Learn how to find the “kind and firm” sweet spot with our favorite examples of an authoritative parenting style.
If you ever worry or wonder if you’re being “too soft” or “too strict” with your child, this is the post for you!
Types of Parenting Styles
First, let’s touch on the three primary parenting styles: authoritarian, permissive, and authoritative (or what I like to call, “positive” parenting). In short:
- Authoritarian parents tend to be overly firm and lack an outward display of kindness in their discipline approach.
- Permissive parents rank high on the “kindness” scale but lack clear limits and consistent boundaries.
- Authoritative, or positive parents, are both kind and firm* when it comes to discipline.
*Note: The term “kind and firm” originates from Dr. Jane Nelson’s Positive Discipline framework.
Authoritative vs. Authoritarian Parenting
Authoritative, positive parenting is the antithesis of authoritarian parenting, which relies heavily on punitive discipline.
It may even surprise you that positive parenting doesn’t use punishments at all! (More on what consequences are used here.)
If phrases such as “stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about” or “do it because I said so” sound familiar, you already have an excellent idea of authoritarian parenting.
Authoritarian parenting attempts to use fear, demands, and punishments to control children’s behavior and emotions. Some authoritarian parents use physical forms of discipline as well.
Research shows that this style of parenting is not only ineffective long-term but can contribute to challenging behavior in young children.
Authoritarian Parenting Effects
Research consistently demonstrates unfavorable outcomes for children raised with an authoritarian parenting style:
- Preschool-aged children raised with harsh discipline methods are more likely to exhibit challenging behaviors. This is true across Eastern and Western cultures (Olson et al., 2011).
- Children who experience harsh control by parents are more likely to show increasingly challenging behaviors as they grow and develop over time (Pinquart, 2017).
- Kids raised with authoritarian parenting methods are more likely to bully peers (Luk et al., 2016).
- Children who receive spankings are less likely to comply with parent directives, in both the short- and long-term, when compared to non-physical discipline methods (Gershoff, 2013).
- The more children are spanked between the ages of 1 and 3 the more likely they are to exhibit aggressive behavior between the ages of 3 and 5 (Lee et al., 2013).
Authoritative vs. Permissive Parenting
One of the biggest misconceptions is that authoritative, or positive parenting, is permissive parenting.
While permissive parents are kind to their children, they often lack the limits, boundaries, and structure that children need to build positive self-worth and problem-solving skills.
On the other hand, authoritative/positive parents use empathy to validate their children’s feelings; however, do not always affirm the behavior that comes with it.
Additionally, authoritative/positive parents empower children with freedoms and choices within set parameters and limits.
Key Authoritative Parenting Characteristics
While no parent is perfect, positive parents strive to:
- Uphold the true definition of discipline, “to teach” and avoid harsh, arbitrary punishments.
- Parent from a place of empathy with an understanding of children’s developmental and social/emotional needs.
- Be kind and firm at the same time. Authoritative parents are respectful, encouraging, and set limits with an outward display of love.
- Positive parents seek opportunities to “connect” with their kids before they “correct” challenging behaviors (big credit here to Dr. Jane Nelson’s Positive Discipline framework).
- Choose evidence-based parenting tools with long-term positive outcomes.
- Teach children positive social skills and healthy ways to cope with big emotions.
- Invite children to positively exercise “voice and choice” in their day-to-day decisions.
- Recognize that mistakes and challenges are opportunities to learn and grow.
15 Word-for-Word Examples of an Authoritative Parenting Style
What would an authoritative parent say?
Even parents with a strong knowledge of positive parenting principles may struggle to find the “right” words in the heat of the moment. This is normal!
I strongly urge parents to embrace their unique personalities and strengths. At the same time, I consistently hear from parents how beneficial it is to have a few favorite “taglines” on the ready for the most common daily challenges.
I’m eager to share with you three of my all-time favorite positive parenting tools. Let’s break down each one with concrete, word-for-word examples of an authoritative parenting style.
Tool #1: Offer “voice & choice” within your boundary.
Should there be wiggle room on boundaries in authoritative, positive parenting? Well, it depends where you put the wiggle…
First, it’s essential to decide on your limits and stay consistent. At the same time, positive parents seek out opportunities for their children to exercise autonomy and decision-making within those boundaries.
Young kids have so much of their day decided for them. Yet developmentally, they crave nothing more than to be in control!
