Authoritative Parenting Style

What's Covered


Recently, my four-year-old daughter hugged me and kissed my hand. I asked her why she did so, and she said, “Mommy, I had missed you so much, and I couldn’t go to bed without seeing you.” I kissed her forehead back and assured her that “you will always be in mind, irrespective of the distance.”  Does this make me a good or a bad parent? Parenting entails fulfilling your children’s needs through parental support and warmth offered through authoritative parenting[1].  

What Is Authoritative Parenting?

Authoritative parenting involves providing love, support, autonomy, and clear guidelines to ensure effective child development.  Authoritative parents set clear rules and standards that create boundaries between meeting children’s needs and creating a fear-free environment. The rules enable children to make rational decisions, empower children to express their feelings and thoughts, and solve problems amicably.  However, every child is different, and it is your role as a parent to pay attention to your child’s needs, be supportive and ensure your expectations are met.  How do you know you are an authoritative parent?

How Does Authoritative Parenting Look Like?

1.      Focus on Empowering Children Instead of Instilling Fear

We often think that yelling, scolding, or punishing a child will make him or her obedient and disciplined. The fact is that these acclaimed discipline methods intimidate our children, lower their self-esteem, and shape them into cowards. Children develop their sense of self by internalizing their parents’ or caregivers’ expressions, voice, tone, and body language. 

Parenting behaviors to raise a child’s self-esteem

  • Use appropriate style to condemn lousy behavior. Using fair punishments and reinforcing behavior change improves your child’s self-confidence.
  • Encourage children to accept their mistakes and avoid them. Instead of scolding a child for their mistakes, encouraging them to take responsibility for them enhances their ability to overcome failure.
  • Lead by example. You should possess good virtues to teach your children about morality. Role-modeling good behavior influences children to imitate your character and lead a life like or better than yours[2]. An authoritative parent acknowledges that making mistakes is normal, and children need to learn from them. No one is perfect, neither you nor your children.   You also make mistakes daily. Instead of punishing your child, you can nurture, forgive, and motivate them to do what is expected of them in the future.  Empower your children to be kind, friendly, and honest by portraying these behaviors in your life. Your child emulates what they see you doing.  Children internalize the values you espouse and use them to shape their behavior.  If you slap or lash out at your children, they grow up knowing that lashing out is acceptable when they get angry. I cannot be violent and expect my child to be peaceful. Children emulate what they see us doing. So, you should portray the kind of behavior you want to see in your child.
  • Acknowledging a child’s small wins and allowing them to work on their behavior independently. Offer compliments whenever possible. Avoid belittling statements such as “You are stupid” or “you are a failure” because they damage your child’s self-esteem. An authoritative parent chooses his or her words carefully to avoid hurting their children’s feelings.  These parents use statements such as “You can do it, child” or “You are the best” to empower their kids and make them feel appreciated and loved. So, be the person to live the talk, raise your child’s self-esteem, role-model good behaviors and a positive attitude, and your child will be empowered to uphold good morals.

2.      Clear Expectations and Responsiveness to Children’s Needs

Children are required to obey and respect their parents. We tend to use this logic to set standards that children are expected to follow. You have the power to ensure children follow all your rules. However, authoritative parents do not just set rules and expectations, but they set clear standards and understand their children’s needs in regard to fulfilling those expectations[3].

How to Set Clear Expectations

  • Understand your children’s needs. You should identify gaps in your child’s upbringing and set goals that would fill these gaps. You know what is expected from your children and communicate it promptly.  
  • Consider your child’s abilities. Align your expectations to your children’s abilities. Children should fulfill these expectations optimally based on their abilities. Don’t give more than what they can consume.  In case of any challenges, you offer guidance and support. In turn, children comply with parental rules and standards and seek clarification about them to avoid frustrations and unmet goals.
  • Respond to children’s needs. Authoritative parents respond promptly to children’s needs, such as psychological well-being, self-esteem, competence, and self-control. You should consider the effect of your expectations on these needs and offer needed warmth, support, and love. 
  • Communicate effectively. Prioritize communication when setting expectations. Kids can’t comply with everything simply because, as a parent, you said so. Children deserve clear and realistic expectations. Take your time to explain your goals, as well as the values and benefits derived from these goals. Involve your children in goal setting, and allow them to explain their perspective. The rules you set for your children determine the rules they will apply in their life in the future.

