Exploring parenting styles: Is authoritative parenting the optimal approach?

We all worry about whether we are being good parents to our children and wonder what the best way to raise kids is. Research has identified how different parenting styles can differentially affect our children. New research suggests that we should focus on living by example and that creating memories with our children is by far the best thing we can give them.

What are different parenting styles?

Parenting styles are crucial to a child's development as they shape their personality, behavior, and future relationships. There are several types of parenting styles, including authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, and neglectful.

Each parenting style has its own unique impact on a child's mental health, growth, and well-being, it is important for parents to understand the effects of their chosen style. Parenting styles also have a great impact on children’s health, attitudes, and adjustments later in life.

Authoritative parenting is characterized by high levels of warmth and control. Parents who use this style are both demanding and supportive. They set high standards for their children and provide clear guidelines, but also offer praise and support when necessary. This style is associated with children who are confident, responsible, and well-adjusted.

Authoritarian parenting is characterized by high levels of control and low levels of warmth. Parents who use this style enforce strict rules and punishments. They expect obedience from their children. While this style can lead to obedient children, it can also result in feelings of resentment and a lack of autonomy in children.

Permissive parenting is characterized by low levels of control and high levels of warmth. Parents who use this style are indulgent and do not enforce rules or consequences. While children raised in this environment may feel loved and cared for, they often lack discipline and struggle with decision-making.

Neglectful parenting is characterized by low levels of both control and warmth. Parents who use this style are indifferent and uninvolved in their children's lives. This style can lead to feelings of abandonment and neglect, and children raised in this environment may struggle with attachment issues and low self-esteem.

It is important to understand that parenting styles are not absolute, and many parents may use a combination of styles depending on the situation. Additionally, the effects of parenting styles are not permanent, and children can recover from negative impacts with therapy and support.

It is important for parents to be aware of their parenting style and its effects on their children. Children raised in a healthy parenting environment are more likely to have positive relationships and successful futures. On the other hand, children raised in an unhealthy environment are more likely to struggle with behavioral and emotional issues.

What is the healthiest parenting style?

While there is no absolute one way for parents to display healthy parenting styles, research has suggested that a healthy parenting style is one that strikes a balance between warmth and control. Parents who use this style provide clear guidelines and consequences while also offering praise, love, and support. This style is associated with children who are confident, responsible, have achievement.

Research has also suggested that the key to a great parenting style and healthy child outcomes is spending quality time with our children. Engaging in quality time with our children has many benefits on their growth and development, such as less behavioral issues and better health physically, mentally, and emotionally. Having quality time with children also makes them less prone to dangerous and risky behaviors, such as taking drugs and alcohol.

Importantly, when you spend quality time with your child, you create memories with them. Research suggests that the memories we create with our children leave a lasting impact and influence their psychological adjustment later in life. Because children are in a sensitive period during childhood, their brains are still very malleable and they are easily influenced by these early memories and experiences. When we create positive memories with our children through quality time, we positively impact their future.

By doing this, we also help our children live by example. When our children watch us do something, they remember that action. Research suggest that we are more influenced by watching what people do versus what they say, thanks to an elaborate system of mirror neurons in the brain that has evolved to mimic what we see in others. Thus, when we behave a certain way around our children, they are more likely to remember that and copy that behavior.

For example, imagine you are a parent who is very neat and organized and recycles their plastic bottles every week. If your child observes this behavior, over time they are more likely to imitate that and adopt the same behaviors. On the other hand, if you are someone who is messy, smokes cigarettes, and doesn’t mind that they’ve missed late notices on bills, your child is likely to emulate that behavior as well.

This research suggests that what parents should focus on the most is being a good example for their child, as this is what children are most likely to remember in the future.

Tips for parents and educators:

  • Emphasize love and affection: Show love and affection to your child through hugs, praise, and other physical displays of affection.
  • Encourage open communication: Encourage your child to express themselves and listen actively to what they have to say.
  • Set clear boundaries: Establish clear rules and boundaries for your child, while also being flexible and open to negotiation.
  • Lead by example: Be a positive role model by exhibiting the behavior you want to see in your child.
  • Encourage independence: Give your child opportunities to make decisions and solve problems on their own.
  • Provide structure: Create a predictable routine and schedule to provide stability and structure for your child.
  • Promote positive self-esteem: Encourage your child to develop a positive self-image by focusing on their strengths and accomplishments.
  • Foster a love of learning: Encourage your child to explore their interests and develop a love of learning.
  • Teach coping skills: Teach your child how to handle stress and difficult emotions in healthy ways.


Anderson SE, Gooze RA, Lemeshow S, Whitaker RC. Quality of early maternal-child relationship and risk of adolescent obesity. Pediatrics. 2012 Jan;129(1):132-40. doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-0972. Epub 2011 Dec 26. PMID: 22201144; PMCID: PMC3255468.

Lohaus, A., Vierhaus, M., & Ball, J. (2009). Parenting styles and health-related behavior in childhood and early adolescence: Results of a longitudinal study. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 29(4), 449-475.

Mara, D. (2017). The function of mirror neurons in the learning process. In MATEC Web of Conferences (Vol. 121, p. 12012). EDP Sciences.

Power, T. G. (2013). Parenting dimensions and styles: a brief history and recommendations for future research. Childhood Obesity, 9(s1), S-14.

Uji, M., Sakamoto, A., Adachi, K., & Kitamura, T. (2014). The impact of authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive parenting styles on children’s later mental health in Japan: Focusing on parent and child gender. Journal of child and family studies, 23, 293-302.

Tani, F., Bonechi, A., Peterson, C., & Smorti, A. (2010). Parental influences on memories of parents and friends. The journal of genetic psychology, 171(4), 300-329.

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