Authoritative Parenting: Research-Backed Best Parenting Style

I doubt you can believe it, but we left the hospital 17 years ago, almost to the day, with our brand new baby boy and ZERO instructions for what to do when we got home. They handed us a bag filled with formula, coupons for diaper bags, a swaddling blanket, and a note to call the pediatrician in a few days. That was it. 

Full disclosure: before my son, I had never changed a diaper, swaddled a baby, or burped a kid. I had even held a baby before in my life. I was a complete noob. 

In a recent episode of The YouSchool podcast, I dove into a topic that hits close to home for every parent—effective parenting. As I reminisced about my own early days of parenthood, it struck me how young and inexperienced my wife and I appeared when our first child arrived. This got me thinking about the lack of formal training or certification required for the monumental task of raising children. 

After years of research and exploration, I've discovered a powerful parenting style that holds the key to assessing and enhancing our effectiveness as parents. In this article, I'll outline the essence of authoritative parenting and provide a simple model for evaluating our approach.

First, the Need for Feedback:

While we receive feedback on various aspects of our lives, from how many steps we take, how healthy our financial portfolio is, and how recently our car got an oil change, we never get meaningful feedback about our parenting. The absence of a clear gauge leaves us wondering if we are truly meeting our kid’s needs. 

The solution lies in what researchers have dubbed Authoritative Parenting, an evidence-based style that has been proven to nurture responsible, self-confident, and well-adjusted adults.

Now, Understanding Authoritative Parenting:

Authoritative parenting blends two essential behaviors: nurturing and support, plus high expectations and challenges. It strikes a delicate balance between providing care, empathy, and responsiveness and setting clear boundaries and high standards. This concept resonates not only with parents but also with educators who strive to meet the needs of their students effectively.

What’s So Important About Parenting Styles?

During the episode, I discussed various parenting styles and their potential outcomes. Neglectful parenting, characterized by a lack of nurturing care and low expectations, can have detrimental consequences, including increased incarceration rates for children. Conversely, an overemphasis on nurturing care without challenging children with high standards can lead to them feeling "Friend-Zoned." They may trust us with their emotions but lack the belief that we have in their potential.

The Pitfalls of and Overly Demanding Style of Parenting:

Placing excessive pressure, setting unattainable standards, and being overly demanding can result in emotional immaturity, shame, and strained relationships. While such an approach may produce highly responsible and independent individuals, the absence of warmth and connection hinders healthy human development.

The Authoritative Parenting Approach:

Authoritative parenting, backed by research, emerges as the most effective style. It embodies the harmonious integration of nurturing care and high expectations. As authoritative parents, we become role models, setting clear behavioral expectations, establishing reasonable consequences, and fostering independence and self-responsibility. The delivery of consequences is crucial, too—but always with love and care.

Assessing Your Parenting Style:

To evaluate our parenting style, I provided various statements reflecting authoritative parenting qualities. By considering our level of agreement with these statements, we gain insight into our current approach and areas for growth. This assessment allows us to gauge our responsiveness to our child's wishes and emotions, our ability to handle discipline without withdrawing affection, and our willingness to encourage open conversations about feelings.

Authoritative parents tend to agree with statements like these:

  • I take my child’s wishes and feelings into consideration before I ask her to do something
  • I encourage my child to talk about his feelings
  • I try to help when my child is scared or upset
  • I provide my child with reasons for the expectations I have for her
  • I respect my child’s opinion and encourage him or her to express them…even if they are different from my own

The Rewards of Authoritative Parenting:

The authoritative parenting style offers a ton of benefits for both parents and kids. It promotes self-control, moral reasoning, self-esteem, positive behavior, and secure attachment. These positive outcomes extend into adulthood, leading to stronger mental health, higher academic performance, and tighter parent-child bonds. The effectiveness of authoritative parenting has been validated across cultures, further underscoring its value.

Striving for Balance:

Parenting is an ongoing journey of learning and adaptation. It's crucial for us to strike a balance between nurturing care and setting challenges. By embracing authoritative parenting, we give our teenagers the necessary support, guidance, and high expectations to flourish. This approach cultivates responsible, confident, and independent individuals prepared to tackle the complexities of life.

In a Nutshell:

The podcast episode on authoritative parenting sheds light on a transformative approach to raising teenagers. As parents, we must recognize that our influence extends beyond childhood into adulthood. By embracing authoritative parenting and consistently striving for the delicate balance between nurturing care and setting challenges, we can empower our teenagers to become thriving individuals. Let’s go on this rewarding journey together, armed with knowledge, intention, and love.

WHAT ARE THE MOST CRITICAL CONVERSATIONS YOU MUST HAVE WITH YOUR KIDS TO PREPARE THEM FOR LIFE? Find out with our free download: The 30 Critical Questions Every Parent Must Ask

P.S. Did you know we post new weekly YouTube episodes on essential tips and skills every parent needs to guide their kids to launch confidently into adulthood? Click here to subscribe

 Get the Critical Foundations Book


Do you know?

For years we’ve been studying what a young person needs in order to transition into a healthy, thriving adulthood.  

They're uncommon sense ideas, really.

Download this checklist and use it with your students (or kids).

50% Complete