Grow your parenting skills with these 20 ways to be a more authoritative parent. These easy-to-follow guidelines will help you become the type of parent you have always wanted to be!
Becoming the perfect parent is something that we all wish we could do, but none of us will actually ever do it. No matter how many parenting books we read or how knowledgeable we are, there are going to be times when we make some parenting mistakes.
For me, becoming a parent has helped me recognize many of my flaws. I have found that I often lack patience and that I have an urge to control every situation around me, just ask my teenagers. This became a problem when I couldn’t control my kids every action.
When I discovered all the different parenting styles, I fell in love with authoritative parenting, I loved it as a principle. But as I learned more, it quickly became apparent to me just how much I needed to change! I hadn’t realized I was doing so many things that I never really wanted to do.
If you’re at all like me, then you’ve experienced some overwhelming feelings at times feeling like you are doing all the things wrong as a parent. I promise you are not! But if you are thinking you want to make some changes in how you do things these 20 tips can help you become a more authoritative parent!
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What is Authoritative Parenting?
Authoritative Parenting is a parenting style that mixes high expectations with high levels of warmth and affection. Many other parenting styles like conscious parenting and gentle parenting are considered different types of authoritative parenting.
Kids who are raised by authoritative parents are more responsible and respectful than kids raised using other parenting styles. Authoritative parenting also has a high tolerance for emotional expression. Because kids of authoritative parents are taught the importance of emotions (and taught not to fear emotions), they grow up more able to cope with the many challenges life throws at them.
How to Be a More Authoritative Parent
Because this parenting style leads to emotionally healthy and responsible kids, it is one that many of us would love to practice. Like many things, that is easier said than done.
These 20 ways to be more authoritative help to simplify this complex parenting style. Don’t feel like you need to implement each of these principles all at once. You’ll have more success if you start small and work slowly toward bigger things.
We suggest choosing TWO of these things to work on. When you are comfortable with those two, then choose two more that you’ll improve on. Keep it up and you’ll be a master authoritative parent in no time!
20 Ways to Become a More Authoritative Parent
Provide unconditional love and warmth
Of course we know that you love your kids. But do you show it on a regular basis? Kids have a basic need for warmth and nurturing. Maybe loving your kids isn’t a challenge for you, but showing it in a way that your kids will understand is.
Find out what your kid’s love language is and how they like to receive love by determining your kid’s love language. Maybe they value spending quality time with you. Or maybe they like to be rocked or sung to. Whatever their love language, learn what it is and work to show them love in that way!
Be present for your kids
One of the most important parts of being an authoritative parent is simply being THERE for your kids.
We know there are times when you won’t be physically available because of work or other obligations. But when you are around, be PRESENT.
- Get off your phone.
- Put down the book you’re reading.
Focus on the relationship you have with your kids. Spend some time just talking to them or playing a game with them. Your presence will help them see that you care and that they can always come to you.
Make time for fun
We could all make time for some more fun in our lives. What better way to make more time for fun than to do it with your kids? Whether you’re hanging around the house or going on an adventure, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the time you get to spend with your kids!
Give your kids responsibilities around the house
Just as important as having fun is giving your kids responsibility. From a very young age, kids should be given chores that they are responsible for doing. Make sure you provide age-appropriate jobs for your kids.
Take the time to teach them how to do the jobs correctly. Having regular jobs at home helps kids learn time management, responsibility, as well as useful life skills that they will use for the rest of their lives!
Include your kids in decision and rule-making
Most parents recognize the importance of having clear boundaries and rules for their kids. But have you ever considered including your kids in the rule-making process?
Authoritative parenting sees this as important for helping kids learn to problem-solve, as well as for improving the parent-child relationship. Kids whose input is accepted readily by their parents also tend to have higher levels of self-confidence as they grow older!
Recognize your kid’s strengths
Every kid has strengths and weaknesses. Why not focus on the things they do really well instead of where they may struggle? Having a hard time thinking of your kid’s strengths? Here’s a little trick to try: every trait has a strength and a weakness to it.
- Maybe you notice that your kid is a little messy. Instead of focusing on how messy they are, put the focus on how CREATIVE they are.
- Is your kid extremely talkative at school? This means that they are OUTGOING and EXPRESSIVE (which are both things that will serve them well!).
- Maybe you have a kid that is just plain stubborn. Well, we’ve got good news for you there too. Stubborn kids are also DETERMINED which can help them accomplish all sorts of amazing things in their lives!
No matter your kid’s weaknesses, seek to recognize the strengths behind it!
Respect your kid’s opinions
When your kid has an opinion, listen to it and acknowledge it. Try to understand why they have that opinion and where they are coming from, even if it is not an opinion that you agree with.
When you show your kids that you are interested in their opinions, they begin to feel that their input matters. This fosters creativity and will make them more successful later in life as they are willing to share their opinions and ideas more.
Set guidelines for screen time and play dates
Authoritative parents usually have rules for screen time and play dates. Maybe kids need to have their rooms clean before they can watch TV. Or maybe there are certain days a week that are “family only days” where play dates are not allowed. Whatever the boundaries, parents should use them to teach kids responsibility. And don’t forget to include your kids in the rule-making!
Validate your kid’s emotions
Every parent has experienced their kid trying to express some big emotions. Dealing with big, negative emotions can be an overwhelming thing for everyone – adults and kids alike! Parents should seek to recognize, label, and then validate each of their kid’s emotions.
What does it look like to validate someone’s emotions? Pretend your kid begins throwing a tantrum because they saw a toy at the store that they want. In order to validate their big, uncomfortable emotion, you could respond in a variety of ways. Here are some examples:
- “I see that you are sad because you wanted that toy. It’s hard when we can’t have exactly what we want.”
