Does the authoritative parenting style work? Learn more about how this parenting style equips you to discipline and lead your kids well.
In This Series:
What makes a good parent a “good parent”? Is it that their children behave perfectly? They have a perfectly structured and organized home? Or is a good parent one that has children with behavior issues that require lots of parenting?
“The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise” – Proverbs 15:31
Are you creating a culture in your home that values life-giving reproof, prayer, relationship with Christ, growth and humility to deal with all of the imperfections that spill out of us daily? It is a given that children will make poor decisions and will misbehave, and the part that involves parenting is the preparation for those moments and the response to those moments.
According to Merriam-Webster, reproof means strong rebuke of wrong behaviors.
I believe reproof that is life-giving goes well beyond just a strong rebuke. It includes loving correction and with guidance in a close relationship. It takes lots of attention and energy, and I would be the first to say that I have tried my best, but have been imperfect in my attempts at life-giving reproof for my kids.
Many moms and dads have great intentions of parenting in the authoritative style, the style reflected above. But then life hits. We are well-meaning in our parenting trying to manage the complexities of marriage, work issues, financial difficulties, and many other challenges while trying to be a present, wise, and loving guide to their children. This sounds tiring just writing it out. We often carry stress around like a backpack and have very little time for prayer and time in God’s word. As a result, we end up struggling to bring our best to invitation to parent.
What is Authoritative Parenting?
Out of the four parenting styles (authoritarian, permissive, neglectful, and authoritative), the authoritative parenting style yields the best results, not only for children but also for parents and the parent-child relationship.
In fact, researchers have discovered that authoritative parenting can lead to fewer behavioral, mental, social, and emotional issues in children, and less conflict between parents and children. Additionally, this parenting style can provide spiritual, academic, and relational benefits for kids, along with lower levels of stress for parents.
Throughout the past two decades as a family therapist, I’ve seen many parents learn how to balance affection and warmth with correction, guidance, and high but reasonable expectations. It requires a daily commitment, and it’s not easy.
5 Types of Authoritative Parents
In my work I’ve discovered five kinds of authoritative parents:
These are the parents that can do arts and crafts with their kids. They may come up with amazing charts or systems to use in their home to maintain structure, or to do fun things as a family. Out of their creative, relational connectedness, these parents can provide intentional correction and guidance for their children.
These parents love to camp, hike, exercise, etc., and do these things as a family. Out of the relational capital they’ve built over time, they can correct and guide their kids because of the trust they have established.
These parents intentionally carve out time for conversation with their kids. They make themselves available. They are attentive listeners, able to guide their kids because the children feel listened to and genuinely understood.
These moms and dads take the time to show affection through words and actions. They hug their kids off to school in the morning, or hold hands with them on walks. They’re not afraid to show healthy affection, and from that trusting relationship they can guide and correct.
These parents provide structure and intentionally plan family time. Their follow-through and structure develops the necessary safety and trust for correction and direction.
The Greatest Commandment
How do you show up in your parenting? It’s a question that can be difficult to answer. If you’re like me, you probably would start by saying that it depends. And you’d be right. Parenting depends on so much. However, we see a powerful reminder and encouragement in Matthew 22 that can propel us toward creative positive momentums in our parenting approach.
Jesus teaches us that the greatest commandment is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” The second greatest commandment? “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Both of these commandments are critical for how you raise your kids. The authoritative parenting style is built on a strong foundation of warmth and sensitivity paired with expectations and guidance driven by God’s spirit in us. I love how Jesus’ commands reveal the importance of these qualities as we invite Him to our moment-by-moment invitations with people around us.
Take your relationship with Christ as an example. The more intentionally you invest in prayer, studying the Bible, and building a strong community of believers, the more you see your relationship with the Lord deepen and the more clearly you are guided by His Spirit as you learn to love others.
The same is true of your relationship with your kids.
What Can You Do?
I love how Paul mirrors Jesus’ commandments in 1 Thessalonians 5:11. He writes, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up…” A positive, healthy foundation of encouragement and love begin in your home.
Ask yourself these questions as a good starting point:
- How am I intentionally modeling encouragement in my home? Are my words life-giving?
- In what ways do I show warmth and sensitivity to my kids? What areas can I be better?
- How do I invest in my relationship with my kids?
The First Authoritative Parent
Have you ever thought about the first parent in the history of the world?
1 John 3:1 tells us who it is. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”
God’s fatherhood began with Christ Jesus, His son. Yet, his fatherhood continues in our status as his children. When you begin to study how God views parenting, you’ll begin to notice a consistent set of traits.
Throughout scripture, God illustrates how to provide healthy boundaries for us while also maintaining appropriate amounts of discipline, love, and intentionality. He understands how to show grace and forgiveness. In his relationship with his son, he models traits of compassion, love, and gratitude.
Following God’s example as a Father can lead you to a deeper understanding of how to show similar traits to your kids. God is anything but neglectful, permissive, or authoritarian. His model for us goes beyond these parenting styles.
Is This the Best Way?
The goal for the authoritative parent is to provide a healthy balance of rules and guidance with warmth and sensitivity. Building a foundation on these traits will establish a strong foundation for your children as they grow up. The first steps to modeling secure attachment in your home begin with you.
To practice an authoritative parenting style, learn more about the 7 Traits of Effective Parenting – adaptability, respect, intentionality, love, boundaries, grace and forgiveness, and gratitude. The secure attachment these provide will help you balance warmth and sensitivity with expectations and guidance.
© 2022 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations taken from the HOLY BIBLE, ENGLISH STANDARD VERSION Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
DANNY HUERTA, PSYD, MSW, LCSW, LSSW