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Authoritarian vs Authoritative Parenting: How to Avoid the Dangers of Mistaking the Two

As she focused her eyes on the road ahead, she made careful note of the lines on either side of her. A quick glance at her legs reminder her of their strength. Another quick glance at me confirms her confidence. Boundaries + ability + confidence. She slowly let go of the handlebars, raised her hands out to the sides, and rode her bike easily down the road with no hands. The difference between Authoritarian vs Authoritative parenting lies in the heartbeat of parenthood.

The two parenting approaches are like dog poop and chocolate cake. They may both be brown, but that’s where the similarities stop.

8 Attributes of Authoritarian Parenting

Authoritarian demands respect without caring much about giving it. 

Parents practicing authoritarian parenting in their homes believe the need for authority is substantial. They exercise that authority as the “boss” vs. the “leader.”

Authoritarian parenting doesn’t allow for shared opinions, compromise, grace, etc.

Threatened by opinion, frightened by grace, and challenged by compromise, Authoritarian parents are comfortable only in their own perspective.

Authoritarian parenting is heavy on control light on connection.

I always say, “Control Without Connection Leads to Conflict.” Children are hungry to be led. But no one is led by control. Often, the only difference between leading someone and controlling them is connection.

Authoritarian doesn’t see value in reaching the heart of a child.

A child is more than a bucket to be filled with facts. A child is a whole person, with a mind to shape and a heart tank to fill with joy, peace, and love.

Authoritarian parents are not quick to listen.

Children of authoritarian parents often keep their feelings to themselves for fear of rejection. Authoritarian parenting provides very little room for a child to voice concerns, have opinions or share hurts.

Authoritarian parenting undervalues relationship.

Authoritarian parents see themselves as ruler but don’t feel there is merit or advantage to cultivating meaningful relationships with their children.

Authoritarian parenting has little to no lasting positive influence.

The only real tool parents have to influence the lives of their children long-term is relationship. Because authoritarian parenting places little to no value on relationship building, there is no relationship to speak of. Positive influence is lost as a result.

Authoritarian has no reliable research or data to support it as an effective method.

While children from authoritarian homes may grow to be emotionally, mentally, and spiritually healthy adults, it is a roll of the dice. I have yet to find reliable, trustworthy, biblically sound research to support authoritarian parenting as a healthy parenting approach.

8 Attributes of Authoritative Parenting

Authoritative is moderate on control and heavy on connection.

Authoritative parents astutely understand the requirement of an authority figure in the home. They equally understand that with a strong connection to their children, an authority has much more potency.

Authoritative parenting recognizes reciprocity in regards to giving and receiving respect.

Authoritative parenting longs to make a child feel equal in value to all members of the family. This equal value results in exchanged respect.

Authoritative parents regulate to lead.

Authoritative parenting uses regulating strategies such as training and discipline to lead children in the direction of healthy, beneficial choices.

Authoritative parenting leads the mind and body while nurturing the heart.

Parents are cognizant of filling the needs of their child’s heart while maintaining leadership of behavior molding.

mom helping child climb stairs outside thanks to knowing authoritarian vs authoritative parenting

Authoritative parents are slow to speak.

We’ve all have one mouth and two ears. Authoritative parenting avoids patterns of yelling, getting trapped in over-explaining, and talking more than listening.

Authoritative parents are typically well-balanced in their own lives. 

Done well, Authoritative parenting creates a harvest of lasting positive influence.

Authoritative parents educate themselves.

The result of striving for connection during authoritative parenting is the invitation to speak into your child’s life for the remainder of his adult life.

Authoritative parenting is proven again and again the most effective parenting approach.

After roughly 15 years of parenting research, study, and coaching, I repeatedly see the consistent advantages of Authoritative Parenting.

5 Signs You May Lean Into Authoritarian vs Authoritative Parenting

1. Your children don’t speak freely around you. Children well-connected and attached to their parents know they are safe to share their feelings without fear of retribution. When attachment and connection are absent, so is the liberty to share.

2. Your children are intimidated by you. Children from authoritarian homes often feel threatened by their parents instead of feeling safe.

3. Family bonding activities in your home are few. Homes heavy on connection invest in building strong bonds. Those investments require heart-focused intention, making them less likely for authoritarian parents.

4. Your home has many consequences and no training. Authoritarian parents often ascribe a rule for every situation without first imparting healthy behavior through training. Whereas authoritative parents implement a few rules that focus on achieving good attitudes and strong character through intentional training.

5. You see more flaws than strengths. Authoritarian parents are so quick to point out things that are wrong, they can’t see the things that are right.

sad little girl looking out the window

Authoritarian vs Authoritative Parenting – Careful to Know the Difference

Authoritative parents know that children are individuals with important things to say, thoughts and feelings of their own, a skill set unique to them, gifts, talents, and a calling. Authoritative parenting recognizes that children thrive in structured, predictable, and stable environments where rules, boundaries, standards, and clear consequences are set and enforced. Furthermore, it acknowledges that children must have a meaningful attachment and connection to their parents to be effective for any of the above.

Alternately, authoritarian parenting believes control is king and forfeits other equally important and necessary elements.

Authoritative parenting understands that a child’s cognitive ability lacks reason and logic, therefore, needs many important decisions made for them. It also understands that without being trained, a child won’t gain the cognition he needs to make those decisions successfully.

On the other hand, authoritarian parenting makes all the decisions without a compulsion to teach and train.

Unfortunately, often when people hear the word authoritative, they jump to authoritarian in their mind’s eye. As a result, authoritative parenting unfairly gets a black eye.

Both parenting styles assume the need for an authority position but in drastically different ways. Both have proven track records. Track records that are worlds apart and produce significantly differing results.

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