You’ll notice in these examples, providing “voice and choice” looks quite different than a permissive parent “giving in.”
Your Boundary: “We turn off screens before dinner.”
Possible options for your child’s “voice & choice”:
- “Who should press the power button?”
- “Which toppings should we put on the pizza?”
- “Would you like to help with setting the table or pouring the milk?”
Your Boundary: “Our bedtime routine starts at 7:00.”
Possible options for your child’s “voice & choice”:
- “Should we tiptoe or march up the stairs?”
- “What’s first on the routine chart we made?”
- “Do you want to wear your unicorn or striped PJs?”.
Your Boundary: “We need to leave the pool in 5 minutes.”
Possible options for your child’s “voice & choice”:
- “Who should press ‘start’ on the timer?”
- “What would you like to do 1 more time, the slide or the splash pad?”
- “What do you want to listen to on the ride home?”.
While tantrums are often developmentally appropriate in young children, making a regular habit of presenting boundaries with a side of “voice and choice” can help minimize those meltdowns.
At the end of the day, know it is okay for your child to be upset about your boundary!
Resist the temptation to cave, which will fuel the likelihood of future tantrums. Furthermore, giving in takes away opportunities for kids to learn healthy coping skills for life’s big emotions.
Tool #2: Use a 1:2 “No/Yes” Ratio
The 1:2 rule of thumb is an excellent example of an authoritarian parenting style. Simply put, any time you issue a “no” (i.e., boundary), go ahead and offer two easy “yeses”.
Just like the previous examples, these yeses will not override your boundary in any way!
1 No: “I hear you want another cookie and there was only 1 with lunch today.”
2 Yeses: “It’s okay to feel disappointed. If your belly is still hungry would you like yogurt or apples?”
When it comes to setting limits and boundaries, authoritative parents do so from a place of love.
A little empathy can go a long way. Taking time to convey that you understand your child’s perspective and affirm their emotions can make a world of difference.
When kids feel heard and validated, they typically become more willing to work with us, rather than against us, in the problem-solving process.
Tool #3: Ask, Don’t Tell
The “asking parent” approach originates from Dr. Nelson’s Positive Discipline framework and has become an all-time favorite positive parenting tool here in the Such a Little While circle of support!
To be very clear, this example of an authoritative parenting style is not about asking “if” your child wants to do something (e.g., “Do you want to brush your teeth?”).
As you might guess, most kids will quickly accept the invitation to decline! I highly suggest avoiding closed-ended (yes/no) questions for this reason.
The asking parent approach is a helpful tool to replace authoritarian-style demands and aims to empower children towards independent, positive decision-making.
Let’s look at some examples of an authoritative parenting style with the “asking parent” approach.
Telling: “Tablet time is over. Turn it off.”
Asking: “The timer just went off. What was our agreement about the tablet?”
Asking: “Don’t stomp away from me! There’s no reason to be mad.”
Telling: “It’s okay to feel mad. How can you help calm your body?”
Telling: “Quit your whining!”
Asking: “You sound upset. How can you talk so that I can understand you?”
Telling: “Stop yelling at your sister.”
Asking: “How can you and your sister fix this problem?”
Telling: “Give that toy back to your brother. He had it first.”
Asking: “You really want that. How can you make sure he knows you would like a turn when he’s finished?”
The asking parent approach works best as a proactive, positive parenting tool. Discuss common “challenge” areas with your child ahead of time (e.g., cleaning up). Then later, simply ask, “What did we decide to do about ______?”
Reserve “telling” statements for situations such as immediate safety concerns and your words will carry more weight.
Authoritative Parenting Examples in Movies & TV
Daniel Tiger, a popular PBS Kids’ show and book series is a shining example of an authoritative parenting style.
Watch or read with your child and see “Mom Tiger” and “Dad Tiger” put that kind-and-firm approach into action!
“It’s okay to feel angry. It’s not okay to hurt someone.”Daniel Tiger
Remember, positive parents seek to affirm feelings, but not necessarily all of the behaviors that come with them.
The last thing you need to know about examples of an authoritative parenting style
Authoritative, positive parenting uses love and clear boundaries to help kids develop the skills needed to make healthy, safe, and kind choices.
Even with the best practices in place, know there will still be hard days and tough moments for both parent and child.
What’s most important: Positive parenting uses obstacles as opportunities for families to grow through mistakes. The long-term results are well worth it. You got this!