Parenting and Child Development

Parenting Styles: Authoritative versus Authoritarian. Which one are you?

authoritative-family-800x445By Jennifer Grace Martinez

When my first child was first born, I remember holding her in my arms and looking at her beautiful, tiny face.  She was perfect, and in my opinion, she was literally a gift from God.  I vowed at that moment to love her with my whole heart, and to always try to keep her safe from harm.

holding hand mother baby

I knew enough to be scared about being a mother, because I had just been given the greatest of responsibilities.  This child’s life was literally in my hands.  I would have control over almost every aspect of my child’s life for many years; what she ate, what she drank, whether she felt truly loved.  I was struck by what an immense responsibility I had before me.  I couldn’t help but think of my little daughter as though she were a little blank book…and I would be writing across the very first pages of her life.

feet baby

I knew that I had to love her completely -filling her with all of the confidence she would need to live independently as an adult, by creating an emotionally-safe, loving, and nurturing environment for her.  However, the outside world intervened.  According to others, showing a child consideration for their feelings is “compromising” with them…which for many families is unheard of.  Mirroring my child’s emotions when they get hurt and showing them empathy is “coddling” them and will lead to them being “too sensitive.”  Following through with promises made was not necessary, because after all, parents are not obligated to do anything for their offspring short of keeping them safe and fed.

For many people in our society, having feelings is correlated with weakness.  Treating our children with respect is unnecessary due to their “inferior nature.”  Showing empathy leads to coddling which many people believe will lead to an overly dependent, sensitive adult.  These are common sentiments heard from other parents that can not only be detrimental to the emotional and developmental minds of children, but have been shown to be wholly inaccurate.


According to Jabeen, Farah, et al.[1] research shows that when parents exhibit love, affection, and positive expression with their children, behavioral problems in children are relatively low.  Children are able to build secure attachments and regulate their emotions more effectively[2], developing an increase in emotional strength.  They develop the necessary tools that enable them to overcome negative events, as well as negative emotions[3]. In other words, the more love and affection we offer our children, the more they are prepared for the negativity that life can bring, because they feel stronger and more secure with themselves.

father and smiling 9 year old

There is a difference between being “authoritative” and being an “authoritarian” parent.  According to Psychology Dictionary, authoritative parenting is a style in which the parent encourages independence, yet consistently imposes fair limitations on the behavior of the child.  The parent explains and engages their child in discussion with regard to the reason for specific rules; being mindful of the child’s preferences and opinions.

An authoritative parent who offers up a healthy dose of love and warmth creates a secure environment in which children develop emotionally healthy, and thrive; ultimately becoming more resilient to negativity in life.[4]  Showing affection and love to our children does not make them weak, it makes them strong. It makes them better able to handle adversity.

father son tie

A parent who uses a more authoritarian parenting style, does the opposite of an authoritative parent.  As opposed to listening to their child’s feelings, they demand obedience.  The authoritarian parent does not allow for discussion or room for a child to express his or her opinion.  They are far more restrictive with their children, and offer stronger punishment in order to prevent unwanted behavior from reoccurring.

crying swimmer girl

This type of harsh parenting leads children to be LESS capable of regulating their emotions[5].  This emotional dysregulation can result in both academic-related, and social problems in children[6].  Children are left feeling less secure with themselves, and less able to handle the negativity that life can bring.  (As an aside, fathers are often more authoritarian with their sons, which can lead to sons perceiving their mothers as more permissive[7].  Parents must be mindful of offering up different parenting styles dependent upon the sex of their child.  It has been shown that the authoritative parent helps children to thrive no matter the sex.  Both male and female children are deserving of love and consideration).

emotional abuse

It should be noted that there are other forms of parenting that can be detrimental to our children’s emotional development.  One such style is called, permissive parenting.  According to Psychology Dictionary, permissive parenting, is when a parent does not punish, approve, or affirm their children.  They take more of a “hands off” approach, explaining the rules and then allowing their children to make decisions for themselves.  This kind of parenting can also be devastating to a child’s emotional health, inhibiting their development and ability to regulate their own emotions.  Children of permissive parents often have difficulty in learning, and may exhibit more aggressive behavior[8].

passive parenting

Being either authoritarian, with the propensity to control, or permissive, with the need to never control can create children without the tools they need to handle everyday life.  However, providing children with a consistent, authoritative parent, who not only loves, and nurtures, but listens to their needs, can create a strong, autonomous adult who will feel secure in themselves enough to handle life’s many challenges.


So the next time that your little one falls to the ground and cries, instead of saying, “you’re okay,” how about picking them up and showing some compassion and concern?  They will thank you for it later, and ultimately, you will be glad you did.

Which parenting style do you subscribe to and why?  Do you feel as though there is need for improvement?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!



[1] Jabeen, Farah, M. Anis-ul-Haque, and Muhammad Naveed Riaz. “Parenting styles as predictors of emotion regulation among adolescents.” Pakistan Journal of Psychological Research 28, no. 1 (2013): 85+. Health Reference Center Academic (accessed February 14, 2019).

[2] Contreras, J. M., Kerns, K. A., Weimer, B. L., Gentzler, A. L., & Tomich, P. L. (2000). Emotion Regulation as a mediator of association between mother child attachment and peer relationships in middle childhood. Journal of Family Psychology, 14, 111-124

[3] Cummings, E. M., & Davies, P. T. (1996). Emotional security as a regulatory process in normal development and the development of psychopathology. Development and Psychopathology, 8, 123-139. doi: 10.1017/S0954579400007008.

[4] Davies, P. T., & Cummings, E. M. (1994). Marital conflict and child adjustment: An emotional security hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin, 116, 387-411. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.116.3.387.

[5] Eisenberg, N., Fabes, R. A., Shepard, S. A., Guthrie, I. K., Murphy, B. C., & Reiser, M. (1999). Parental reactions to children’s negative emotions: A longitudinal relation to quality of children’s social functioning. Child Development, 70, 513-534. doi: 10.1111/1467-8624.00037

[6] Fabes, R. A., Eisenberg, N., & Miller, P. A. (1990). Maternal correlates of children’s vicarious emotional responsiveness. Developmental Psychology, 29, 639-648.

[7] Conrade, G., & Ho, R. (2001). Differential parenting styles for fathers and mothers: Differential treatment for sons and daughters. Australian Journal of Psychology, 53, 29-35.

[8] Baumrind, D. (1967). Child care practices anteceding three patterns of preschool behavior. Genetic Psychology Monographs, 75(1), 43-88.

Singer, Actress, Songwriter, Writer, Fitness Professional, Artist.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: