Authoritative Parenting Is Considered the Gold Standard in Child-Rearing – Experts Explain Why

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There are plenty of parenting styles out there, and the right one for you ultimately depends on your personal preferences and your family. But there’s one style that’s consistently praised for its approachability and the behaviors it helps instill: authoritative parenting.

At its core, authoritative parenting involves listening to kids while still requiring that they follow rules set by their parents. The concept of authoritative parenting has been around for decades, and even the American Psychological Association (APA) gives it props, noting that “children raised with this style tend to be friendly, energetic, cheerful, self-reliant, self-controlled, curious, cooperative and achievement-oriented.”

So, what does authoritative parenting involve and are there any drawbacks to the approach? Below, experts break it down.

What Is Authoritative Parenting?

Authoritative parenting is a mix of gentleness and firmness, with parents being nurturing, responsive, and supportive, but with clear limits and rules set for kids, the APA explains. “Authoritative parenting is where there is a high concern for the child, but the parent is trying to direct control,” says Robert Keder, MD, a pediatrician who specializes in developmental behavior at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.

With authoritative parenting, parents try to shape a child’s behavior by thoroughly explaining and discussing rules and boundaries in place, says Mayra Mendez, PhD, LMFT, a licensed psychotherapist at Providence Saint John’s Child and Family Development Center in Santa Monica, CA. “It allows for teaching, education, implementation of rules, and understanding why rules exist and why we have to be governed by them,” she explains. “These parents teach the guidelines of the world to the child, but also listen to the child.”

Dr. Mendez says authoritative parenting hinges on communication, without parents losing their sense of authority. “There can be a lot of respect rendered to the child as well, especially as they get older,” she says.

What Does Authoritative Parenting Look Like?

Dr. Keder refers to authoritative parenting as the “Danny Tanner style of parenting,” referencing the “Full House” patriarch. Authoritative parents will help kids who are facing a challenge by saying something like, “I know this is hard and you can do better. Let me give you a hug and a kiss, and let’s work on this,” he says.

“Authoritative parents hold children to high expectations, but are reasonable about it,” Dr. Keder says. “They’re not giving demands that are way outside the child’s skill set.”

Authoritative parents will also allow their kids some freedoms, like spending the night at a friend’s house, but reiterate the rules in advance and make it clear that the child is expected to behave a certain way, Dr. Keder adds. “It’s the sweet spot of where you’re negotiating your needs and the child’s needs to help them prepare for things,” Dr. Keder says. This parenting style isn’t free-range, where kids have a lot of freedom, or authoritarian, where parents are rigid and lay down tough rules – it’s somewhere in the middle.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Authoritative Parenting

Authoritative parenting has a lot of positive features, Dr. Mendez says. “Parents can demonstrate a sense of flexibility and, with that comes a sense of mutual respect,” she says, adding that the parenting style conveys,”This is a young person growing up who still needs guidance, but we respect each other.”

Authoritative parenting also encourages parents to speak on a child’s level when discussing important topics, so that they understand the rationale behind decisions, Dr. Mendez says. This style also makes expectations clear to children. “Rules are not random,” she says. “There are no secrets and you don’t deliver rules to the child out of nowhere.”

Dr. Keder also praises this parenting style for being sympathetic to where kids are at in life, while still holding them accountable for their actions. “If you have a school-aged kid who is lying or caving to peer pressure, authoritative parenting is going to acknowledge that peer pressure sucks, but we still need to make smart choices,” he says. “It’s acknowledging that none of this is easy, but it’s important to do the right thing.”

But authoritative parenting isn’t perfect. Dr. Mendez stresses the need for parents to be consistent in order for this style to be effective. “Many parents falter on that,” she says. “If you’re going to change your mind about something, there needs to be a mutual understanding on how we arrived at that.” Meaning, telling your child that they can’t watch TV on school nights, only to allow it sometimes with no explanation of why can create confusion about rules.

Overall, Dr. Keder says that authoritative parenting is the “ideal approach” to raising kids – when it’s done correctly. “This requires a lot of work and effort,” he says. “But it’s encouraging parents to parent to the best of their abilities.”

Related: Parenting Without Diapers: Elimination Communication Explained

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