Recently I was fired from one of the families I was working with. What happened, you are probably wondering? Well, we firmly disagreed on parenting styles and their effectiveness. Actually, the mom seemed relieved that the conversation was happening until the dad showed his very assertive style. Then I knew the relationship would most likely be over.

You all know that I believe that parenting is an incredible gift and journey filled with love, challenges, and choices. One of the most significant choices we make, consciously or reflexively, is with one’s parenting style. Two common styles that often get mixed up are authoritative and authoritarian parenting. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between these two approaches.

Authoritative parenting is like a warm, supportive, and nurturing embrace. It’s like having a mom who is both firm and flexible. [This is so me.] Authoritative parents set clear rules and boundaries, but they also understand the importance of open communication. I, Dr. Marnee, believe in clear, predictable, repeatable, and believable responses to behaviors. As an authoritative parent, I believe in listening to children, in giving space in the relationship to hear and respect my children’s feelings, as well as the time to explain the reasons behind my decisions. This parenting style promotes independence, responsibility, and a sense of self-worth in kids. Children raised by authoritative parents tend to be confident and well-adjusted. [This describes my boys. Can you see me grinning ear to ear?]

On the other hand, authoritarian parenting can bit like living with strict teachers at home. Authoritarian parents tend to believe in absolute obedience and discipline. They often use punishments as their main tool for control. [This was the dad in my office.] While authoritarian parents genuinely care about their children, they often struggle with expressing warmth and understanding. This parenting style can lead to kids who are obedient but lack the ability to think for themselves. The kids may grow up feeling anxious or rebellious. [Just so you know, this is why the parents came to see me in the first place. Their child was having issues with self-regulation, tantrums, a lack of cooperation at home, and they wanted my guidance.]

It was important for me to convey to this family that the key difference between the two styles lies in the approach to control and communication. Authoritative parents balance rules with reasons, giving children a sense of agency and teaching them valuable decision-making skills. This style encourages kids to express themselves, which fosters healthy self-esteem and interpersonal skills. In contrast, authoritarian parents emphasize obedience, which can hinder a child’s ability to develop independence and critical thinking. [OK, I accept that I am not the right parenting guide for everyone.]

Here is an example, imagine you want to teach your child about bedtime. [I know, I get stuck on this topic, lol.] An authoritative parent might explain the importance of sleep, establish a reasonable bedtime, and allow their child some flexibility on weekends. [Yep, this is me again.] An authoritarian parent, on the other hand, might simply dictate a strict bedtime without room for discussion. [This was the dad who fired me.]

OK, so overall, both authoritative and authoritarian parents want the best for their children. These styles have different methods and their outcomes can differ greatly. Authoritative parenting fosters a nurturing, balanced, and communicative environment that empowers children to grow into confident, responsible adults. Authoritarian parenting tends to focus on control and obedience, potentially stifling a child’s independence and creativity. So, as parents, it’s essential to find the right balance that suits your family’s needs and values. After all, it’s the love and understanding we offer that make the most significant impact on our children’s lives. And now, as you all read this and know me, it totally makes sense I was fired!!