You know what they say: Raising a kid doesn’t come with instructions. Fortunately, there are a few helpful tools at your disposal, including a tried-and-true parenting technique called “authoritative parenting.” Here’s what you need to know.
What is it? Coined by developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind in the 1960s, authoritative parenting is a style of child-rearing characterized by setting high expectations for your kids but giving them the resources and emotional support they need to succeed. It’s considered to be the happy medium between authoritarian parenting (where the focus is on obedience and punishment) and permissive parenting (a style with a lot of warmth but few rules). In other words? It’s all about balance. Experts agree that authoritative parenting leads to happier and healthier children who are well-equipped to handle future challenges.
How do I do it? Authoritative parents are warm and nurturing, making sure to listen to children and validate their feelings. But they also let them know that there are consequences for bad behavior and consistently enforce these boundaries. Unlike authoritarian parents, however, they don’t expect their kids to obey blindly—they take the time to explain why and work with their child to turn mistakes into learning opportunities. Here’s how an authoritative parent might handle their kid hitting another child.
Child: Charlie took my toy away!
You: It’s all right that you’re angry right now.
Child: I want my toy back.
You: I understand that you wanted to get your toy back. But hitting someone is not OK and when you do that, you get a time-out.
Child: I don’t want a time-out.
You: Hitting is not nice. When you hit someone, it hurts them and it could be dangerous. Can you think of something else you could do the next time someone takes your toy away instead of hitting?
Child: Get a grown-up?
You: That’s a really good idea. After your time-out, let’s think about some more things you can do when you get upset so that you don’t hit.
The important thing here is to follow through (don’t forgo the time-out just because your kid looks miserable and it was kind of Charlie’s fault) and to let your kid know that you’re here to help them learn how to navigate the conflict.
How does it work? Authoritative parenting fosters independence, teaching kids how to be responsible and make good decisions on their own. Consistent rules also help kids know what to expect, ensuring they’re not anxious or confused about who’s in charge. (That’s you, obviously.) Sure, it’s more work than authoritarian or permissive parenting, but like most things in life, the extra effort is so worth it.