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Authoritative Guidance

Asian woman and young man sitting in room

It’s no secret that parenting, especially parenting teenagers, is hard work. Many parents often find it difficult to strike the right balance between being too permissive and being too strict or demanding. Yet this balance, called authoritative guidance, is exactly what can promote the well-being of teens and set them up for success as they enter adulthood.

Permissiveness, Authoritative Guidance, and Authoritarian Control

Parenting studies done by psychologists and other researches have uncovered three distinct types of parenting: permissive parenting, authoritative parenting, and authoritarian parenting.

The permissive parent is overly responsive to his/her child’s demands, seldom enforcing consistent rules and boundaries. Expectations aren’t clearly communicated or understood. Typically, permissive parents rescue their children from their problems or enable their children to make poor decisions. Children with permissive parents may become aggressive, rebellious, begin abusing substances, or have difficulty managing intense emotions.

On the other end of the spectrum is the authoritarian parent. This parent is often demanding, rigid, or harsh. The focus of the authoritarian parent is maintaining control by demanding obedience, conformity, and order. This type of parent uses punishment to get his/her child to obey. Children of authoritarian parents are often compliant and submissive. They may struggle with low self-esteem, anxiety, or they may become aggressive.

The right balance between permissive and authoritarian parenting is authoritative. The authoritative parent is firm, but not rigid. He/she is willing to make an exception when necessary. This parent is responsive to the child’s needs but is not indulgent. Common traits of an authoritative environment include some issues being negotiated, recognition of typical teenage behavior, greater freedom and independence, clear rules that are consistently enforced, logical consequences, and love, support and guidance. Children from authoritative environments usually have a healthy self-image, better relationships, increased independence, personal responsibility and maturity, and increased leadership skills, academic achievement and trustworthiness.

Focus on Authoritative Guidance

  • As you strive to adopt an authoritative parenting style, remember that teaching your child is more effective than punishing him/her. Think about situations where you punished your child when teaching might have been a better choice. Write down what you could have done instead and commit to doing it the next time a similar situation arises.
  • Think about your parents’ style of parenting and write down ways you think it may have affected you, for better or worse. Then think about whether you do some of the same things in your own parenting style. Where can improvements be made?
  • Regardless of where you fall on the parenting style spectrum, set a goal to do one or two things that reflect authoritative guidance for one week. This might be enforcing rules consistently or being more flexible with your demands. After the week is over, write down any changes you noticed in your family environment.