In the last three weeks, we’ve talked about some popular, yet ineffective, parenting styles and the short-term and long-term consequences that these parenting styles have on developing children and even adults. We’ve learned that Authoritarian Parenting often leads to children who are fearful, anxious and aggressive. We’ve learned that Neglectful / Uninvolved Parenting may lead to developmental delays, behavioral problems and an inability to complete basic life tasks in adulthood. We’ve learned that using the opposite approach to Authoritarian Parenting, the Indulgent Parenting style, doesn’t make things any better as it results in entitled kids who don’t know how to follow the rules, develop empathy or get along with others.
We’ve learned that none of these parenting styles is recommended because there are likely more short and long-term negative consequences compared to the few positive consequences that may be associated with these styles of parenting. But this week, we’re going to learn about a fourth style of parenting that teaches children the rules of society like Authoritarian Parenting does, but without the threats of violence; this style, like Indulgent Parenting, hopes to raise happy children, but understands that children must experience discomfort sometimes in order to learn the necessary skills of life. This week, we’ll learn about the most recommended style of parenting by child development and parenting experts: Authoritative Parenting.
Authoritative parents establish clear rules, provide appropriate consequences when rules are broken, and are regularly willing to talk with children about the realistic reasons why they have established the rules that they have. These parents encourage children to be independent and make their own choices—much like indulgent parents—but they are willing to let their children experience the consequences of their choices when they make mistakes, and use those opportunities to teach life-long lessons.
Authoritative parents are warm, nurturing and supportive, yet consistent with expectations and willing to follow through with consequences when needed.
Children who are raised in this environment are likely to be happier, have age-appropriate self-control, independent, friendly and focused on achievement. Because this style of parenting is focused on a balance between allowing children to make their own choices, and providing consistent, appropriate consequences when children make the wrong choices, it results in children learning from their own actions and mistakes, and the lessons, rules and actions of their parents as well. Also, because this style of parenting emphasizes the realistic reasons for why certain rules are necessary or certain behaviors are appropriate, children are better prepared for school, relationships and life.
In summary, Authoritative Parenting is the one that is most appropriate for parents who want to raise happy children who want to learn how to function appropriately in the world. It balances the need to respect authority with the need for kids to make their own choices and learn from their mistakes. Because this style of parenting focuses on a balance between these two—instead of being on either extreme side of the spectrum like Authoritarian and Indulgent Parenting—it creates a child who knows how to learn from others and learn from herself.
As I mentioned in most of these sections, there is a high correlation that each style of parenting will result in a certain type of child, and eventually adult. While it is highly likely that certain parenting styles will have certain effects on children, it isn’t guaranteed. A child raised in an Authoritarian home can grow to be a warm, loving and caring individual. A child raised in a Neglectful/Uninvolved home can grow into a caring adult and responsible person, and in some cases can even become advanced in all domains of development. A child raised in an Indulgent home can grow to learn responsibilities despite not receiving education from parents in this area. And, even though Authoritative Parenting is expected to produce positive outcomes for children, it isn’t guaranteed. Kids raised in this type of household can develop depression, act selfishly or demonstrate negative behaviors.
Parenting style is only one factor in how children develop, and it can’t be completely blamed (or praised) for how a child ultimately turns out. With that said, it’s best to start with an Authoritative Parenting style first, and if problems develop despite your best efforts as a parent, seeking professional help for problematic behaviors may be the appropriate next step.
So now that you’ve learned about the 4 parenting styles and how they affect your child’s development, now what are you supposed to do? Sure, it’s easy to say that you’ll just be warm, sensitive and caring and give your child the answers that she needs to learn about how the world works. But that’s a little easier said than done!
To help you to develop your Authoritative Parenting plan for the future, next week, I’ll pose a few problematic scenarios that could occur for a child and respond to the problems from each of the perspectives of the four parenting styles. This will give you a chance to analyze whether you fall into one of the least recommended parenting styles and what you can do to look more like an Authoritative Parent on a daily basis!
Once again, much of the research shared in this article comes from this book by John Santrock.