Looking for more peace and less crazy in your home? You might be ready for a good dose of authoritative parenting. Read on for tips to rock this proven parenting style in your own home.
When my son turned two, and I found myself smack dab in the middle of the “boundary testing” stage. I was calling it the “terrible twos” until I read this convicting and encouraging post by The (Reformed) Idealist Mom. For me, (and probably for you too, if you’re reading this!) it’s time to buckle down and really set a firm foundation of love and discipline as the authoritative parent of my child. Read more about the four types of parenting.
What is authoritative parenting? It’s parenting that is high in both love and boundaries. We know that we absolutely adore our children. It’s because, not in spite of, this love that we must set firm boundaries for acceptable behavior.
What does authoritative parenting look like? It loves unconditionally, sets firm and fair rules, and follows through. Let’s take a closer look.
Authoritative Parents Love Unconditionally
Mama, let’s be honest. There are times when all you want to do is throw your hands up in the air, yell, and pitch a fit. Some days are just that hard. And it’s tempting to join our little ones in their immature or selfish mindset. It’s called the blame and shame game. And it’s not pretty.
Instead blaming and shaming, we can learn to love the way Jesus loves us. He gently wins us over with kindness and draws us to repentance. He hates our sin but never stops loving us. In the same way, we can shower our children with love even while we discipline them. In authoritative parenting, we choose to be responsive to our children’s needs. Our responses are filled with patience and grace.
Easier said than done, right? Can I tell you, the only way I’m able to respond with patience and grace is if I’m filled up with the Holy Spirit. It’s only when His fruit is growing in my life that I’m able to be the parent I need to be.
Ask this simple question to transform your child’s behavior almost overnight!
So what can you say to show your child you love them unconditionally? Try this line next time your child misbehaves, “I love you too much to let you act that way.” Or try one of these quick five second strategies to connect with your child, even on the worst days!
Authoritative Parents Set Fair Rules
Have you ever had a boss come down on you hard for not completing an assignment, when you weren’t even sure what his expectations were to begin with? It’s frustrating to say the least. Imagine how our kids feel when they get in trouble for something they weren’t sure even was against the rules.
Here’s a secret I learned from my dad that totally works for my little boy: Instead of throwing out words from across the room and hoping they stick, get close. Get right on their level. Whisper in their ear if necessary. Tell your child in a short, simple phrases exactly what you expect them to do.
Why not try this with your children? Sit down as a family and set some house rules together. For younger kids and toddlers, of course, you’ll need to be more direct. But most preschoolers can help make rules that are fair for everyone. “We speak kindly to each other.” or “We think of others first.” Then take turns giving examples of how you can put those rules into action.
A word of advice: Make sure the rules you develop are appropriate for each age level. For instance, you can’t expect babies or young toddlers to keep perfectly clean at dinner time. Older toddlers and kids, however, can and be held to a standard that shows respect for their home and their environment at dinnertime.
Authoritative Parents Enforce the Rules
This is the sticky part. It’s up to you to enforce the rules. What good is a rule that’s not enforced? No good at all, and your kids will quickly catch on! For our family right now, we’re working on being consistent 100% of the time. Yes, I know it’s exhausting, trust me! But you can do it! The rewards are huge, too. Research shows that authoritative parenting produces kids who are capable, responsible, and caring adults.
What are some strategies to enforce the rules? Here are a few that work for our family.
- natural consequences (if you throw the toy, you can’t play with it again today)
- time out (one minute per year of age is a good rule)
- spankings (I know this is a controversial topic, but when done correctly and calmly it can be effective.)
- Be consistent!
One more thing about enforcing the rules: I am teaching my son to respond with “Yes, ma’am” after I give him instructions. This has helped in a big way by teaching him to obey immediately, without ignoring me or dawdling, and with a happy heart. Yes it’s taken us months of repeating “Yes, ma’am” over and over, but we’re making progress every day. Of course if you’re not a Southern mama, you can teach “Yes, mommy” or whatever you prefer. But boy, does my little man sound ever so cute when he says “Yes, ma’am.”
Authoritative Parenting Action Steps
- Practice this phrase: “I love you too much to let you act that way.”
- Make some house rules (House rules are general rules: We speak kindly to each other. Or, we respect other’s property.) to help your kids know what’s expected of them. Write them down together!
- In new or different situations (like the grocery store, library, etc.) be clear about the rules and consequences BEFORE you get there. Prep in the car on the way there!
- Make a game plan for how you will enforce the rules with consequences. Talk it over with your spouse to get on the same page.
Let’s connect! How will you be an authoritative parent today? How can you boost love and boundaries in your home?