Being a parent is no easy task, which is why when you hear about something that could help you raise independent, loving children, you’re all ears. Enter authoritative parenting, a “democratic” method of raising little ones that revolves around achieving balance—even though these parents have high expectations for their kids, they are also willing to be there to support them every step of the way. In this style, kids are encouraged to speak their mind and make choices of their own within their boundaries, totally different from the “be seen and not heard” methodology of our parents’ time.
What Is Authoritative Parenting?
Authoritative parenting is a parenting style combining warmth, sensitivity, and limits. Authoritative parents use positive reinforcement and reasoning to guide children while avoiding threats or punishments. They show respect for children as independent people, expecting them to be mature and cooperative while also offering them emotional support.
Authoritative parents create clear household rules and then explain the reason for each—it’s not just about eating your breakfast, but “eating your breakfast so you can be strong and healthy.” What’s more, researchers believe that children who are raised this way turn out to not only be happier and healthier but also are more prepared for the real world. In order to figure out how this method of raising children works, we tapped four real moms to see how they do it every day, posing the question:
“Authoritative parenting is all about being a good role model for your children. How do you set a good example for your little ones?”
ZAHRA SANDBERG, MOM OF 2
ON TECH: There are a few things we try to do to be good role models for our kids. The first is turning off our electronic devices when we are spending quality time together (if we expect our son to stay off of the iPad, we can’t be scrolling through Instagram during dinner).
ON CHORES: We’ve created a system of completing our chores and responsibilities before getting a reward, like cleaning up the house or feeding the dog before relaxing on the couch. By splitting up the tasks that need to be completed daily, we keep each other on track.
ON KINDNESS: It’s important to treat others with dignity and love—whether it is with each other, extended family, friends, or just strangers we meet. We also don’t want them to be stingy with love… the more hugs and kisses, the better!
CHRISSY POWERS, MOM OF 2
ON BEING DEMOCRATIC: Modeling behavior is one of the most effective ways for children to learn and experience something that becomes part of their blueprint in life. Since my grad school days when I first learned about the types of parenting, I knew I wanted to be a democratic parent that attuned to her child’s needs with high love and warmth paired with appropriate boundaries and discipline. Our approach to parenting is that we don’t have all the answers, but we have ideals and values as a family, and we expect our children to hold them as well.
ON DISCIPLINE: We are not a family that bullies or hits, and when one of our children shows signs of this behavior, we do not shame them for it—we simply remind them that “we are not a family that hits.” With our 2-year-old, it can be trickier because hitting is somewhat developmental, but how we typically interact with our toddler when he hits is look him in the eyes and say, “we will not let you hit.” I believe that lays the foundation and boundary for children so they have a framework of who they are and how to operate in the world.
ON RELATIONSHIP BUILDING: My favorite part of authoritative parenting and what we do most in our family is shower our children with love, warmth, and affection. Just last night I could see my husband was having a hard time connecting with our 5-year-old when he didn’t get his way. I looked at my husband and whispered, “hold your ground, but go tickle him, kiss him, and make him laugh.” He did just that, and the relationship was mended. It’s all about knowing your child, giving them choices with boundaries, as well as so much love.
CATHERINE SHEPPARD, MOM OF 1
ON AWARENESS: Once we became parents, we quickly realized that our actions are forever going to be under a microscope in our daughter’s eyes. Even though Sailor’s only 2, we felt early on that we had to adjust our way of thinking and needed to always reflect on the type of person we wanted to raise. Nobody is perfect, so it’s always eye-opening to catch yourself saying or doing things you’re not proud of.
ON COMMUNICATION: If someone’s feelings get hurt, we try to put them into words so she can learn what those difficult feelings mean and so she will always feel validated. Although Sailor’s still a little young for any kind of major discipline, that’s all the more reason for us to try to demonstrate the ideal way to act through how we act.
ALEX EVJEN, MOM OF 2
ON CONSISTENCY: I firmly believe that leading by example is the best way to parent. Words without actions are empty, and inconsistency is the fastest way to chaos in the home. I’m not an expert at parenting by any means, but I think there’s lots of parents like myself who have tried many things to help our kids listen and make good choices.
ON BALANCE: Through personal experience, I have found authoritative parenting to be the most effective. My kids look to me to create boundaries, and I believe they feel safer having them. In order to be an authority in their lives, I have to embody the expectations I have of my children and also show grace and forgiveness when they fall short. It’s not about being overbearing and controlling—it’s a careful balance of love, grace, and truth.