Authoritative Parenting: The Pros and Cons, According to a Child Psychologist

Striking the perfect balance between too strict and too lenient, authoritative parents enjoy kids who are well rounded, feel respected and valued, and possess good behavior too. Learn the pros and cons of authoritative parenting.

mother watching child learn to read
Photo: Illustration by Caitlin-Marie Miner Ong

Authoritative parents are the ones who somehow manage to strike a perfect balance between disciplinarian and pushover. They're warm and kind to their kids; they respect their personhood and individuality, and parent with an end goal of producing well-rounded, independent, happy people who will be positive additions to society.

Sound like you? Read on to understand all the pros—and the few cons—of this parenting style.

What is Authoritative Parenting?

If authoritarian parents are hyper-focused on rules, and permissive parents tend to eschew rules altogether, authoritative parents use rules to empower their children to make the right choices.

"They acknowledge the importance of setting limits and boundaries, but are not as strict as authoritarian parents," says Jeff Nalin, an award-winning licensed clinical psychologist and founder of Paradigm Treatment Centers. "They encourage their children to express themselves and contribute to problem-solving, but they don't provide excessive rules or unrealistic expectations."

Authoritative Parent Traits:

  • Give their kids the opportunity to discuss household rules regularly
  • Prefer to empower their kids, rather than intimidate or befriend them
  • Place a high importance on fairness and respect
  • Emphasize well-roundedness in their children
  • Allow their kids to fail, but provide support and guidance if asked

Pros of Authoritative Parenting

When it comes to authoritative parenting, it's pretty much all good news! Study after study has shown that this type of positive discipline has shown to produce resilient, confident, respectful, and happy children. Below, Nalin outlines some of the biggest pros of authoritative parenting.

  • Accountability. Children who are raised by authoritative parents understand that they are ultimately responsible for the choices they make, which empowers them to make good decisions. These children don't usually cave in to peer pressure.
  • Respect. Children whose parents show them respect by allowing them certain freedoms are more likely to respect others. They often thrive in social settings and get along well with teachers and peers.
  • Resiliency. Children of authoritative parents are allowed to fail and learn from their mistakes. They build resilience, which is the ability to overcome and bounce back from life's challenges and traumas. This also increases self-esteem and confidence.
  • Leadership. Because of their ability to make their own decisions, these children have the kind of confidence and savvy that allows them to take on leadership roles.
  • Studious. Authoritative parents support their children. Whether it's weekly homework or a special project, they make themselves available and provide all the necessary tools for their children's success in school. But they won't do it for them.

Cons of Authoritative Parenting

With authoritative parenting being the most celebrated parenting type among psychologists all over the world, it's difficult to find many drawbacks. Often in life, finding a balance between two alternatives is the best solution to a problem, and that's certainly the case here. But that doesn't mean that everything will be smooth sailing as long as you practice authoritative parenting.

As they grow, kids go through normal phases of rebellion, anger and apathy. These phases may be particularly difficult for authoritative parents, who naturally have high expectations of their children, and have tried hard to raise their kids the best way possible. Here, patience is the key to success, says Nalin.

"Authoritative parenting can be more difficult and lengthy to implement because it requires a delicate balance of discipline and freedom. Parents can undergo a few periods of trial and error before they find the strategies that work best for them and their children. It's important to recognize that rebellion is a natural part of childhood. Parents should continue to stay firm and outline the consequences of poor behavior," he says.

Examples of Authoritative Parenting

Based on what we've outlined above about authoritative parenting, here are a few scenarios that demonstrate how authoritative parents might handle everyday situations.

  • Screen time: Authoritative parents are likely to place limits on screen time, but consider their children's ages and individual situations when doing so. They're also most likely to work with their child to establish a rule that works for everyone.
  • Play dates: Children raised by authoritative parents are most likely to have a clear understanding of what must be done before going out to play with friends.
  • Food and treats: Authoritative parents won't allow kids 24/7 access to the kitchen, but they are likely to allow their child to make themselves a sandwich or other simple meal if they truly don't like what's being served.
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