Authoritative vs authoritarian parenting styles
If there is one thing that unites all parents of the world, it's the fact that at one point or the other, we will all struggle with getting a child to listen to what we are saying, follow the rules, or calm down during a tantrum. And the question we all ask ourselves is: How do we get them to cooperate? How can I better help my child through this?
Parenting styles have changed a lot over the years, and thanks to research, we now know that a parenting style focused on exerting control and high on harsh punishments, also known as authoritarian parenting, does not have the best long-term outcomes  for children. But what to do? The answer lies in a parenting style with a very similar name: Authoritative parenting.
Authoritative parenting focuses on having the right balance between boundaries and connection. Parents do not focus only on the limits, but also on being warm and nurturing to their children while setting them.
IN THIS ARTICLE:
What is authoritarian parenting?
Authoritarian parenting, just like its name suggests, focuses on parents' authority. This style of parenting is high on control and very low on connection, with parents focusing on enforcing rules, punishment, and consequences, rather than on the why behind the behavior.
In authoritarian parenting, children are expected to listen and obey without question, so phrases like “Because I said so” are very common. Parents with an authoritarian style are also more likely to use corporal punishment, which research has shown  can have negative effects on children later on.
Here is an example of authoritarian parenting in a very common scenario: A 2.5 year old is on a playdate and gets upset because another child took their toy and they proceed to hit the other child and rip the toy out of their hands. This behavior is very common and expected of a child this age, but an authoritarian parent will not focus on understanding the child’s emotion or building a skill, instead, they would focus on the punishment and say: We are leaving! You are not playing with any toys for a week.
What is authoritative parenting?
Authoritative parenting focuses on connection building and limit setting in a warm, encouraging environment . Parents who practice this style of parenting will set boundaries for their children, but they will focus on doing so in a loving way, with realistic expectations and age-appropriate tools and consequences.
When practicing authoritative parenting, parents will first focus on validating a child’s feelings and then setting a boundary with warmth and nurturing characteristics. This parenting style will also focus on connecting with the child before attempting to correct a child’s behavior.
Let's look at an example of authoritative parenting during bedtime. A 3 year old doesn’t want to stop playing with their truck to go upstairs to get ready for bed and gets upset. Their parent says, “I understand you want to play with your truck, but it is time to get ready for bed. Do you want to crawl up the stairs like an alligator or hop up the stairs like a bunny?” An authoritative parent understands that fighting at bedtime is expected behavior for their child’s age, so they will use age-appropriate tools to help their child transition from one activity to the other and motivate them to cooperate.
Key differences between authoritarian vs. authoritative parenting styles
|Authoritative parenting||Authoritarian parenting|
|Focuses on connection building & limit setting||Focuses on parents' authority|
|Uses reasoning to explain limit setting||Children are expected to obey "because I said so"|
|Warmth and nurturing||Cold and non-nurturing|
|Allows independence for the child within limit setting||May not allow independence & kids are expected not to question their parents|
Pros and cons of authoritative vs. authoritarian parenting styles
Stronger self-regulation skills and self-confidence
Better emotional skills for child development
Better disposition in social environments
Better decision-making process as adults
Increased resiliency and leadership skills
If there is too much imbalance, and a lack of limit setting, it can lead to a lack of boundaries
Results are not always immediate
Consistency is needed, which can lead to parental frustration
Good behavior , the child follows rules rapidly (short-term compliance)
Increased safety, as a child is more likely to follow rules in risky situations
Reduced self-esteem and anxiety
Increased aggressiveness  toward others
Children perceive bullying behaviors as normal
May lead to antisocial behavior as adults
Children can become rule-dependent and lack self-control
Parenting styles and child development
Your child’s development is impacted by nature (temperament and inherited traits), but also by nurture (their experiences and relationships). How you discipline and interact with your children will have an effect  on the way your child develops and interacts with the world.
Studies have shown that children with authoritarian parents experience decreased self-esteem, anxiety, and aggressive behaviors. On the other hand, studies have shown that children raised by authoritative parents have stronger social and emotional skills, as well as better overall mental health.
Authoritative vs authoritarian parenting FAQ
Q: Which parenting style is the best?
Of the 4 parenting types, experts agree that the authoritative parenting style is the one that yields better results . Children raised in authoritative environments tend to do better emotionally and in social situations long term in comparison to children who are raised under authoritarian or neglectful environments.
Q: What are the four types of parenting styles?
The four parenting styles , as defined by Diana Baumrind, a pioneer researcher in parenting styles are authoritarian, authoritative, neglectful, and permissive parenting. Authoritarian parenting focuses on discipline and control, while authoritative parenting focuses on limit setting with connection. Permissive parents focus on a lot of connections, but setting boundaries comes hard for them. Neglectful parenting is low on both connection and boundaries.
Q: Is authoritarian parenting good?
While there are some positive, short-term effects to authoritarian parenting (like good behavior), overall research shows that it is not an effective parenting style . Children raised in authoritarian environments tend to display more aggressive behaviors and rebellion during their teenage years. As adults, they tend to have trouble making decisions and inability to make their own decisions.
Q: What are some examples of authoritative parenting?
Authoritative parenting focuses on connection and limits setting with warmth. Using age-appropriate tools to increase cooperation is also a key component of this parenting style. Some examples of common parenting situations are: “I understand you do not want to leave the park, you are having fun. It is time to leave, would you like to hold my hand to walk to the car or would you rather hop on your stroller?” “I see you want a snack, but it is not time for a snack. It is my job to make sure you eat well, we will have dinner soon.”
Q: How can I be authoritative without being authoritarian?
Both authoritarian and authoritative parents set limits and boundaries for their children, the difference lies in how you do so. To be authoritative without being authoritarian, the key is to create a positive relationship with your child, where you connect and communicate expectations in a kind, age-appropriate manner. When limits are crossed or pushed, an authoritative parent will offer natural and logical consequences that help build skills, while an authoritarian parent would resort to inappropriate punishment and humiliation.
Q: What is the opposite of authoritative parenting?
Uninvolved parenting, a parenting style in which the adult provides little guidance and attention to the child, is the opposite of authoritative parenting. In this environment, parents impose very few limits and dedicate little to no time to providing warmth and direction to their children. This parenting style has proven to be the most negative  for children and adolescents.
Q: Which parenting style is most encouraged in modern America?
Authoritative parenting is currently the most encouraging parenting style in America. Research has highly ranked this parenting style as the one to have more positive outcomes, like better academic performance and social-emotional  well-being in children and adolescents. With authoritative parenting, children are more likely to be self-motivated and resilient in their adult lives.
Note: The content on this site is for informational purposes only and should not replace medical advice from your doctor, pediatrician, or medical professional. If you have questions or concerns, you should contact a medical professional.
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