Authoritative vs Authoritarian Parenting

They sound similar, but are drastically different when it comes to their definitions. Authoritative and authoritarian parenting styles are both styles that have strict rules and high expectations. The differences lie in how parents communicate with their children and how the children are punished.

Out of the four types of parenting styles, only one is thought to be best for the child. The authoritative method is well rounded and beneficial without being too limiting. However, parents will still raise their children in their own ways.

These two ways of parenting are often used simultaneously, but they are drastically different from each other. They are as different as the words ‘punishment’ and ‘discipline’. Both of those terms go well with authoritarian and authoritative parenting respectively.


Parents who use the authoritarian method have a few things in common. These things are what help to define the type of parenting that is used for all of the four types. The following are a few of these characteristics that make an authoritarian household.

  • Characteristics of parents who take an authoritarian approach:
    • Have strict regulations, rules, and expectations
    • Do not express much nurturing or warmth
    • Do not give children choices or options
    • Use punishments without explanation
  • Effects of an authoritarian approach on the children:
    • May learn to associate obedience and success with love
    • Might have low self esteem
    • May act shy or fearful around others
    • May experience difficulty in social settings
    • Might display aggressive demeanor outside of the house
    • Tend to conform easily
    • More likely to suffer from anxiety and depression

Authoritarian parenting is strict and can be somewhat unforgiving. It might seem like a good way to keep a child under control, and it may work for a while. However, your child might start acting out or becoming withdrawn and depressed. The use of power over children is not quite the best way to go about parenting.


The authoritative parenting style is effective in that it is very well rounded and provides a better experience for both parent and child. There is open communication and a mutual understanding that authoritarian parents likely lack.

  • Characteristics of households with authoritative parenting style:
    • Children are listened to
    • Independence is encouraged
    • Limits, consequences, and expectations about the child’s behavior are present
    • Expressions of nurturance and warmth exist
    • Children are allowed to express their own opinions
    • Discipline is fair and consistent
    • Children are encouraged to discuss their options
  • Effects of an authoritative parenting style on the children:
    • Might have happier dispositions
    • May develop better emotional control and regulation
    • Develop good skills in social settings
    • Grow self confidence in abilities to learn new things

An authoritative parenting style allows children to use their own reasoning and to work independently. However, they are expected to accomplish great things. Unlike authoritarian parenting, the discipline for breaking rules is consistent and explained to the child. The punishments are also usually fair for the action that is being punished.

Flexibility is something else that authoritative parenting has. Parents may allow the child to explain the circumstances and then will adjust the response according to such.

Overall, these parenting styles have their own pros and cons. However, the authoritative style allows children to experience life differently, and gives them room to grow in many different ways. The consistency of authoritative parenting is good for the development of the child.

Alternatively, authoritarian parenting can be detrimental to a child’s development and might even contribute to a mental illness like depression or anxiety. By using power and coercion, parents exert their will onto their children with very little wiggle room. They are less strict than authoritative parents at times, but are not as consistent.

It is this consistency that sets authoritative parenting apart from the rest. When an authoritarian parent becomes angry, they may yell and punish but the child will never know what to expect, which can attribute to the fear they might feel while around others. When an authoritative parent becomes angry at their child, the parent is calm and always uses the same type of discipline. This helps to ensure that the child knows what the consequences are going to be.