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The Difference between Permissive and Authoritarian Parenting Styles

Laura Kuehn, LCSW
Written by Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Parenting styles can be placed on a continuum, with permissiveness on one end and authoritarian on the other. Where do you think the most effective parents fall on this continuum? You may likely say “halfway” (parents who are neither too permissive nor too authoritarian), claiming that moderate is always best. However, research has found that this is not the case. Halfway is not the ideal place to be. Three-quarters of the way toward authoritarian is thought to be the “ideal” parenting style. Before we discuss this style, let’s take a closer look at what it means to be either a permissive or authoritarian parent.

Permissive parents are those who provide minimal discipline and redirection for their children’s behavior. They allow freedom of choice and support those choices even if they don’t agree with them. They tend to be indulgent (materially and emotionally) and avoid conflict at all costs. They equate happy children with successful parenting.

Authoritarian parents, on the other hand, allow no freedom, no choice and have harsh punishments in response to misbehavior. There are often extensive rules and responsibilities for all family members to follow. There is no reciprocal conversation or dialogue and they believe that children are best seen and not heard. Most often, parents who yell and scream at their children are placed in this category. However, if you yell and scream and complain about your child’s behavior, but DO nothing to affect it, you are actually permissive.

A better approach to parenting (3/4 of the way to authoritarian) will produce:

  • less outright or subversive rebellion
  • better parent child relationships
  • improved communication

Here are some distinguishing characteristics of these types of parents:

  • They have clear boundaries that lets the child know who holds the authority but also allows opportunities for the child to voice his or her thoughts and feelings.
  • They feel they have a “handle” on the task of parenting and don’t exhibit a fear based reaction (as would an authoritarian parent) when their children’s behavior turns challenging.
  • They are not afraid to say “no” and have no trouble providing discipline when necessary.
  • They are also not afraid to admit when they have made a mistake and humbly seek restoration.

Take a few moments today to evaluate where you fall on the continuum. Make it your goal to get 3/4 of the way there!

Image by Olya Adamovich from Pixabay
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment from a qualified mental health professional. Cornerstones for Parents is not liable for any advice, tips, techniques, and recommendations the reader chooses to implement.

About Laura

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura is a licensed therapist who offers parent counseling services to families in Connecticut. She loves to equip and encourage parents of kids of all ages. CfP is the place she combines some of her favorite things: writing, parenting and God's word. She is happily married to a wonderfully supportive husband and is the mother of two delightfully inspiring teens.

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