What Is Authoritative Parenting?

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Authoritative parenting is a style characterized by reasonable demands and high responsiveness. While authoritative parents might have high expectations for their children, these parents also give their kids the resources and support they need to succeed. Parents who exhibit this style listen to their kids and provide love and warmth in addition to limits and fair discipline.

The authoritative parenting style is usually identified as the most effective.

Kids raised by authoritative parents have strong self-regulations skills, self-confidence, and happier attitudes.

A Brief History of Authoritative Parenting

During the 1960s, developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind described three different types of parenting styles based on her researcher with preschool-age children. One of the main parenting styles identified by Baumrind is known as the authoritative parenting style. This style of parenting is sometimes referred to as "democratic" and involves a child-centric approach in which parents hold high expectations for their children.

Characteristics of the Authoritative Parenting Style

Authoritative parents:

  • Listen to their children
  • Encourage independence
  • Place limits, consequences, and expectations on their children's behavior
  • Express warmth and nurturance
  • Allow children to express opinions
  • Encourage children to discuss options
  • Administer fair and consistent discipline 

    People with authoritative parenting styles want their children to utilize reasoning and work independently, but they also have high expectations for their children. When children break the rules, they are disciplined in a fair and consistent manner.

    Authoritative parents are also flexible. If there are extenuating circumstances, they will allow the child to explain what happened and adjust their response accordingly.

    They offer consistent discipline, but in a way that is fair and takes into account all of the variables including the child’s behavior and the situation.

    The Effects of the Authoritative Parenting Style

    Child development experts generally identify the authoritative parenting style as the "best" approach to parenting. Children raised by authoritative parents tend to be more capable, happy, and successful.

    According to Baumrind, children of authoritative parents:

    • Tend to have a happier dispositions
    • Have good emotional control and regulation
    • Develop good social skills
    • Are self-confident about their abilities to learn new skills  

    Understanding Why Authoritative Parenting Works

    Because authoritative parents act as role models and exhibit the same behaviors they expect from their children, kids are more likely to internalize these behaviors. Consistent rules and discipline allow children to know what to expect.

    Because parents exhibit good emotional understanding and control, children also learn to manage their emotions and learn to understand others as well.

    Authoritative parents also allow children to act independently, which teaches kids that they are capable of accomplishing things on their own, helping to foster strong self-esteem and self-confidence.

    This can be contrasted with the authoritarian parenting style, which is characterized by exceedingly high expectations with little warmth and guidance. For example, imagine a situation where a two young boys steal a candy from the grocery store. One boy has authoritative parents, so when he finally arrives home he receives a fair punishment that fits the nature of the transgression. He is grounded for two weeks and must return the candy and apologize to the store owner. His parents talk to him about why stealing is wrong, but are supportive and encourage him not to engage in such behavior again.

    The other boy has authoritarian parents, so when he arrives home, he is yelled at by both parents. His father spanks him and orders him to spend the rest of the night in his room without dinner. The child’s parents offer little support or love and no feedback or guidance about why the theft was wrong.


    Baumrind, D. (1967). Child care practices anteceding three patterns of preschool behavior. Genetic Psychology Monographs, 75(1), 43-88.

    Maccoby, E.E. (1992). The role of parents in the socialization of children: An historical overview. Developmental Psychology, 28, 1006-1017.

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