Why children fail to comply with set expectations

  • Extremely high expectations. Do you give your child more rules than their ability? In most cases, parents set too high expectations that children become overwhelmed to the extent of developing mental diseases. Before expecting your child to meet your expectations, first think through them. Do they make sense? Are they capable of fulfilling them? For example, asking your child to” close your eyes and read.” This expectation is impossible to be met because you cannot read while closing your eyes.  Don’t give hypocritical rules. Yes, don’t expect your child to behave in a certain way, yet you can’t do so yourself. You can read this book by Sorsa to know how to set expectations for your children.
Parenting: Values, Goals, and How to Motivate Your Child
The best book to know how to set sensible expectations and how to motivate your child to follow them
  • Reluctance.  Your child fails to follow set rules because you give them many non-compliance chances. You are also reluctant to enforce what you say and expect from them.  Enforce compliance from the moment you set the rules. Allowing your child not to comply with the rules the first time teaches them that they still have chances left before they comply. These chances send a negative message. Right? Give clear expectations and explain the consequences of failing to follow them.  Mean what you say, and your children will know that you mean it when you say something. An authoritative parent is strict to ensure the goals are met and also flexible to accommodate failures.  Administer fair punishment for non-compliance.  Also, be flexible in case of challenges. Explain them, express your thoughts, and incorporate children’s perspectives in finding the best solution. 
  • Lack of tracking tools.  What do you use to outline or track rules? Word of mouth, notes, or gossip. You often use word of mouth to give instructions and assess whether they were met. Spoken words are not useful in tracking your child’s behavior. Children often lie mostly when they realize you are too busy to follow-up their behavior. Lack of tracking tools leads to unmet expectations. It would be best to create a chart for your children’s daily routines, rules, and expected behavior. The chart should also detail the consequences of failing to comply. Children get a tick or a five star for following rules.  A book by Suzanne Gelb helps you know how to keep track of your children’s behavior.  
    It Starts With You: How To Raise Happy, Successful Kids By Becoming The Best Role Model You Can Possibly Be-A Guidebook For Parents
    The book provides you with charts to keep your children organized and track compliance to expected behaviors

3.      Autonomy and Supervised Routines

Every parent desires to raise independent, successful, and self-sufficient children. Autonomy refers to the ability to act independently.  A child’s desire for independence begins when they are 18months old, although they still depend on their caregivers to develop the confidence to influence activities[4]. A child’s independence raises their confidence and self-esteem.Cultivating the culture of independence during early childhood enhances a child’s ability to become independent in the future[5]. Allow your children to freely exercise their passion, hobbies, or talent and exercise responsibility for their decisions. Children deserve a sense of autonomy to make life decisions. We often feel incapable of providing our children with independence because they will disobey or disrespect us.  You are mistaken when you deny your child the chance and space to manipulate their environment. Irrespective of how emotional or sad it is to see your child not depending on you anymore, they need to succeed independently.  It is essential to encourage independence.

Importance of Enhancing Children’s Autonomy

  • It promotes self–control.  Although it is irrational to grant children total control over their life, autonomy is essential to help them exercise ownership over various aspects to bolster their confidence.
  • It enhances self-esteem and a sense of belonging. Allowing children the freedom to make their own decisions makes them feel appreciated, raising their self-worth.  Making independent decisions creates a sense of pride and confidence, leading to enhanced self-esteem. Autonomy allows children to contribute to societal well-being and the world around them actively.
  • It encourages sociability. Human relationships are founded on social interactions. Your child needs social skills to interact with peers at school and other people in their social environment. Autonomy enhances a child’s social skills, enabling them to be aware of their self needs and be sensitive to other people. These children learn to coexist peacefully with other people within their environment.
  • It improves parental trust. Providing your child autonomy reflects your confidence in the child’s ability to lead an independent life. Make your children understand that you can no longer take responsibility for all their life aspects, but you can offer relevant support. You provide freedom based on your child’s age.

