Any loving parent knows that the way they raise their children will impact them for the rest of their lives. Research shows that parenting styles directly impact children’s self-esteem and self-efficacy and can affect how they adjust to life when they eventually leave home.
But which style of parenting is best for your home? And which parenting style do experts say is more likely to yield better outcomes? This article compares the authoritative vs authoritarian styles of parenting, exploring their characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages.
My aim is to help you carefully consider your values before deciding which parenting style best suits what you want for your children.
What Is Authoritative Parenting?
The authoritative method of parenting prioritizes parent-child connection and setting strict rules in a warm, supportive environment. Parents in this category are strict and consistent but flexible enough to adjust their expectations based on the child’s unique needs.
While an authoritative parent is strict on rules and regularly sets limits, they use rules to empower kids rather than intimidate them or force obedience. An authoritative parent pays attention and listens to children’s viewpoints, even if they don’t shift their grounds.
Rather than punishment, the authoritative parenting style focuses on fair discipline without violating the rights of children. Authoritative parents create an environment of mutual respect for kids. They validate children’s feelings even when correcting bad behavior.
Bottom line: Authoritative parenting focuses on teaching and guiding children in the hope that they will grow up to internalize their parents’ values.
Common Traits of Authoritative Parents
In most cases, parents who adopt the authoritative parenting style are known to:
- Be open to feedback from kids about strict rules and limits.
- Allow children to make mistakes but provide guidance, support, and safety.
- Respect children’s rights and demonstrate fairness.
- Use rules to empower kids instead of coercing them.
- Children develop good self-esteem and strong self-regulation.
- Kids can manage their emotions better and have good dispositions in social settings.
- Children develop leadership skills from an early age.
- Usually leads to well-adjusted children with increased resilience.
- Children learn to make better choices, which improves their decision-making ability.
- This parenting style typically requires balancing freedom and discipline delicately, making it difficult to implement.
- Results usually take considerably longer time.
- It can be frustrating to implement because it requires consistency and lots of patience.
What Is Authoritarian Parenting?
The authoritarian parenting style is characterized by excessive control over children with very little emphasis on connection-building.
As the strictest form of parenting, it is common for parents who adopt this method of raising kids to have plenty of rules which children must follow or face the negative consequences of disobedience.
Typically, parents in authoritarian homes do not give children room to discuss rules, nor are they willing to accept their kids’ opinions or feedback about limits, regulations, or boundaries.
Although this parenting style may seem harsh, authoritarian parents usually want the best for their children. They want to raise kids that will grow to be well-behaved and high-achievers. That’s why they focus on enforcing rules and using punishment to knock kids into shape.
Authoritarian parents believe that children are naturally self-indulgent and willful ― two traits that, if left unchecked, can lead to poor choices, bad behavior, misery, and disobedience.
Obedience to a higher authority is crucial for parents in this category. This is why they will do anything to break the child’s will or bend it to comply with constituted authorities (of course, starting with the parent’s authority).
Bottom line: Authoritarian parenting uses coercion and power to exert control over children with the aim of making them obedient and well-behaved children.
Common Traits of Authoritarian Parents
Authoritarian parents are known for the following:
- Prioritize children’s safety.
- Have many rules that children must obey.
- Not willing to discuss rules with children.
- Tend to use punishments or threats to ensure children comply with rules.
- Have negative consequences for any and every wrong behavior.
- Assign kids chores and responsibilities from a young age.
- Children are mostly well-behaved because rules are clear, so children know what is and isn’t acceptable. Also, children avoid wrong behavior as much as possible because they understand the negative consequences of disobedience.
- Children tend to comply very quickly to avoid punishment, so results show up faster.
- Provides increased safety for children by protecting them from risky behaviors.
- Children tend to have difficulty expressing their feelings or managing their emotions, leading to emotionally withdrawn children.
- Since children are not allowed to make their own choices, they grow to be rule-dependent, which can lead to low self-esteem and a lack of self-control.
- This parenting may lead to poor social skills, including bullying, aggressiveness, and other anti-social behaviors.
Authoritative vs Authoritarian Parenting: Key Differences
While authoritative parents have high expectations of their kids, they are very responsive to their needs. They create a warm and nurturing environment that supports the development of well-rounded kids.
And because parents are highly responsive, children develop secure attachments, leading to happier and more satisfied kids.
On the other hand, authoritarian parents are unresponsive and cold toward their kids. On top of that, they have high expectations of their children.
They do not encourage children to express their emotions, considering it a display of weakness. Children who grow up in highly unresponsive environments are more likely to suppress their emotions.
Both parenting styles prioritize rule setting and are strict to ensure children are well-behaved. Although both parenting styles are similar in terms of rule-setting, the main difference here is how the rules are enforced.
Authoritative parents explain the reasons for having rules and boundaries. Beyond discussing the rationale behind rules, they are open to feedback from children and will not hesitate to modify whatever needs to be modified.
An authoritarian parent adopts a “because I said so” approach to enforcing rules. Children have no say or opinion regarding rule setting; they are only expected to obey instructions without questions, and disobedience is met with harsh punishment.
Interestingly, while authoritative parents tend to have fewer rules than their authoritarian counterparts and give children more wiggle room, they usually have high standards and are more consistent in enforcing rules.
Natural consequences and non-punitive measures are used in authoritative parenting to instill discipline in children. Children are shown unconditional acceptance and love while being corrected for behaving badly.
An authoritarian parenting approach uses punitive punishments to correct wrong behavior. Parents can dole out punishments as they deem fit, not minding whether it makes children obey rules out of fear rather than from a place of understanding.
Children raised in authoritative homes are encouraged to seek independence and autonomy. However, parents provide solid structures (rules and limits) to prevent grievous mistakes. They closely monitor children’s behavior, offering guidance, correction, and consequence when necessary.
Additionally, under this parenting approach, children are encouraged to participate in decision-making for the family. Parents also encourage two-way communication in the authoritative parenting style.
On the flip side, authoritarian style parenting encourages dictatorship, with parents giving orders without involving the children. An authoritarian parent does not give room for autonomy-seeking.
In terms of control, both parenting styles encourage control over children’s behavior. However, authoritative parents use reason when exerting control over their kids. While they expect maturity from children, they are mindful not to exert unreasonable control.
Authoritarian parents do not want to be seen as not being in control. This fear drives them to exert tight psychological control over children. They are always right, and children must accept their judgment as final.
Authoritative vs Authoritarian Parenting: Which Parenting Style Is Healthier?
While each home is different, experts consider authoritative parenting the healthier option for children. It provides the right balance of structure and autonomy, as well as guidance and freedom, to yield positive outcomes.
Children raised in authoritative environments are encouraged to follow the rules and meet expectations, but they don’t do any of these to “earn” their parents’ love and affection.
Kids grow up understanding why they should avoid poor choices and bad behavior because parents take time to explain the reason for rules, limits, and boundaries. Instead of blind obedience, children follow the rules willingly. This boosts their self-esteem and helps them develop positively.
In comparing the characteristics of authoritative vs authoritarian parenting styles, experts agree that the former tends to yield better results in the long run.
Children raised in authoritative environments have greater chances of becoming more emotionally stable and well-adjusted compared to those raised in authoritarian homes.
That said, no parenting style is without a few challenges, and as with nearly everything concerning raising children, there is no single method that works for every family. In fact, many parents don’t fit strictly into one category.
I’ve said all of that to say this:
When choosing a parenting style, never lose sight of the values you want to instill in your children and their unique needs. By keeping these things top of mind, you will do a better job of raising well-rounded kids.