In my AP Psychology class, one of the units I remember being particularly interested in was Diana Baumrind's parenting styles. In the 1960s she established three different types of parenting based on two dimensions: parent responsiveness to child's needs and parental demands on the child's behavior. They were authoritarian (high demand, low responsiveness) parenting, permissive parenting (low demand, high responsiveness), and authoritative parenting (high demand, high responsiveness). I immediately recognized my parents' style as authoritative and determined to follow suit when I had children. There are things authoritative moms do that every mom should try, I think, and not just because I personally subscribe to this idea. Cross-cultural research has shown that this style yields the most positive outcomes from children overall.
Here's a little more clarity on the different parenting types, without getting too technical. Authoritarian parenting is a style that puts a premium on unquestioning, total obedience to a strict set of rules from children. Expectations for achievement are high. The child's wishes or thoughts on a given situation are not of any particular interest to the authoritative parent because, they think "I'm in charge." On the other end of the spectrum, in permissive parenting little regard is given to whether or not children behave properly and, instead, they are indulged and catered to by their caregivers.
Authoritative parenting is also known as "just right" parenting, and is somewhere in-between these two other extremes. So with all that in mind, here are some of the practices that set these parents apart (and you just might want to give it a whirl).
Set High Standards For Yourself
This is not a parenting technique you undertake because it's easy. This is going to demand a lot of you in terms of patience, self-reflection, and keeping long-term goals in mind even as you approach daily events and challenges. It requires a lot of mindfulness and self control.
One of the two main hallmarks of this style of parenting is a high level of responsiveness to your children's emotional and developmental needs, and, as anyone who has been around a child for 12 seconds can tell you, there's always a whole lot of both to respond to. But even so, this is worth practicing (and, as with all things, the more you practice the better you'll get).
Set High Standards For Your Child
Just as you hold yourself to a high standard, you're going to be doing the same for your children. I don't mean standards that are unrealistic for their stage of development — you're not going to demand your toddler practice violin eight hours a day — but you will have rules and behaviors for your child that you will expect to be followed and if they are not there will be consequences.
If you consistently provide children with opportunities to succeed, even in things that you may think will not come easily to them (or at all), you'll be surprised by how often they rise to the occasion. And sometimes they don't. And that's OK and normal.
Set Clear Boundaries
Because how can anyone succeed if they don't know what it is you want them to do? Establishing clear boundaries and expectations — not just in parenting but in all things — is a great way to avoid frustration and unexpected meltdowns for all parties involved.
I'm a naturally affectionate, slightly gushy person. Still, I recognize that not everyone is as effusive in their love and that's cool. Warmth is definitely a spectrum, and it's not like there's a stark line between giving your child 27 kisses every five minutes to Betty Draper-style ice queen. Still, children respond to warmth, openness, and approachability in a parent.
Remain Consistent In Enforcing Boundaries
Boundaries need to be constantly reinforced, and the same can be said for the consequences you clearly define should your child cross those boundaries. And since kids are going to be kids, they're going to test boundaries.
That's why you have to keep it consistent. The consequences can't change just because you're particularly pissed off that day, and they can't be allowed to slide because look at those great big puppy dog eyes! How can I reprimand such a cutie!
Remain fair. Remain firm.
Remove "Because I Said So" From Your Vocabulary
This sentiment is more in line with authoritarian parenting. "Because I said so" is a conversation ender and, under typical circumstances, authoritative parents don't shut down conversation (even though, sometimes, they'd really, really like to).
Reason With Your Children
Authoritative parenting allows for a dialogue between parents and children. In other words, it's a verbal give and take. It's not that the kids get to tell off their parents, much less dictate terms, but this back and forth allows everyone to understand the situation (and, potentially, its fallout) more thoroughly. It allows kids to see the parents' reasoning and it gives parents a sense of where their children are so they know how best to move forward as well.
Listen To Your Children
I mean, yes, listen to them, like, generally. But, specifically, when there's tension and when they're upset with you or don't think you're being fair or want to do something and you've said "no," it's important to open those ears.
Some parents see this as "letting the parents be the children," but I find it's just giving parents more information to be a better, more effective parents. Besides, when kids feel like you are taking them seriously, they feel more empowered to be serious with you and come to you with their problems and concerns rather than keep it inside (or go behind your back).
Respect Where Your Children Are Coming From
In addition to listening to them, realize that a child's priorities are not always going to be ours. And, sometimes, those priorities are going to seem really stupid to us... because they will be. (You watching that weird YouTube channel of a random lady opening plastic Easter eggs is not important, child.) But your child doesn't have a perspective outside of themselves yet, so of course their priorities aren't going to align with yours or really anyone else's. They learn it over time, though, and they'll learn it more quickly if you can reason with them. It doesn't happen in one take (or one year, or one decade) but it will happen more easily if they feel respected as they're told better.
Praise More Than Criticize
Honestly, you get more bang for your parenting buck via positive reinforcement than negative. Yes, we have high expectations and we're not going to unduly reward that. (You don't get a cookie because you did your homework: you're supposed to do your homework.) But acknowledgement that they're on the right track goes a long way toward repeating the desired behavior.
This is the ultimate goal of authoritative parenting: happy, independent, confident, well-adjusted kids who become happy, independent, confident, well-adjusted adults.