How to Foster Autonomy

  1. You foster your children’s autonomy by creating opportunities for them to exercise independence. You see that opportunity for a room makeover; it promotes a child’s independent thinking. For example, if your child enjoys reading from their bedroom’s comfort, place study tables in their room for easy accessibility. Allow your child to organize the books and the room according to their preference. As frustrating as it is, you should allow your children to study anywhere in the bedroom as long as they are comfortable.
  2. You also enhance autonomy by developing a child’s positive coping skills. Children respond to different situations differently. You identify your child’s feelings to understand their coping mechanisms. It is critical to know when to support your child and let them experiment with different situations.  Normalize your child’s emotions and let them understand that challenges are part of life. Let them know that their feelings are normal and part of growth. Validate your child’s emotions and assure them that they can openly express their strong feelings, thereby exercising effective emotional regulation. Allow your child to cry when stressed or sleep when angry. It will help them overcome negative feelings. Suppressing negative emotions can lead to mental disorders or suicidal thoughts.
  3. Also, promote independence by allowing your children to face challenges independently. We parents tend to intervene in every challenge our children face and provide them with a way out. We should always encourage them to think beyond what they see and create their solutions.  This does not mean that we neglect them, but we should offer them suggestions about possible solutions and think independently about the most suitable solution. It would be best to show them that failure and challenges are part of life, and recovering or overcoming past failures is vital to future success.  The authority to think independently produces perseverance, resilience, and confidence to perform challenging tasks.  Autonomy serves as a time to explore new environments, cope with challenging situations, overcome fear, and create solutions.
The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives
An insightful book on various strategies and importance of promoting autonomy in children

4.      Affectionate and Nurturing

Ever wondered what prompts you to sacrifice for your children’s sake? It is because you have a deep affection towards your children.  Research shows that children require love and nurturing for security and comfort[6]. Children need to feel loved, appreciated and cared for to experience effective cognitive and physical development. Healthy child-parent relationships are founded on parental affection and nurturing environment. Parents generally show affection through hugging, holding hands, and hair stroking. Your touch communicates positivity to your children.

Ways of Expressing Affection

  • Physical touch: Touching your child’s cheeks, parting their back, and stroking their hair conveys positive feelings. You can use a brief tickle to evoke positive emotions in your child. Use special handshakes to congratulate them on their outstanding performance at school. Create opportunities for physical bonding with your child.
  • Facial expressions: Facial expressions such as smiling send positive feelings and enable children to appreciate parental affection. Smiling assures your child all is well, allowing them to confide in you.  
  • Rewards. Gifts, whether small or big, have significant value to children. Receiving a gift from a parent, caregiver, or sibling makes children feel good. Simple gifts such as a bar of chocolate show immeasurable love to a child. Use gifts to communicate your love. Reward your child for following your rules or completing chores.
  • Parental presence: Don’t be an absent parent. Please get involved in your child’s activities to show how close you are and ready to associate with them.  Avail yourself during dinner and put them to bed during your off days.
  • Spoken words. Nurture your child verbally by uttering unconditional love statements such as “I love you, my child.”  You can also complement or praise good behaviors through simple words such as “Well done” or “You are smart.” 
  • Fair punishment. Authoritative parents express affection to their children through proper punishment and praises. For example, a child steals another child’s book and carries it home. It would be best if you punish the child somewhat by, for instance, denying her playtime, which is fair according to the misconduct committed. You should also encourage the child to return the book to the owner and apologize. You should also discuss the effects of stealing, guide her on how to handle the situation in the future, and teach the importance of good morals.
  • Avoiding blames and criticism. Blame and criticism lower a child’s self-esteem.  It would be best if you learned to nurture and motivate your children even when they are at fault. You especially show affection to your adolescents by being available when they need someone to talk to or share their feelings.  Adolescents need undivided attention, and neglect at this stage could lead to despair. Take your time to play their favorite game, watch movies, and meet their friends. Create memories with your children through little things such as baking birthday cakes, and they will ultimately feel safe and secure to have you. Authoritative parents create safe havens for their children.

Importance of Affection

  1. It promotes social and emotional development. Your affection provides children with psychological well-being. Being present for them relieves them from the stress of having an absent parent.  Affection also equips children with the social skills needed to maintain healthy social interactions.
  2. It promotes healthy relationships. Children can build relationships with their siblings and other people within their environment. They can express their love to others and spread it to orphans and other neglected populations in society.
  3. Models positive behavior. Affectionate parents teach their children how to reciprocate their affection without hurting others. They learn to use kind words and gestures when communicating with others.

