There is a great deal of discussion among parents and parenting experts regarding parenting styles. A parenting style is a general description of how a particular parent interacts with his or her children. Parenting styles are made up of two major components that act together. These components are responsiveness and demandingness.

Responsiveness refers to a parent's willingness to be supportive of a child's needs and wants. Furthermore, responsiveness is that component of parenting that tries to encourage individuality, self-regulation, and self-assertion within children. Demandingness, on the other hand, is a measure of a parent's expectations regarding a child's behavior.  It considers the parent's expectations regarding the child's level of maturity while taking into account the parent's level of supervision, disciplinary style, and willingness to confront unwanted behavior.

Parenting style has been identified as a major predictor of a child's future performance in multiple areas including: behavior problems, emotional functioning, academic achievement, psychosocial development, and social skills. Most experts agree that an authoritative parenting style is the most desirable. An authoritative parenting style can best be described as consistent discipline with a high level of warm responsiveness. 

Research indicates that children of authoritative parents are rated more socially and emotionally competent then children whose parents used other styles. At all stages of development, authoritative parenting style is linked with lower incidence of behavioral problems. Children from authoritative households seem to be particularly good at balancing society's demands to conform and achieve with the individual's needs for independence and uniqueness.

Authoritative parenting style works well with all types of children because at its core it is flexible. Authoritative parents seem to have little need for psychological control over their children. They are more willing to engage in give and take with the child and are more likely to explain why rules are the way they are. Above all, authoritative parents are able to balance their need to teach appropriate behavior with their desire to foster their child's individuality. The benefits of authoritative parenting can be seen in children as young as pre-schoolers and continue into adulthood.  Children of other styles exhibit signs social interaction difficulties, poor academic performance and the absence of proper mood regulation, which all could indicate a need for mental health intervention.

Tips in adapting an authoriative parenting style:

  • Be consistent with rules and expectations.
  • Be responsive to your child's needs without compromising the rules that are in place.
  • Taylor your authoritative parenting style to your child.  Do not be concerned with what other parents are doing unless it is a good match to assist with your child's needs.
  • Be open to answering questions from your child concerning your parenting style.  This conversation could help you in matching your authoritative parenting style to your child and create rewards that assist with promoting wanted positive behavior.
  • Do not feel guilty when you are inconsistent with your authoritative parenting style, rather examine how and why you changed your routine.  There may or may not be a good reason that worked better for your child at the time.  Looking at the situation closely will help you as a parent gain an understanding of the situation to assist your child's development and for you to grow as a parent.
  • Seek the help of a mental health professional or trained behavior interventionist who can assist with adopting an authoritative parenting style.
  • Seek the help of a mental health professional if you feel your child needs a higher level of care.