- Your parenting style can have a major impact on what your child will be like as an adult.
- Your parenting style may be influenced by your upbringing, your culture and values, how much support you have, and the examples you see around you.
- The 4 main styles of parenting are authoritarian, authoritative (or supportive), permissive and disengaged.
- The authoritative approach works best for children, with parents who are loving yet set firm limits.
- You can become an authoritative parent by showing love for your child and interest in their life, listening to them and encouraging them to have a go, while setting clear rules and modelling positive behaviour.
Why is my parenting style important?
The way you parent your children can have a major impact on the type of adult they become. Parents might use a mix of parenting styles, but most tend to lean towards one style. Each style of parenting may lead to different outcomes for children.
Factors influencing parenting styles
There are many influences on the way you interact with your child, such as:
- how you were raised
- your experiences
- how you see other parents act
- your health and financial situation
- how much support you have
- your culture and values
- what you read or see in the media
You might want to parent the same way your own parents did, or you might want to take a different approach. It's your decision.
What are the types of parenting styles?
Research has identified 4 main styles of parenting:
- Authoritarian — these parents tend to set strict rules, with little input from their child and expect their child to do what they're told.
- Authoritative (or supportive) — these parents have firm expectations, but they also listen to their child and give them independence and responsibility that are appropriate for their age.
- Permissive — these parents are warm and loving, but they tend to give in to their child, and don't set or enforce boundaries or limits.
- Disengaged — these parents provide their child with their basic needs, but don't show interest in them or set rules.
What are the limitations and benefits of different parenting styles?
Children of authoritarian parents may be obedient and know how to follow rules, but they may develop low self-esteem and poor social skills. They may be less proactive and wait for others to tell them what to do.
Authoritative (or supportive)
Children of authoritative (supportive) parents are likely to grow up to be assertive, happy and socially responsible. They are often motivated to try their best.
Children of permissive parents often have good self-esteem, but not having limits can make them feel insecure. They are more likely to have poor social skills and self-control.
Children of disengaged parents may feel unloved and anxious. They may have behaviour problems and poor social skills and may not feel motivated to achieve.
What parenting style is right for you and your child?
As a parent, it's your responsibility to care for your child and give them the best start in life that you can. It's up to you which parenting style or mix of styles you choose. Remember that providing your child with love and guidance will help them develop into a confident, resilient and socially responsible adult.
Research shows that authoritative (or supportive) style of parenting works best for children because they are warm, loving and provide clear guidance and support. This style of parenting helps your child develop secure relationships and independence. They are encouraged to explore their world and try different things, while knowing that you have set limits and will take charge when the need arises. Having limits helps your child feel secure.
It's your role as a parent to set limits — 'It's OK to play with the water in the bath, but it's not OK to splash it all over the floor' — and to set rules for safety — 'If you won't hold my hand when we cross the road, you can't come with me to the shops'.
Using an authoritative (or supportive) approach, you can set limits that are appropriate for your child, explain your reasons and allow for discussion. This way, your child will learn how to behave appropriately, not just to follow rules.
How to be an authoritative (supportive) parent
Here are some practical tips for how to use the authoritative (supportive) style of parenting:
- Build your connection with your child — spend individual time with them and try to see things from their point of view. Show interest in things that interest them. Know what's happening in their life, go to their activities or sports and get to know their friends.
- Tell your child you love them and give them hugs and cuddles.
- Talk to your child about many different topics, listen to their views and give them your full attention.
- Encourage your child to have a go at different things that interest them and practise their skills. Praise them for working hard and having a go.
- Guide and support your child — set clear rules about what is OK and what is not OK. Look out for opportunities to praise your child for behaving well.
- Be a positive role model — behave in ways you expect your children to behave and treat people the way you want your children to treat others. Live according to your values.
You can become an authoritative (supportive) parent by learning about positive parenting. Triple P is a positive parenting program developed in Australia. It can give you skills and strategies to help you create a calm and loving home environment, make rules and encourage good behaviour according to your values.
Resources and support
For more information on how to be an authoritative parent, see this guide from the South Australian Government.
Check out Triple P for helpful parenting tips and free online positive parenting courses.
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Last reviewed: June 2023