Authoritative vs Authoritarian Parents

Parents need to be authoritative, without being authoritarian. The keys are respect and consistency.

Respect is earned by being respectful, leading by example and simple communication. If asking your child’s opinion is a rhetorical question, you have no respect for your child’s identity. Children who have earned the respect of their parents cherish that fulfilling accomplishment and will continue to exhibit behavior to foster that respect.

Although parents can gain some respect from their children by being consistent, having a respectful relationship with your child is essential to parenting success. By being consistent with the authority you exercise, you will reap the benefits of your child’s respect. Rules should be finite, have specific penalties for infraction and be applied with equality.

Authoritarian behavior breeds contempt in children. Rules need to have logical reasons, such as ensuring safety, emotional well-being and health. “Do as I say, not as I do” is authoritarian and undermines the trust of children. If you do cannot explain a rule, they will see no reason to obey it. Authoritative rules build the trust that parents love the children and want to protect them.

Obedience should be rewarded, and disobedience should be disciplined. Consistent discipline is a requirement of authority. If infractions of rules have no repercussions, the rules are arbitrary and without value. Discipline should be no more excessive than the severity of the infraction. Authority is fair, where authoritarian is not.

In order to maintain both respect and authority, you must allow children to make some choices based on your teaching. Saving your child the consequences of those choices is not a reasonable exercise of authority. It is from our mistakes that we learn. Children need to make some choices and mistakes on their own in order to respect the responsibility associated with your authority.

You do not have to rule with an iron fist to maintain parental authority. You must assert your authority to have it respected, and eventually appreciated. Authoritarian parents will have only the satisfaction of ruling. Authoritative parents will have the satisfaction of both loving and respectful children.