Express your affection to your child uniquely by reading these books;

I Love That You Are My Mom
The perfect book on how to express love and affection to your children. It will help you mend your broken relationships with your children and loved ones
Three Squeezes
A detailed book about other ways of strengthening parent-child relationships apart from spoken words. It reminds you about powerful ways of expressing your limitless love to your child

Why Is Authoritative Parenting Important for You and Your Child?

1.      Promotes Autonomy and Self-Esteem

Setting clear expectations raises your child’s self-confidence.  Acknowledging and appreciating your children’s small wins builds their confidence to do things independently.  Use compliments, praises, and self-fulfilling statements to understand your child and recognize their efforts even when they fail to accomplish set goals. Encourage children to try out challenging tasks alone and offer guidance and support when needed enhances their belief in their talents, hobbies, and power to create solutions. Research shows that authoritative parents grant their adolescents the autonomy required to explore new opportunities and activities independently[7].  Freedom makes sense of responsibility and children are less likely to engage in immoral. They know when to say No or Yes, in different situations.

2.      Improves Parent-Child Bond and Sociability

Effective parenting is a two-way relationship.  Children learn to follow the rules while parents learn to respect their children’s opinions and make decisions.  Parents ensure that children understand set expectations to avoid frustrations and unmet goals.  The two-way relationship enhances the parent-child relationship, encouraging open dialogue and friendly relationships[8]. The children feel free to share anything with you, including their academic challenges, trust issues at home, and sexuality matters. Develop open platforms for children to express their feelings, fears, and choices. A secure parent-child relationship ensures healthy relationships with parents and other siblings and friends.

3.      Enhanced Emotional Regulation Skills      

Emotional regulation is a learned skill that involves controlling emotional intensity when responding to different situations. Train your children to regulate emotions for adequate adherence to set expectations and goals.  Also, teach your children when and how to elicit different emotions. Children also learn emotional regulation skills, such as empathy when interacting with others. The warmth and affectionate environment in authoritative parenting enhance social skills development and lively dispositions.  This environment helps children to resist distractions and persist in undertaking challenging tasks. Children learn to manage emotions and become productive members of society. For example, emotional regulation in childhood enables children to resist the urge to lash out or throwing tantrums when denied privileges. These children learn how to make compromises with their parents for their desires to be fulfilled.

4.      Improves Mental Health

Authoritative parenting also improves your mental health, leading to positive effects on children’s self-regulation. Parents who can raise independent and successful children are less likely to suffer from toxic stress than parents with dependent and unsuccessful children[9]. Toxic stress impacts parents’ ability to regulate their emotions and respond to children’s needs.  Children are likely to imitate these poor emotional regulation skills when responding to challenging situations.  Parents need to create conducive environments for facilitating emotional regulation.

5.      Promotes Good Morals

Every parent desires to raise well-behaved children. This character is developed through authoritative parenting, whereby parents create a positive emotional climate and employ techniques such as praises and affirmations to reinforce positive behaviors. Authoritative parenting is founded on rules and standards that children are expected to follow. Failing to adhere to these rules attracts punishment depending on the intensity of the offense committed. Children are thus likely to stick to set standards and uphold good morals to fear being punished.

