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Authoritative vs Authoritarian Parenting

In order to become a “good-enough parent”, it is important to understand the differences not only between parenting styles but, also, parenting practices themselves so as to be fully aware of the results that each one can yield, once it is employed.

Authoritative Parenting

The parents are demanding and responsive, aiming at achieving the best communication possible between themselves and their children. Authoritative Parenting is characterized by a child-centred approach that holds high expectations of maturity. Authoritative parents practise empathy and constantly try to understand their children’s emotions and thoughts. Additionally, they take time to teach their children how to regulate their feelings. Furthermore, authoritative parents, favouring a democratic dialogue, build sound relationships with their children due to the constant exchange of views that takes place between them. This open channel of communication permits the children to talk to their parents openly about the problems and difficulties that they face and, simultaneously to express emotions, be they positive or negative, in a holding environment. By elaborating on the different aspects of a problem and making suggestions as to how this could be resolved, the children are provided with priceless food for thought which, in their turn, they use in order to solve it.

Even though Authoritative Parents encourage their children to be independent and self-reliant, they do exercise control over their children’s activities, taking into consideration their age, gender and the social milieu within which such behaviors are exhibited. Authoritative parents set clear standards for their children and monitor the limits that they set. Encouraging their children to develop autonomy by reinforcing their self-esteem and self-confidence, authoritative parents expect mature and independent as well as age-appropriate behavior of their children.

Despite the above, Authoritative Parenting does entail punishment for misbehavior. However, any form of punishment is neither arbitrary nor violent. Additionally, authoritative parents take time to explain to the child concerned the reasons that led to his/her punishment. Undoubtedly, children are more likely to respond to authoritative parenting punishment because it is reasonable and fair.

Authoritarian Parenting

Authoritarian Parenting was common in Victorian times and was used by parents and teachers alike. It was heavily criticized by many writers such as Charles Dickens with characters such as Mr. Murdstone in David Copperfield. It is worth mentioning that, nowadays, this style of parenting is not often encountered in western societies where it is unpopular. On the other hand, researchers inform us that in some cultures and ethnic groups, aspects of authoritarian style may be associated with more positive child outcomes. For example, aspects of traditional Asian child-rearing practices are often continued by Asian American families.

Authoritarian Parenting is demanding but not responsive. Being strict, Authoritarian Parenting is characterised by high expectations of conformity and compliance to parental rules and directions. Despite their high expectations of their children, Authoritarian Parents hardly ever take time to explain to their offspring the reasoning for the rules or boundaries that they lay down for them. As it does not permit any open dialogue between the family members, Authoritarian Parenting fails to secure the respect of the child, for it is restrictive and punitive. Being less responsive to their children’s needs, be they mental, physical or emotional, Authoritarian Parents have a tendency to ground them rather than to encourage them to participate in a discussion concerning any misbehavior of theirs, before imposing the punishment, so that their children are fully aware of the reasons that led their parents to take such a decision. Corporal punishment, which may be accompanied by yelling, is a common choice of punishment that is resorted to by Authoritarian Parents.

Many studies show that children, resulting from Authoritarian Parenting, may have less social competence due to the lack of democratic dialogue in this particular type of household which deprives them from gradually reaching full autonomy as well as from developing critical thinking, self-confidence, self-esteem, self-reliance and creativity. It is worth mentioning that clinical research shows that some children of authoritarian parents may develop insecurities and display anti-social behavior.

Written by Gabriella Philippou, Psychotherapist-Counsellor, Focusing Experiential Therapist, Trainer, Coach

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