Why Being an Authoritative Parent Is the Best Approach

authoritative parenting - mother talking to daughter

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What kind of parent are you? Which would you say best describes your parenting style—someone who is demanding and controlling; someone who is warm and responsive; or someone who indulges their kids and rarely disciplines? As in the case of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, one of these approaches is "just right" when compared to the the others.

Types of Parenting Styles 

In the 1960s, psychologist Diana Baumrind wrote a groundbreaking paper based upon her research in which she detailed three types of parenting styles she observed: authoritarian, permissive, and authoritative parenting.

Authoritarian Parenting

Parents who fall under this classification of parenting style are known for being strict and tend to demand absolute obedience from their children, no ifs, ands, or buts. Parents who practice authoritarian parenting do not believe they need to explain any of the rules they set and they expect children to obey, no questions asked.

They exert their will over their children and punish them with little warmth or support. Children of authoritarian parents often exhibit low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and fear as well as difficulty in some social situations.

Permissive Parenting

Parents who practice permissive parenting don't discipline or impose rules; they don't want to have any conflict with their children believe kids should regulate themselves. They are warm and emotionally responsive to their children, which is good; but they are reluctant to set boundaries or control their kids' behavior, which really isn't. They give in to their kids' demands and ignore misbehavior, which can have negative consequences for kids.

Research has shown that children who are raised by permissive parents are impulsive, disregard rules and limits, tend to have escalating levels of aggression and a higher risk of alcohol abuse as they get older. (It makes sense when considering that these children are not really given limits—this is why most kids will benefit from some form of boundaries and rules.)

Authoritative Parenting

This style of parenting is the "not too hot, not too cold" porridge of the parenting styles. It has elements of authoritarian parenting (parents set rules and limits, enforce rules, and give kids consequences when they do not follow them) but authoritative parents are emotionally responsive and warm and listen and communicate with their children.

Authoritative parents give kids respect and listen (and expect kids to do the same) and encourage kids to be independent thinkers, but they do not give in to kids and expect cooperation and good behavior. When kids do something wrong, authoritative parents will discipline by talking with them about it, guiding and teaching their kids while modifying their expectations depending on the situation and a child's individual needs.

The authoritative approach to parenting has been shown to lead to the best outcomes in kids, including better emotional health, social skills, more resiliency, and more secure attachments with their parents.

Uninvolved Parenting

This fourth style, identified by researchers Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin in the early 1980s, describes a method of parenting in which there is little communication, lack of involvement in their kids' lives, little warmth and responsiveness to kids' emotional needs, and inadequate or insufficient attention to disciplining kids or supervising them. Uninvolved (or neglected) parenting is often associated with the worst outcomes for children.

Kids who are raised with this style of parenting tend to be emotionally withdrawn, anxious and may be at greater risk for delinquent and dangerous behaviors as well as substance abuse.

Benefits of Authoritative Parenting

Out of all the parenting styles, children who are raised with an authoritative style of parenting have been shown to exhibit the best outcomes. Some of the many benefits of this approach for kids include the following:

  • They are more empathetic, kind, and warm.
  • They may be more resistant to peer pressure.
  • They become more responsible, are able to regulate themselves, and learn to make good decisions on their own.
  • They have respect for adults, other people, and rules.
  • They tend to have fewer social problems with peers, get along with teachers, and be more socially accepted at school.
  • They tend to have secure attachments and better relationships with their parents.
  • They're not anxious or worried about who's in charge because they know who is making decisions to make sure they are healthy and happy: the parents.
9 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Baumrind D. Effects of authoritative control on child behavior. Child Development. 1966;37(4):887-907. doi:10.2307/1126611

  2. Hosokawa R, Katsura T. Role of Parenting Style in Children's Behavioral Problems through the Transition from Preschool to Elementary School According to Gender in Japan. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018;16(1). doi:10.3390/ijerph16010021

  3. Howenstein J, Kumar A, Casamassimo PS, Mctigue D, Coury D, Yin H. Correlating parenting styles with child behavior and caries. Pediatr Dent. 2015;37(1):59-64.

  4. Ehrenreich SE, Beron KJ, Brinkley DY, Underwood MK. Family predictors of continuity and change in social and physical aggression from ages 9 to 18. Aggress Behav. 2014;40(5):421-39. doi:10.1002/ab.21535

  5. Glozah FN. Exploring the Role of Self-Esteem and Parenting Patterns on Alcohol Use and Abuse Among Adolescents. Health Psychol Res. 2014;2(3):1898. doi:10.4081/hpr.2014.1898

  6. Kuppens S, Ceulemans E. Parenting Styles: A Closer Look at a Well-Known Concept. J Child Fam Stud. 2019;28(1):168-181. doi:10.1007/s10826-018-1242-x

  7. Hong YR, Park JS. Impact of attachment, temperament and parenting on human development. Korean J Pediatr. 2012;55(12):449-54. doi:10.3345/kjp.2012.55.12.449

  8. Berge J, Sundell K, Öjehagen A, Håkansson A. Role of parenting styles in adolescent substance use: results from a Swedish longitudinal cohort study. BMJ Open. 2016;6(1):e008979. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2015-008979

  9. American College of Pediatrics. Authoritative Parenting.

Additional Reading

By Katherine Lee
Katherine Lee is a parenting writer and a former editor at Parenting and Working Mother magazines.