- “I understand that you are feeling angry. I would love to talk to you about that, but I cannot understand what you are saying when you are yelling. When you feel more calm, we can talk about these big feelings.”
- “You are sad because you wanted that toy. I can see why you would feel that way. I would feel sad too.”
This is not an exhaustive list of the ways that you could respond, but they might give you some good ideas.
The main point: empathize with your kids. No matter how ridiculous you think the tantrum might be, it is important that your kid feels HEARD and UNDERSTOOD. Expressing that you would be sad too can go a long way!
Give your kids privacy
All kids need and deserve some level of privacy. Whenever possible, allow your kids to have their “own space” in the house. This can be in the form of their own bedroom, or maybe they have a small corner of the living room that is just theirs. Either way, allow them space for themselves and give them privacy when they need it.
Focus on effort
When your kids try something, focus on the efforts that they put in, not on the result. When your kid studies for a spelling test and they pass, try saying something like “Look at what can happen when you study and work really hard!”
But what if your kid tries and fails?
Let’s take the same scenario with the spelling test. Your kid studies and doesn’t do well on their spelling test. You may respond with “You studied so hard for this test! I am proud of you for how much work you put in!” The emphasis should never be placed on the result of your kid’s efforts.
Focusing on results will make your kids more likely to quit after any failure and they are likely to take failure harder.
Expect your kids to always try their best
Having high expectations for your kids is one of the classic characteristics of the authoritative parent. This does not mean that kids will always succeed, though. In fact, it is likely that your kids will experience many failures throughout their lives. Emphasize to your kids that you want them to always try their best. As long as they try their best at whatever they do, then be proud of whatever results they may see!
Help your kids develop a healthy relationship with food
Authoritative parents understand the importance of allowing their kids to make choices regarding food. Parents should control WHAT food to serve and WHEN to serve it. Kids should have the freedom to choose HOW MUCH to eat and if they will eat at all. New foods should be introduced whenever possible, but kids should never be forced to eat anything that they don’t want to.
Focus on natural consequences when disciplining
The purpose of discipline is to allow kids to learn from their mistakes. There is no better way for them to learn than to use natural consequences. Grounding your kid from TV because they didn’t clean up their room isn’t going to teach them to clean up their room. They may understand that they got in trouble, but a consequence that isn’t natural is unlikely to yield long-term results. Natural consequences are sometimes difficult to recognize, but here are some ideas to get you thinking.
- Your son does not turn off the TV when you ask him to, so he loses TV privileges for the rest of the day.
- Your kids do not pick up the Legos when they are done playing with them, so they do not get to play with Legos the next day.
- Your daughter doesn’t want to wear a sweater when you go to the park, so she will be cold while playing.
Whatever behavior needs to be corrected, try whenever possible to use a natural consequence. In doing so, kids learn that every action has a consequence of some kind which helps them now and as adults.
Listen to your kids
Authoritative parents know that kids need to be heard and understood. To become a more authoritative parent, practice reflective listening with your kids.
Reflective listening is where you listen to your kids and then repeat back to them what they said. This helps them to feel understood and gives them a chance to correct your interpretation of what they said. Another way to listen to your kids is to ask them questions to get to know them! Ask with the intent to really understand them and you are sure to grow closer to your kids.
Set clear rules and boundaries
Every family needs rules to function effectively. But rules do little good when they aren’t laid out clearly ahead of time. Whenever possible, parents should clearly explain their expectations for their kids.
Of course there will be times when a problem arises and a new rule is necessary. This is a great opportunity for parents to include their kids in creating new rules and setting boundaries. Whatever the rules are that your family has, make sure they are always clear and that consequences are explained too.
Give warnings when rules are broken
It’s unrealistic for parents to expect their kids to follow every rule 100% of the time. Kids, especially young kids, will need reminders every now and then. Offer some leeway for when they make mild mistakes and break rules.
For example, if you have a family rule that coats and backpacks need to be hung up after school and your kid dumps theirs on the floor, a simple reminder of “backpack!” may be enough to remind them of the rule. Most of all, try to be patient as your kids learn to navigate and remember the rules your family has set.
Allow your kids to make choices where possible
Allowing your kids to make choices is an important part of teaching kids autonomy. It also helps kids feel in control of some aspects of their lives. Of course parents can’t let their kids make choices about everything all the time.
Whenever possible, choose a few options that you are comfortable with and allow your kids to make choices between them. Another bonus of giving kids simple choices is that it cuts down on tantrums over small things. Some examples of how to give a kid choices are:
- “We need to get dressed. Would you like this outfit? Or this outfit?”
- “It’s time to get your shoes on. Would you like to put them on or would you like me to help you?”
- “It’s almost time to get out of the tub. Do you want to wash your hair first or your body first?”
Treat mistakes as learning opportunities
When your kids make mistakes (as they will), it’s important to keep your own emotions in check. Instead of looking at their mistake as a problem, seek to see it as a learning opportunity. Kids can learn so much from their mistakes. When you teach your kids with love, they learn that they can come to their parents when they’ve made mistakes and that their parents will help them.
Self-discipline is something that even many adults struggle with. Authoritative parents understand the importance of instilling this skill in their kids early on. There are many ways parents can teach their kids self-discipline. One way is to give kids responsibilities around the house. When kids have jobs that they are in charge of completing, it gives them the opportunity to learn how to manage their time.
Teaching your kids the value of money is another great way to teach self-discipline. When your kid sees something at the store that they would like to buy, talk to them about how much it costs and how much money they have. Encourage them to really think about whether they want to spend their money now or save it for something else later. These simple practices can grow skills that will carry over into adulthood.
What do you love about authoritative parenting? What principles will you try to implement? Tell us in the comments below!