires a high level of mindfulness and intention' – even when the going gets tough.

Forewarned is forearmed, though, so they recommend that you approach authoritative parenting by:

  • Being prepared: think ahead about how you'd like to respond to your child in stressful situations, and when those situations do arise, try not to make hot-headed decisions about discipline. Instead, take a moment to consider the best course of action.
  • Remaining clear and fair: think about your child's individual needs and strengths when you set expectations of them and communicate clearly.
  • Being present and involved: show a genuine interest in your child's life and engage in regular, meaningful conversation. Ask your kids open-ended questions, get to know their friends and educators, and give them opportunities to speak about their feelings, or provide space if they don’t want to. Always give meaningful and well-thought-out advice, and ask them what they think the right thing to do would be before you give an opinion.
  • Persisting: everyone has ups and downs, so remind yourself that no parent is perfect and try to find opportunities to grow, change and learn from the situation yourself.

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