Authoritative Parenting Strategies You Need to Raise Your Children

  1. Respect your child’s perspective. Learn to listen to your child’s point of view before making decisions. You can listen to their perspective and use affirmations such as “I know what is good for you, my child” go show your appreciation of your children’s views.
  2. Don’t be too strict or too lenient. Authoritative parents are firm to ensure adherence to set rules and regulations. You should set strict rules according to your children’s capability. Avoid setting high expectations may overwhelm your children and hinder them from attaining the set goals. It would be best if you also learned to explain your rationale behind every rule, its values, and consequences to the children. It would be best if you also remained flexible to accommodate challenges and failures that may arise along the way. Challenges are part of every process, and you should, therefore, be open to offering support and guidance to your children. Be ready to show them the way.
  3. Foster independence and individuality. Give your children the freedom to work on some tasks alone. Avoid being readily available to help them solve challenging tasks or give quick answers. Allow your children to think beyond the two covers of a book or for corners of a house to promote independent thinking. You should only offer them shallow suggestions and allow them to think critically through the available options.
  4. Use praises and affirmations to reinforce good morals. Always use positive statements such as “Thank you for the good work” to motivate children to continue doing good work even when they fail to meet the expected standards. Learn to encourage your children through rewards such as gifts to acknowledge their efforts.  You should also suggest areas of improvement and offer relevant guidance and support. For example, you can provide the study materials needed for improved academic grades.
  5. Supervise your child’s routine. You should supervise your child’s daily routines to know the kind of behaviors they engage in and the kind of friends within their social circle. It would help if you exercised parental control whenever possible, based on your child’s age. For example, you can control the amount of time spent on video games to ensure your child has a night of adequate sleep.  You can also get involved in their daily life and discuss the challenges they face in everyday life. Particularly, teenagers need a lot of attention, and you can discuss sexuality and physical changes during adolescence.
  6. Equip your child with emotional regulation and coping skills.  Emotional regulation is a learned skill, and you should teach your child how to regulate feelings such as anger, sadness, and anxiety. Help your children resist or inhibit emotions that could harm them or other people. For instance, you teach them the importance of taking a deep breath when angry to relieve anger. You can also dance or take them for a walk in a serene environment. It would be best if you also educated them on the coping skills needed to overcome challenging situations.
  7. Be Affectionate and create a secure haven for your children. You should express your love to your children through laughter, voice tones, endearment statements, and physical contact. You can always hug your children after they get home from school and offer them a special handshake to congratulate them on their excellent performance at school. Also, be playful with your children as they get older to encourage them to share their feelings or seek advice from you.  
Authoritative Parenting: Synthesizing Nurturance and Discipline for Optimal Child Development
A book that will help you know the effectiveness of authoritative parenting on your child

Concluding Thoughts

You are not a bad parent if you do not follow the authoritative parenting style. Authoritative parenting is the best style to raise independent, successful, and well-behaved children. Remember that one size does not fit all. Ensure your parenting style is enabling your child to succeed. Overcome the guilt in your parenting path by adapting your parenting skills to your children’s needs through different development stages.

[1] Doinita, Nanu Elena, and Nijloveanu Dorina Maria. “Attachment and parenting styles.” Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences 203 (2015): 199-204.

[2] Moghaddam, Mahboubeh Firouzkouhi, et al. “Child self-esteem and different parenting styles of mothers: a cross-sectional study.” Archives of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy 19.1 (2017): 37-42.

[3] Kuppens, Sofie, and Eva Ceulemans. “Parenting styles: A closer look at a well-known concept.” Journal of child and family studies 28.1 (2019): 168-181.

[4] Erskine, Richard G. “Child development in integrative psychotherapy: Erik Erikson’s first three stages.” International Journal of Integrative Psychotherapy 10 (2019): 11-34.

[5] Safitri, Meilita Eka, Muhammad Saleh, and Karyono Ibnu Ahmad. “Development Of Child Independence Through Model Picture and Picture, Examples Non Examples Model and Practical Method Directly Activities of Learning Practical Life In Group B Kasih Ibu Kindergarten, Banjarmasin, Indonesia.” European Journal of Education Studies (2018).

[6] Hoffman, Kent, Glen Cooper, and Bert Powell. Raising a secure child: how circle of security parenting can help you nurture your child’s attachment, emotional resilience, and freedom to explore. Guilford Publications, 2017.

[7] Bi, Xinwen, et al. “Parenting styles and parent–adolescent relationships: The mediating roles of behavioral autonomy and parental authority.” Frontiers in psychology 9 (2018): 2187.

[8] Herwijnen, Ineke R. van, et al. “The existence of parenting styles in the owner-dog relationship.” PloS one 13.2 (2018): e0193471.

[9] Bahrami, Bita, et al. “Parenting style and emotion regulation in mothers of preschool children.” Practice in clinical psychology 6.1 (2018): 3-8.

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Vivian Perry

Vivian Perry

Mother of 3 kids. Enjoy reading parenting books and studied child care degree. Vivian loves to learn and write about parenting tips and help her kids to grow positively with grit mindset.