When I first started researching the topic of authoritative parenting I was intrigued. I am constantly trying to figure out the best way to parent. What makes it tough is that:
- There is no one “right way”
- You need to keep adapting as times change and your kids get older
- You need to keep assessing your part. It is not just your kids and how they behave, it is YOU as well
What I have really tried to work on in the last couple of years is authoritative parenting. This authoritative parenting style revolves around high responsiveness from your kids and high demands from you. I have some examples of authoritative parenting that I can share that show how I put that style into practice on a daily basis.
So what is authoritative parenting? Authoritative parenting is a style where as a parent you need to be highly in tune with your kid’s needs but you also work to maintain a high standard for your kids. Authoritative parenting is not meant as a style that is overbearing or overly strict.
Authoritative parenting is a style where you set expectations that are realistic, yet also push your kids to do their best and in return, they will see the benefits of this style throughout their lives.
The benefit for your kids of an authoritative parenting style are kids that:
- Are more often than not very content and happy
- Exhibit a healthy dose of independence and self-reliance
- Are very socially adept
- Have great emotional control
- Openly express warmth and work well with their peers
- Explore their environment freely and without fear
- Are positively assertive and show competence in many areas
- Achieve a high level of academic success
- Work hard to engage in school activities
- Develop a high level of self-esteem
- Have much better and more consistent mental health
- Exhibit far fewer tendencies of violence
After reading that list it has probably occurred to you that most of this comes from the same type of consistency to improve on a daily basis that you as a parent must also exhibit. Authoritative parenting only works when goals and expectations are clearly set and they are adhered to by both you AND your kids on a daily basis.
So you have read that list and it all sounds great. It sounds just about as good as a promise that you can be 6% body fat and have washboard abs. The next question invariably is “ok how do I do that and how hard will it be?”
Is there a part of parenting that is “easy”? Isn’t anything that is worthwhile and important in life usually challenging, difficult, and in need of a serious commitment on your part?
So the list of results is great, and the description of the style you need to get there seems clear enough. The devil is in the details and implementing an authoritative parenting style is no different.
So now let’s get into the details of what authoritative parenting looks like in your daily lives and how you can put it into practice in your life.
“Do not confuse authoritative parenting with authoritarian rule”
Authoritative parenting in practice
So now that we know what authoritative parenting is and how it can benefit your kids the next step is to dive into how you can put this into practice as a parent. It is important to point out the difference between being authoritative and authoritarian. Authoritative parenting does not demand blind obedience and a rash of negative consequences for kids that do not meet expectations.
The core of authoritative parenting is still a lot of positive feedback and reinforcement for kids. They are not your slaves that are there to simply do what you say without ever asking why.
This can be a delicate balance since you expect your kids to behave and perform in a manner you think is beneficial. The key to authoritative parenting is that if they begin to question why it is, you need to logically and rationally explain it to them. In addition, you need to do this in a way that they can understand.
As an example, my kids are 6 and 5. They are not yet ready to understand complex issues or detailed plans of why authoritative parenting is the way it is. So as a parent you need to break it down to its simplest terms.
Why do we have to go to bed so early?
Because you are young and you need that much sleep. If you start waking up early and I do not need to get you out of bed and you are energetic and ready to go to school, we can start discussing you staying up a little later.
This pretty common back and forth between kids and parents reminds me of the old Jerry Seinfeld joke. Nightime guy does not care about morning guy. He wants to stay out late and have fun. Being tired and hungover in the morning on the way to a 9 to 5 job is morning guy’s problem!
So you can see that the foundation of authoritative parenting is setting boundaries and expectations, but doing it in a way that kids understand. They may not like it, but the point is for them to do the things you know will be good for them AND that they understand why it is good for them (even if they may not always like it).
I am no huge fan of working out….but I know it is good for me. This is the core principle of authoritative parenting for both you AND your kids.
An example of my style…the refrigerator chart
Let’s recap the important points of authoritative parenting:
- High expectations
- Expectations that are clearly stated and stuck to on a daily basis
- Kids understanding why we do this
- Positive reinforcement
So one way I put authoritative parenting into practice in my household is with a daily checklist that is posted on the fridge. It contains several expectations for my kids such as brush your teeth and clean up your toys. The lists are not the same for each child, they are specific to the child. That is just me, maybe your lists for your kids will be identical.
The point is not what is on the list so much as having the list in plain sight with an understanding between you and your kids of WHY we are doing these things and that they are expected to do them EVERY DAY.
If they do their item in question they get a green check and if they do not they get a red x. A green check is +1 and a red x is -1. At the end of the day we add up the points and the winner gets to pick the book we read and the movie we watch before they go to bed.
At the end of the week, the one with the most points gets a toy of their choice or a video game.
The added bonus of this authoritative parenting exercise is that kids start to compute that:
“Doing good gets you good results”
So this chart covers it all. It sets high expectations for the kids that are age-appropriate, the expectations are clearly stated and understood, and there is a positive result for them when they achieve the results you expect of them. This is the heart of authoritative parenting.
Shouldn’t you just let kids be kids?
Of course!! The point of authoritative parenting is not to rob kids of their youth or place undue expectations on them. The point is to set high, yet attainable goals and standards and then stick to that on a daily basis as a parent.