authoritative vs. authoritarian parenting

Authoritative vs. Authoritarian Parenting: How to Tell the Difference

Last Updated on September 11, 2021.

Parenting is a daunting task for any individual. How do you know if your parenting style is authoritative or authoritarian? Authoritative parents are warm and loving, while authoritative parents have rules that must be followed to ensure safety and well-being of the child. Authoritarian parents might seem caring on the surface, but they don’t allow their children to make decisions for themselves. If you’re not sure how authoritative vs. authoritarian parenting styles differ from one another, this blog post will give you an overview!

What is Authoritative Parenting?

Parents who are authoritative provide structure for their children, while still allowing them to have freedoms and be independent decision makers in life. Authoritative parents encourage logical reasoning skills in their kids by asking questions that get them thinking about different perspectives on a situation or problem solving techniques they can employ when faced with an issue.

In authoritative parenting, there are rules that must be followed in order to ensure the safety and comfort of a child. Authoritative parents set high standards for their children’s behavior, but they also explain why these standards exist so kids will understand how being “good” benefits them. If authoritative parents catch their children misbehaving or acting out, authoritative parenting styles use consequences such as time outs or taking away certain privileges to get kids back on track.

Signs of an Authoritative Parent

Here are some signs that you’re using an authoritative parenting style:

  • Setting limits and rules for kids
  • Having high standards of behavior that are enforced consistently
  • Encouraging children to think critically about their actions, decisions, or behaviors
  • Showing unconditional love & support despite the child’s mistakes
  • Using natural and logical consequences to improve behavior
  • Encouraging kids to develop a growth mindset
  • Giving children plenty of opportunities to make choices for themselves
  • Fostering a sense of belonging and significance within each child
authoritarian vs. authoritative parenting
authoritarian vs. authoritative parenting

What is Authoritarian Parenting?

If authoritative parenting is all about balance, authoritarian parents have a more rigid approach to raising kids. Authoritarian parents use threats and punishments to keep children in line. Their main objective is to prevent issues within their family unit. These types of behavior might seem caring on the surface but at its core, authoritative parenting focuses on being warm & loving while still enforcing standards and consequences for children.

Authoritarian parents might seem authoritative on the surface, but they don’t allow their kids to make any choices or decisions in life that could end up harming them or others around them. The main idea behind authoritarian parenting is maintaining control over a child’s behavior at all costs – even if it means limiting a kid’s freedom or personal growth.

Signs of an Authoritarian Parent

  • Using punishments that are extreme and punitive (i.e. You’re grounded for the year)
  • Setting high expectations and standards, but not giving children the tools to meet them
  • Not allowing kids any choices or opportunities to make decisions for themselves
  • Using force and coercion instead of reasoning with a child
  • Fostering dependence on authority figures (parents/teachers) rather than independence in children  
  • Being emotionally cold toward your kid(s)
  • Using shame and blame to correct behavior; using guilt as manipulation
  • Expecting children to meet adult responsibilities at early ages
  • Taking things personally when a child misbehaves or has an emotional outburst  
  • Using passive aggressive or sarcastic language to shame children into behaving

Is authoritarian or authoritative better?

Science tells us that authoritative parents have children who are better adjusted, have more empathy and emotional intelligence, do better in school, and are less likely to engage in criminal behavior.

Authoritarian parenting may produce short term compliance because of the harsh punishments given out for not following rules or standards set by authoritative parents. But kids raised this way tend to have lower self-esteem as well as higher rates of depression, anxiety, anger issues and behavioral problems.

It’s possible to move from authoritative parenting into authoritarian or vice versa over time. But it can be a slow process that requires self-reflection on your part as well as the willingness of your child(ren) to participate in this transition. If you’re not sure where you fall on the authoritative / authoritarian scale, ask your child(ren) how they feel about this. They might be able to give you some insights into why they react a certain way or make certain decisions that can help you transition from one parenting style to another if necessary.

You could also take our quiz to find out your parenting style.

Examples of Authoritative vs. Authoritarian Parenting

Phrases an Authoritarian Parent might use:

  • “Because I said so!”
  • “I will punish you if you don’t do what I say!”
  • “You’ll do it because I told you to.”
  • “I don’t care how you feel about it, this is for your own good.”
  • “You’re grounded for the summer!”
  • “This isn’t up for discussion. Do what I say.”

Phrases an Authoritative Parent might use:

  • “I can see that you’re frustrated right now.”
  • “What do you think would be a good way to handle this situation?”
  • “You may feel like…” (followed by the child’s perspective)
  • “What do you think would be a fair consequence?”
  • “What do you need from me right now?”
  • “I know this is hard but I’m here to help.”

The Bottom Line

Authoritative and Authoritarian parenting sounds similar, but they are very different parenting styles. It’s easy to notice the drsatice differences when you compare authoritative vs. authoritarian parenting examples. Authoritative parenting has been proven to produce better outcomes in children than authoritarian. Authoritative parents show unconditional love and support for their child despite mistakes while still enforcing standards and logical consequences when necessary.

What You Should Do Next…

1. Snag Our Connected Parent Challenge

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2. Join Our Free Online Community

Connect with like-minded moms (and dads!) in our free online community. You’ll find a plethora of resources to help you through your parenting challenges. Plus, you’ll find me there! And I’d love to connect.

3. Take a Free 60-Minute Parenting Webinar

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